At his press conference today on the continuing crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama made the present prospects of energy quite clear. The following transcript is my own from the video:
"Now, let me make one broader point though, about energy. Um, the fact that oil companies now have to go a mile underwater and then drill another three miles below that in order to hit oil, tells us something about the direction of the oil industry! Extraction is more expensive and it is going to be inherently more risky. And so, that's part of the reason you never heard me say, 'Drill, Baby, Drill!' Because we can't drill our way out of the problem. It may be part of the mix as a bridge to a transition to new technologies and new energy sources. But we should be pretty modest in understanding that the easily accessible oil has already been sucked out of the ground. And, as we are moving forward, the technology gets more complicated, the oil sources are more remote, and that means that there's probably going to end up being more risk. And we as a society are going to have to make some very serious determinations in terms of what risks are we willing to accept. And that's part of what the commission, I think, is going to have to look at. I will tell you though, that understanding we need to grow, we're going to be consuming oil for our industries and for how people live in this country, we're going to have to start moving on this transition! And that's why when I went to the Republican Caucus just this week, I said to them, 'Let's work together'. You've got Lieberman and Kerry, who previously were working with Lindsay Graham, even though Lindsay's not on the bill right now, coming up with a framework that has the potential to get bipartisan support. And says, yes, we are going to still need oil production, but you know what? We can see what's out there on the horizon and it's a problem if we don't start changing how we operate."
This starts at about the 49:30 time on the video. Thanks to Subdivisions at Democratic Underground for providing the link.
It's great that there is finally political movement toward bipartisan consensus on our post-oil economic infrastructure. But any framework in order to be effective needs to build upon two previous studies. David Goodstein, Vice Chancellor at Cal Tech, published a study explaining that it takes 30 years to change an energy infrastructure, assuming that you have something to change to. The other study was conducted by Robert Hirsch for the Department of Energy in 2005. Known as the Hirsch Report, this study on Peak Oil concluded that if we started preparing for a new infrastructure 20 years prior to peak, we might be OK. If we started 10 years prior to peak, we could expect at least 10 years of recession. If we waited until we actually hit Peak Oil, expect a 20 year recession as a best case scenario.
Read both reports and a quote from Jaws comes to mind: "We're gonna need a bigger boat".
Since I had problems downloading the news conference, here is the best link: