Washington, DC -- Consumer advocate Ralph Nader helped conclude a cutting-edge energy conference here Oct. 9 by describing what the public must do to reduce harsh new job losses and similar hardship.
"Deal with public sentiment," he first told a rapt audience at the annual convention of Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas, USA (ASPO-USA) in urging steps to achieve better-informed voters and consumers. "Half the population doesn't believe in global warming."
Create a "purposeful Congress," was his next theme. "It's the most powerful branch of government [in the Constitution], except it doesn't like to use its power," Nader said. "It likes to send it to the White House."
His final suggestion is drawn from his latest book "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!" As an imaginative work, he portrays how real-life billionaires could help preserve the world's economic systems and ecology.
Nader spoke on the last day of a three-day event convening 325 peak oil researchers for their first ASPO-USA convention in the nation's capital. The group argues that after 150 years of oil extraction most major oil exporting nations are well past their supply peaks, defined by scientists as "Peak Oil." The concept also encompasses export, not simply production peaks and a current "plateau."
During the conference kick-off, former CIBC chief economist Jeff Rubin predicted oil production declines soon ranging from 2 to 6% annually. This, he said, will double or triple oil prices on the market, creating further economic slow-downs and job losses beyond those of the recent recession. His Toronto Globe and Mail column last week on this was entitled, "We have run out of oil we can afford to burn"."
Conference headliners included former Nixon and Ford administration Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, who was also the nation's first Energy Department secretary under the Carter administration. Earlier, he had been CIA director and chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission under President Nixon. He is now chairman of Mitre Corp., a major government contractor.
Dr. Schlesinger, below, wrote the forward to the newly released, "The Impending World Energy Mess What It Is and What It Means to You!"
"This is an important book," he said. "Yet despite the importance of the message it will not be a welcome book because its message is unpalatable."
The three co-authors, Dr. Robert Hirsch, Dr. Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling, use their more than 100 years combined experience in energy and economics to describe peak oil themes, building on a pioneering research paper they co-authored in 2005. But they illustrate also divisions even in the environmental community by skepticism about the possibility of solving global warming, or its causation by humans.
Regarding issues more specific to oil production, several speakers cited a U.S. Department of Defense study that predicts worldwide peak oil in 2015. In general, the concept of peak oil has found more support among the military and intelligence communities, which need fuel for mobility, than among politicians. The latter, of course, are more vulnerable to short-term election pressures from the vast array of lobbyists with narrow and often short-term or selfish concerns.
Thus, the only federal politician on the speaker program was U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of a Maryland, the second-ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. The only elected state official scheduled was a Connecticut Assistant House Majority Leader Terry Backer, a Democrat from Stratford, who sent regrets because of illness.
ASPO-USA plans to ramp up its efforts in Washington. This includes their decision to open their convention with a Capitol Hill briefing that attracted a standing-room-only crowd of 150, primarily congressional staffers and reporters.
ASPO-USA President Jim Baldauf is a Texas oilman in what he calls "a very small way," and lifelong environmentalist.
Baldauf cites such events as the BP Gulf oil disaster as evidence that 2010 is the worst year for the environment in recorded history. "I would submit that all of these tragedies are due to Peak Oil," Baldauf says, as quoted in my OpEd News column last week. "Peak Oil will affect every aspect of our life."
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