Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Nobel Conference: Tues PM, Peak Oil

The Nobel Conference's lunch was tasty, but offered no plastic bottle recycling, composting option, or even recycling for the paper bags the lunches came in! Come on, someone should've caught the irony of that.

At any rate, author of "Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak", Shell oil consultant, and Princeton geology professor Ken Deffeyes opened up the afternoon round of lectures at the Nobel Conference. Technical but not difficult to follow, detailed and hilariously funny, he's been the most engaging speaker I've heard today.
Deffeyes avoided the global warming angle of the energy crisis and instead talked about - of course - peak oil. Back in the 1960s, M. King Hubbert predicted that the world would hit peak oil around the year 2000, and then after that supplies and production would decline.

Deffeyes - who knew Hubbert - calculates that we hit peak oil in 2005 and are now on our way down "Hubbert's peak" or the bell shaped curve that is our oil supply. Deffeyes says he "shuttered" this morning while listening to other scientists talk about technology that will really transform society in the next 10 years or so: He says we don't have that long.

Later on in the Q&A panel discussion there was an interesting debate between Deffeeyes,a geologist, and economist Paul Joskow. Deffeyes opined that because the cost of oil will go up as reserves shrink, oil stocks could be a good buy right now. Joskow pointed out that oil may never actually run out because as the resource becomes more expensive, people will figure out ways to use less and less of it. Therefore the price won't stay expensive because so much less will eventually be needed.

Deffeyees lamented that we may go through this entire presidential election without hearing any candidate talk about peak oil. He says we have about 5 years to figure out major efficiency and alternative energy measures before things really get tough.

I'm running out of laptop battery now so I can't go into great detail about the next lecturer, but that's ok because he was incredibly hard to follow. Dartmouth professor and Mascoma Corporation founder Lee Rybeck Lund is a biofuels wiz but his presentation was incredibly complicated and most of it I could barely understand. I saw other people shaking their heads and saying "I wish he'd simplify this some." It's too bad because biomass and biofuels are the perfect topic for Minnesota, but his lecture was way too high level for this audience.

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