Platts has picked up on a blog post from TOD's Luis De Sousa, wondering what will become of the ASPO, an organisation which seems to be past peak - A peak oil follower despairs of his movement's future.
When OPEC officials meeting in Vienna are talking about "tremendous" surpluses of oil in the world, and US crude production has risen above 6 million b/d, it's tough to be a disciple to the peak oil school of the future.
Ask Luis de Sousa. This Portugese member of the the Association for the Study of Peak Oil has just returned from the recent ASPO meeting in Vienna, and he is not optimistic that the movement has a great deal of energy left in it.
It certainly isn't for lack of belief in the ultimate imbalance between the world's ability to produce oil, and its desire to consume it, which is what is at the heart of the peak oil school of thought.
De Sousa makes clear in a recent blog posting that was circulated by some other peak oil followers that he is very much still a believer.
For example, looking at the European debt crisis, he sees energy as having played a role: "Unfortunately, the role oil, coal and food prices had (and still have) in the economic crisis is not acknowledged by everyone, not even within ASPO. This is a terrible mistake, for it is exactly [the] way Peak Oil looks like. Getting ourselves intertwined in the debt or peak demand discourse is a self defeating path that will veer policy makers away from addressing the structural weakness of our economies. It is never too much to remind that the states today cut off from the European sovereign debt market are precisely those that were most dependent on oil before the crisis. "
So de Sousa's disullisionment is more like a parishioner at a church who sees the pews slowly emptying over time, and despairs of it ever reversing. For example, he writes: "But after 10 years of activity ASPO's message has failed to pass. Policy makers, climatologists, energy Industry, by and large are all yet to fully acknowledge the problem and its implications."
Or maybe it's more from the perspective of being in Portugal, a country in some degree of economic crisis, where at this point they'd probably be happy to have a rising level of energy consumption. As De Santos writes of his country: "Energy consumption is declining to levels of 15 or 20 years back, with most mechanisms once put in place for the energy transition being rolled back one after the other. As [a] founding member of ASPO-Portugal I can only take this as failure. It was precisely to avoid this kind of scenario that I started working on Peak Oil in 2005. But here we are; the efforts of the handful of people making up our association are now largely irrelevant. The media and the politicians that once showed interest on the subject are gone, and so are we."
Ironically, I just received notification of this year's ASPO-US conference. One notable change: it isn't in Washington. For a few years the gathering was mostly sited in Denver, after which the locale was switched to Washington, ostensibly to be near the seat of power. But this year it will be in Austin, the heart of academia.
It's an interesting move, and de Santos seems to foreshadow something like it when he writes: "Many of us question ourselves what future ASPO can have in the present setting. It can either remain a loose scientific organisation or push a more political structure to lobby on the institutions that have the means to act. I don't think ASPO should take the latter path, but more than that, it seems that it is presently unable to do so."
As far as De Sousa is concerned, he'll still continue to attend the international meetings, but he appears somewhat disillusioned: "There will be an ASPO conference in 2013, with the work for its realisation already under way. And I will probably be there too. But not any more as an avid information seeker, dreaming of saving the world, it will be just to see old friends and make new ones. After all, that was always the best about ASPO conferences."