Amanda Little Takes a Power Trip Across America  

Posted by Big Gav

TreeHugger has an interview with Amanda Little of Grist, talking about her new book Power Trip: From Oil Wells to Solar Cells, Our Ride to the Renewable Future - Amanda Little Takes a Power Trip Across America.

TH: Once you start educating people, we'll use peak oil as the example, how do you get people to believe a Matthew Simmons versus a Daniel Yergin? Here are two people with eminent credentials but are saying entirely opposite things...

AL: ...That was actually part of it, saying exactly that. There are radically different perceptions of the situation. Nobody knows for sure. In fact the very ambiguity of it is what's fascinating. We don't know how much is left. There's so much obscurity in the information. The people that we're buying the oil from, we can't even trust their data.

There's that approach. Then there's one that says there's a range of predictions: Some are saying peak already happened; some are saying its going to be in ten or twenty or forty years. Others are saying it'll never happen...the people who say 'we'll just keep getting better and better technology and just suck [oil] out from the farthest reaches of the planet.' But that becomes irrelevant.

Peak oil is an important discussion but the discussion shouldn't begin and end there. When you look at the reality of global warming, of national security, and economic volatility, then peak oil is sort of a moot discussion. You have to address it and saying 'here is a range of different opinions, but does it matter when how real and immediate and urgent the problems of climate, economic volatility and geopolitical conflict are.'

People ask me that all the time, 'are we running out of oil?' The problem isn't running out of oil, it's running out of the ability to increase our supply of oil. Then people go, "Oh! It's not that we're running out of oil. It's just going to become vastly more expensive, every year."

These are the missing links in the debate and the public understanding.

That was the purpose of chapter one. The purpose of going on the [offshore oil drilling] rig--which is one of the most extreme rigs on the planet, where they're going six miles below sea level with a drill--was to say 'maybe we're increasing our oil reserves...but what is extraordinary is the extremes we go to get those resources.'

It's an act of extraordinary technological daring to insert a straw 30,000' in the ground to get this stuff. It's riddled with risk. It's riddled with expense. So even if oil may be there, is this a fruitless search, in so many other ways? If it takes that much [effort] aren't we better off putting our money somewhere else?


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