I recently watched a debate on Energy Independence. The characters were:
- Evil capitalist drilling guy
- Benevolent uncle as neutral expert
- Semi-hysterical mom
So, the evil capitalist character extols the virtues of increasing US oil production as a tool for US energy security because it is on our national interest. He played on audience fears to support his position:
- There are salacious myths out there, but tonight it’s about realities [opponents generate myths]
- Shows Rand data suggesting an 8% change of a major negative shock in the next 10 years – possibly $200 to $400 to $900 barrels of oil from the shocks — unless we’re secure [8% is pretty small – range of shock is pretty big)
- Who around the world plays by our rules – [you can’t trust “them”]
- Our science is sound (suggesting “theirs” is not)
- Middle East war is all about oil [our troops are dying because of need to import]
- If we stop pipelines from Canada, the oil will be transported by ship off the coast of California [and that is bad for California]
- Nuclear is the major renewable option [thus a choice between oil or nukes]
- Talks about threat of job loss if move away from oil [oil=jobs]
He had solid data to back the case. Other than the fear-mongering, one might quibble with “windmills don’t power cars” as an argument for liquid fuels (assuming I don’t need to explain that one].
Next up is the benevolent uncle with a prestigious background and expert authority. He takes a much more global view and concludes that energy independence is not possible in our integrated global economy. Maybe this is going to be a balanced view? Not exactly. He pointed out that shale is a radical revolutionary change – from scarcity to abundance. Okay, perhaps, and then: we’re not hearing about peak oil anymore. Alas, here’s where one gets the point that we’re getting a very conventional view of the future from a pro-petroleum point of view. Similar to the folks who have been saying “Limits to Growth” was wrong because they have no sense of timeframe. Enough said.
As an aside, I was a bit taken aback when he noted his history as an energy forecaster and that “we are always wrong” and thus we keep making more forecasts. Granted, he was saying that with a sense of humor, but still, it’s exactly what futurists are trying to fight against with the notion of presenting multiple alternative futures rather than “predicting.”
He does mention renewables, but immediately goes into problem language. Renewables, the problem is….
Probably the strongest character of the three was the mom, who played the role of concerned citizen activist. Complete with cowboy boots, a quick disclaimer of not being a scientist, and showing pictures of farmers and tribesman as her presentation. She made no attempt to present any data, relying on stories and pictures in what came off as a NIMBY response to the Keystone pipeline. I suspect even supporters of that position were cringing.
There you have it. If it was just a play, you’d feel better. I took my Alternative Perspectives class to it and we’re working at “deconstructing” conventional explanations, challenging assumptions, seeking alternative explanations. This forum provided plenty of grist for the mill. Andy Hines