Episode 122: Green Business, Peak Oil, and Climate Change with Andre Angelantoni
GreenTalk Radio Host Sean Daily discusses greening business operations in the face of peak oil and climate change with Andre’ Angelantoni of Inspiring Green Leadership.
Host: Hi and welcome to Greentalk, a podcast series from greenlivingideas.com. Greentalk helps listeners in their efforts to lead more eco-friendly lifestyles through interviews with top vendors, authors, and experts from around the world. We discuss the critical issues facing the global environment today, as well as the technologies, products, and practices that you can employ to go greener in every area of your life.
Sean Daily: Hey everybody, this is Sean Daily. Thanks for listening in as always today on GreenTalk Radio from greenlivingideas.com. My guest today is Andre Angelantoni, who is the founder of Inspiring Green leadership and also something called Post Carbon Marin, as in Marin County, California, which is close to where we are at Green Living Ideas.
First of all, Andre, welcome to the program.
Andre Angelantoni: Thanks for having me.
Sean Daily: So we’re going to be talking today about peak oil. And I understand you have a great deal of experience with this topic. So I think, you know, why don’t we start with the most common question that people want answered about peak oil, which is, quite frankly, what exactly is peak oil? And we’ll go from there.
Andre Angelantoni: Yeah, that’s actually the best place to start because people do get a little bit confused around what peak oil means. Peak oil doesn’t mean that we’re running out of oil. It’s the point at which the production of all the world’s oil fields can no longer be increased. After that point, that means that the amount of oil on the world market starts to decline. And we’ve been increasing, except for a few dips, the amount of oil that’s been available to the world ever since we discovered it. And peak oil means that we’re going to radically change the context that we operate inside of. We’re going to an energy scarce world.
Sean Daily: And I think the number one question that happens when the conversation of peak oil comes up—and it certainly came up in the Al Gore film and it comes up regularly in all forms of media—is exactly when is peak oil going to occur.
Andre Angelantoni: Yeah, the ranges are really all over the map, but they’re starting to gel into two basic groups of people. You’ve got the near peakers and the far peakers. And the near peakers, they think that conventional oil is going to decrease. It’s going to hit its peak anywhere between now and, let’s say, 2015.
Some people think that the peak occurred on May 2005, but that’s a tenuous production record and we might actually beat it soon.
And then the far peakers, they think that we have maybe until 2020, 2030. Some people even think until 2040 before we peak.
I fall into the camp of the near peakers, and I think the most powerful way to get this sorted out for yourself is to just go to Wikipedia and type in “oil megaprojects”. And an entry will come up, which is being updated by the Oil Megaprojects task force. And what they’re doing is, they’re scouring the world for all the new oil megaprojects. And you can see how much oil is slated to come online. And then if you go look at the graphs of how much oil we’re going to need. We’re adding 70 million people to the planet every year and the economies of the world are still growing, with possibly the exception of the United States right now. And if you take a look at what we need versus how much oil is coming on line, you can right away see that it isn’t a match. In fact, in 2013, it’s to be frighteningly low.
We can look out that far because oil megaprojects, which you could say are projects that have more than 50,000 barrels of oil in production, they are big projects nowadays. And they take a long time to finance before the first oil actually hits the market. And so we can actually see, between five and ten years out, exactly how much oil is coming into the market. And it’s just not enough.
Sean Daily: You know, it’s interesting. There’re a lot of variables it seems here. I mean, certainly consumption is the biggest variable. The more we get on renewable energies as a planet, the less of an issue this becomes.
I think also you’ve got the new drilling projects which is something that obviously I am--along with a lot of other people--not a fan of as a solution. The only way that that would be a good solution for me would be a short-term sort of avoiding catastrophic situations with, you know, financial collapses or things that, you know, cause wars and things like that. But beyond that, I’m a fan of complete conversion over to—again, along with a lot of other people—renewable energies.
You mentioned population growth as well. So all these things sort of factor in. I think that it seems like what’s important here is the specter. I’m not going to say specter as if it’s a false thing, but the specter has been raised for peak oil. It was brought to the mainstream attention, and that’s very powerful in that it has been a catalyst for all of the funding and the awareness and all the things that are helping us get off of our global oil addiction.
So regardless of, you know--I mean the truth is important. Do you see a soft landing with this? Because, I mean, I think that’s really the important question--are we going to soft land this or are we going to hardpan land this. And it’s going—do you see it causing these kinds of issues based on our current course?
Andre Angelantoni: Okay, well there was a lot in there. I’ll start with the…
Sean Daily: Sorry, I do that a lot…
Andre Angelantoni: Yeah, I’ll start with the short answer first. There’s pretty much no way anymore to have a soft landing because we’re getting started too late. And, if you look at the renewable energy sources that are coming online globally--you just have to go to the International Energies and see figures to confirm this yourself. Globally, renewable energy accounts for less than 1 percent of the world’s overall energy. Eighty-five percent of the world’s energy still comes from fossil fuels, and a lot of that from oil.
So as oil depletes, it’s going to make it harder to get the coal, it’s going to make it harder to go get the natural gas. And so, in essence, we’re going to have, not just peak oil, but we’re really about to experience peak energy. And the problem with waiting until the market tells you that it’s running out is because, by the time the market gets a price signal, it’s really actually too late.
Sean Daily: Right.
Andre Angelantoni: We needed to have started at least two decades ago. And I commend everyone to look up the Hersch report from 2005 published by the Department of Energy. In there, he goes through—he and his co-authors go through—three scenarios. And basically, the only scenario left for us is that we start the conversion basically at the peak, which is right about now. If it’s in 2010 or if it’s now is kind of irrelevant. Two years won’t make a big difference. And that’s the first thing to get—it’s a big, big problem.
And then the second thing is—people don’t understand that all the other energy sources are not equivalent to liquid fuel. We have over 800 million vehicles around the planet that require gas or diesel in their tanks. And windmills don’t give you that. And neither does marine power, tidal power. Neither does nuclear energy, if that’s something that you like.
Sean Daily: It’s not a one-to-one conversion is what you’re saying, is it?
Andre Angelantoni: Well, there’s actually no conversion, you see. Because a windmill gives you electricity and our cars don’t run on electricity.
Sean Daily: Oh, oh, I see what you’re saying. I was mistaken, what you were saying. I understand, right. These are not all—right, all fuels cannot be used for all things.
Andre Angelantoni: Yeah, there essentially is—some people think that ethanol is a substitute. And we’re seeing what’s happening with the world’s food supply, so we’re going to have to put the brakes on that pretty soon. And in any case, the net energy profit from ethanol was never very good, even from the beginning. Oil has an amazing net energy profit. We’re still getting oil out of the ground at a 30-to-1 ratio. That means we use one barrel of oil and we get 30 back.
Well ethanol is somewhere between 1.2 and, maybe, 2.0. You can’t run a complex society on energy sources that low.
Sean Daily: Some would put forth that actually ethanol, in some studies, actually is a negative return, so…
Andre Angelantoni: That’s right. So all of a sudden we have the United States, for instance, which has only two percent of its population devoted to agriculture. And that is a direct function of the fact that we’ve had such concentrated energy sources available to us. As we move down the curve of what is available to us—oil, by the way, started off at 100-to-1 and now it’s at 30-to-1. It eventually will get to the oil that’s only at 10-to-1 because it’s hard to get. Maybe it’s up in the arctic.
And as that net energy profit goes down, we’re just going to have to have more people devoted to the basics of living—moving people around using human power, perhaps, definitely growing more food. You can’t have as many people doing as many high-energy things as we’re doing right now continue. That’s actually a mathematical impossibility.
Sean Daily: Right. And Andre, we’re going to take a break right here to hear from our sponsors. And we will be back to talk more on peak oil and the world’s energy situation with Andre Angelantoni, who is the founder of Inspiring Green Leadership and Post Carbon Marin. And we’ll be right back with GreenTalk Radio. Thanks everyone.
Sean Daily: Okay, and we are back. And we’re talking about peak oil today with Andre Angelantoni. Andre, I wanted to just, I think, talk a little bit more about, you know, remediation of this issue that you’ve laid out for us and that we’ll all sort of aware of at varying levels. We definitely know we have a problem on our hands.
Before we start talking about, I think, what people can do, I want to talk about the things that maybe we can’t control in the U.S. We have a very U.S.-centric audience--not to the exclusion of other countries, but we’re about 80-85% U.S.-based audience on this program. And one of my personal concerns has to do with whether or not we can move… And we look at the challenges of human rights and things which are coming up in reference to the Olympics with China and India who are, you know, in this massive industrialization to meet world demand. And based on the growth of their economies, you know, I mean, are these countries onboard? Or are they going to be onboard in time to make these kind of changes? Or are we sort of, you know, banging our heads against a brick wall here?
Andre Angelantoni: Well, very few people are actually onboard. I think that in terms of overall countries, Sweden has put together a plan to get completely off of oil. I don’t recall the date for that. But for the rest of the world’s countries, they’re really not even making it a priority. What you see here is basically what you’re getting everywhere else. So I’m afraid that we’re all going to fall off the cliff together.
Sean Daily: Okay, so what does the cliff look like to you? I mean--and this really is like--so what I’m asking is, you know, what is the impact here in your vision, based on the data and the research you’ve accepted and collected?
Andre Angelantoni: We’re going to go through a period—we’re in a period right now where people can still get away with thinking that it’s not a problem. Oil is only a hundred and some odd dollars today. And that period will last for a little bit longer. And then we’re going to move into a new phase where it’s going to become commonly know that we’re about to fall off the peak, so to speak…
Sean Daily: Okay.
Andre Angelantoni: And when that happens, my goal is that we have lots of people out there who have been working ahead of time, learning how to alter both the fabric of our society and their own lives to get ready for that time. So we’re going to start moving to, obviously, car-pooling. But eventually, even that’s going to get tough. You won’t be able to get the fuel for the cars.
And we’re going to have to radically reorganize how we get things done. And simultaneously, we’re going to have to deal with massive unemployment. Because as the energy from the oil is removed from the world’s economy, that means the economy can’t get things done. And if there aren’t things to do, you can’t pay people.
So we’re going to move from an era where we once used to be concerned—if you were to start a company, for instance, you try to minimize your labor because it was really expensive. Well, that’s going to completely turn on its head. Labor is going to become very inexpensive soon because there aren’t going to be a lot of jobs.
So for people to get ready, what I encourage them to do is really look at their energy footprint and start to understand how they could live. Could they, for example, get by on five gallons of gasoline a week, and then on three gallons, and so on? And going through that process is very useful, I think, because people will start to understand exactly how dependent their lives are on oil, including food. Ten calories of every—sorry, for every calorie of food that you and I eat, ten calories are used in the growing, harvesting, and transporting of that food to us.
Sean Daily: Well, you know, and I think that what people tend to be adverse to is the fear factor that comes along with the recognition of these truths or at least these observations by people who are knowledgeable and have done the research. And so there’s a lot of—there’s that sort of denial phase. It’s like the twelve steps, right? There’s the denial phase, but what I’ve found personally in my own life is to kind of put that part of it out of my mind. Because I’m not a person who’s going to live in fear regardless of what the situation is. I don’t care if things are falling around me, I’m going to have a quality of life that doesn’t involve fear.
So the way that I’ve done this is, I happen to believe that we do need to make massive changes on a personal scale as well as a global scale. And I believe in the Ghandism of, you know, that you want to be the change you want to see in the world. So, but there’re ways to make this interesting.
For example, you know, you talked about living on five gallons of gas. Well, I’m not going to claim that I did it on purpose this way but you know I like to be near my family. And I like to have a virtual technology infrastructure that allows me to bring people together in a work situation so that I can facilitate them in their lives and their families as well as myself. So I walk to the store and I walk down to Whole Foods or whatever, with my son and my daughter. And that’s our time together during the day. And, you know I run my business out of my house. And so I don’t, you know, I put less than 4,000 miles a year on my car and things like that.
And so, it is possible but those things don’t have to be driven by this doom and gloom sort of feeling in people. It can be driving by seeking quality of life. And these things can be moving together. They can be coincidental. And I just want to point that out because I think a lot of people feel adverse to this information when they hear it because they don’t want to go—you know, they deny and they sort of go the other direction. I think it’s important to hear it, but just to not go into fear.
Andre Angelantoni: Well, I think you bring up a really good point. And I won’t go too into detail because you actually did a good summary in just what you were saying there. But if you want to hear a little bit more of my thoughts on that…
Sean Daily: Absolutely.
Andre Angelantoni: I recommend that you listen to another podcast at the livinggreenshow.com. It’s episode number 32 where I really go in depth in how is it that a person can relate to the changes coming up. Because if we relate to them like we’re big people, if we relate to these changes like we’re powerful and that we’re bigger than whatever life throws at us, then it’s like someone who’s on a ship and the ship is on the ocean and there are waves. Well, if you stand rigidly on the deck of that ship and a wave comes along, what’s going to happen? You’re going to get knocked over.
Sean Daily: Right.
Andre Angelantoni: But instead, if you are flexible in your needs and you absorb the wave as it comes then you’re going to stay standing. And that’s really what we have to do, each one of us, is get ready for a lot of change. And get used to change and maybe even learn to love it an embrace it because that’s definitely what’s happening. It doesn’t have to—it’s not the end of the world that we’re running out of oil. It really isn’t. But our lives are going to look very different. And we’re going to need to take charge of finding what elements of life did we say we enjoyed before and then finding new ones that don’t require a lot of fossil energy, particularly oil. And that’s everyone’s job coming up.
Sean Daily: Well thank you for that and we’re going to take one more quick break and then we’ll be back with a couple more questions that I have for you. We are talking on peak oil with Andre Angelantoni who is the founder of Inspiring Green Leadership. This is Sean Daily with GreenTalk Radio. We’ll be right back.
Sean Daily: Okay, and we are back talking with Andre Angelantoni of Inspiring Green Leadership about the topic of peak oil and I just want to—you made a reference to another program. And I’d like to give a shout out to Meredith. Meredith Medland is a fellow podcaster in green sustainable living. And I know you were on her program, so that I think you had mentioned that was episode 32 on the Living Green Show, livinggreenshow.com, or you can find it on personallifemedia.com. If you’re listening in, it’s a great show. Meredith does a great job and you can get more information there.
And I wanted to move on to another question. I know that some people think—it’s been raised before—the idea that the tar sands and the oil off our coast and things like this are going to help out in this issue. What’s your response to those, sort of, ideas?
Andre Angelantoni: Yeah, that’s actually one of the most fundamental confusions that I hear from people. And they just haven’t had anyone explain to them what the difference is between oil that you can get when you can stick and straw in the ground and oil that comes from the tar sands. It is true, there is a lot of oil in tar sands, in Alberta and also the heavy oil in Venezuela. But looking at Alberta for a moment—it takes two tons of sand to create one barrel of oil and a lot of heat from natural gas because you essentially have to cook that sand, and then a lot of water from the Athabasca River. And the result of that is the largest dam by volume in the world filled with the effluent of that process. It’s probably going to be one of our worst environment disasters on the globe, what’s happening up in Alberta.
So not only should we not do it because it’s terrible for the environment, right now it’s only producing something like 1.4 million barrels a day. And because it’s a mining operation and not a pumping operation, it’s really not going to go much higher than maybe 3 million barrels a day according to the Canadian government.
So the tar sands really—it’s great that there’s a lot of oil up there. It’s actually not that great because it’s terrible what our extraction of it is doing to the environment. But now, let’s look at ANWAR. For instance, the estimates are in ANWAR there may be 10 billion barrels of oil in the Arctic. There might be something like 50 billion barrels of oil, depending on whose survey you look at. And what people don’t understand is the scale of the problem. A billion barrels of oil extra pushes back the date of the peak oil by roughly six days. That’s it.
Sounds like a lot of oil, but we’re using so much right now. We’re using 86 million barrels a day. So it’s quite easy for you to do the math and see that even if we were to drill ANWAR, all it would do is it would add a little bit of production on the other side of the peak. But it wouldn’t push back the peak at all. Same thing with tar sands. And if you go through every single one of the alternatives that we have, there’s just not much that’s going to push back that date of the peak.
Sean Daily: So it’s basically, I mean, the conservation efforts that are occurring in the optimization of usage in some sectors is being basically outpaced by the growth in China and India and in other places. Is that basically what’s happening is we’re not keeping pace? We’re actually continuing to grow our usage?
Andre Angelantoni: See, on a global scale we are. And that’s why the price is going up because clearly, the demand is greater than the supply. There is a little bit of the price going up because of the U.S. dollar and some speculation. But no one that I’ve read that I think has done a credible job analyzing it thinks that the price difference is more than maybe, let’s say, $20 or $25. So the vast majority of the increase in price is because the world really wants more oil and it’s not available.
In going to your point about efficiency. Efficiency is just great and it’s good on a personal basis because we want to be as efficient as possible so that you can get what you need to get done with whatever amount of oil you’re eventually going to get your ration of. But on a global scale, efficiency is just—we can’t do it quickly enough and it won’t make a big enough difference. If we really want something that will push off the peak oil date, that will require rationing and curtailment similar to what we did during World War II. Anything short of that and it’s just not going to get the job done.
Sean Daily: Well, I like to leave listeners with a note of hope. And certainly, we want to keep it real. But I’m just curious—what would you say is a take away from this conversation? What can people be doing in their lives and their businesses right now to prepare for this, you know, in terms of their personal impact, their global impact? What are the best things, the most leveraged activities that people can be embarking upon, right now, to help with this whole upcoming situation?
Andre Angelantoni: Well, the first thing is get involved with a local relocalization or post carbon group. You mentioned at the top of the podcast that I’m the founder of Post Carbon Marin. Go to relocalize.net and find a local group or start one in your community. If you’re listening in Europe, you can go to the Transition Town’s Web site and find or create a community of people who are starting to investigate how to recreate their local government and their local society. And it really is actually quite fun working with people on a common goal knowing that the goal is a worthy one. And that could give people a lot of the meaning that they’re afraid is going to get removed from their lives, you know, once they see what’s really going to happen with peak oil.
So the very first thing I would do is get involved with your community. Create something or join one of those groups and start learning and start taking specific action and become a leader in your community, someone who other people look to for organization and solutions.
Sean Daily: Yeah, well that’s great advice and that’s a great suggestion. And I agree, I mean I think it’s one of the things where, you know, the fear and the stress and the things that come up emotionally are quickly dispelled through taking action and action that one believes is effective, so great advice. Was there anything else that you wanted to share with our listeners today before we sign off?
Andre Angelantoni: The thing is that what’s going to work is if people are—start with first accepting what is reality. What is reality is that oil will decline. It’s a finite resource and the sooner that people can get past that sticking point, the sooner they can get into action—starting to adapt. But I see so many people who get stuck denying it, similar to climate change—and it’s not going to serve them.
Sean Daily: Well I absolutely agree with that. And again, I think that the trick is get into awareness, get into the truth, and don’t go into fear because that’s just, you know, that’s not a productive use of energy—of human energy. Again, Andre Angelantoni, thank you so much for being with us today and sharing the information. And I hope to—since you’re not too far down, I’d love to come down to a meeting of the Post Carbon Marin group at some point and find out more about what you guys are doing.
Andre Angelantoni: Great, you’re invited next Wednesday, April 9th.
Sean Daily: Good, well I might just come down for that. I think I’m free.
Andre Angelantoni: Excellent, yeah, drop me an email.
Sean Daily: All right, great! Well, again, my guest today has been Andre Angelantoni. He’s the founder of Inspiring Green Leadership. That’s inspiringgreenleadership.com as well as the Post Carbon Marin group. Thank you again for being on the program.
Andre Angelantoni: Thanks for having me, Sean.
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