Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-Maryland) presented a cogent 60-minute backgrounder to the House of Representatives on peak oil and its implications.
His speech, which is worth reading in its entirety, is a clear overview of the theory and the current state of affairs. He challenges the economists’ stance that higher prices will lead to increased production and notes furthermore that more drilling “just will not solve the problem.”
His conclusion is that, if we have not already reached peak, we will do so shortly.
The market will, indeed, signal the arrival of peak oil. To wait until it does, however, is like waiting until we see a tsunami: by then it may be too late to do anything.
We now are doing a lot of talking here in the Congress and fortunately across the country about Social Security, and it is a big problem. But I tell the Members if the problem of Social Security is equivalent to the tidal wave produced by the hurricane, then this peak oil problem is equivalent to the tsunami. The impact and the consequences are going to be enormously greater than the impact and the consequences of Social Security or Medicare or those two put together.
It will take a sustained, conscious, coordinated national and even international, effort. If everybody is not working together and buying time by conserving and being efficient and using wisely that time we bought, then all we do is put off the inevitable.
The hydroelectric and nuclear power industries did not arise spontaneously from market forces alone. They were the product of a purposeful partnership of public and private entities focused on the public good. This is what we have to do relative to alternatives.
Bartlett, a conservative Republican now in his seventh term in Congress, has an established record as a researcher, academic, inventor and small businessperson. In the last role, he also became involved in building solar homes.
He has taught physiology and endocrinology at Howard University’s Medical School, was a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, worked at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) as director of a 30-member research group in Space Life Sciences, and later joined IBM before starting his own firm.
In 1999, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) awarded Dr. Bartlett its Jeffries Aerospace Medicine and Life Sciences Research Award for “pioneering contributions to aeronautical and aerospace medicine through more than 20 patented inventions on respiratory support and safety devices used by pilots, astronauts, rescue workers, pioneering NASA life-sciences space experiments, and over 100 publications.”
All that by way of noting that Bartlett has some scientific credibility.
Let us hope that the speech and follow-ons begin to stimulate an urgent debate on energy grounded in reality, not partisan rhetoric.
As an aside, it will be interesting to see Bartlett’s stance on ANWR drilling when that comes to the House.