advice from a fake consultant

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Friday, June 15, 2007

On Recycling, Or, Exxon, You Light Up My Life

Barry Commoner is almost certainly the first Presidential candidate to orient his campaign around the intersection of Environmental, Economic, and Energy policy. Commoner’s philosophy (“The first law of ecology is that everything is related to everything else") was considered so radical at the time of his candidacy that he was ostracized to the lunatic fringe, as it were, which is why the vast majority of readers today do not recall his 1980 candidacy.

25 years later, the President has tasked the National Petroleum Council to conduct the “Global Oil and Gas Study”, which is to examine supply and demand alternatives through 2030 or so.

In conjunction with the Study, Exxon/Mobil has proposed a radical new energy solution that will be the subject of today’s discussion.

The Drake Well, drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859, might be viewed as a symbol of the end of the age of whale oil and other biological oil sources, and the beginning of the rise of fossil fuels (or “rock oil”, as it was known at the time).

Ironically, with the recent concern regarding Saudi reserves (follow the link for one of the best pieces of Internet reporting I’ve ever seen) and other issues related to “peak oil”, and the new interest in “bio-“energy (“biomass” and “biodiesel” being quick examples), the circle appears to be closing.

If you work in the petroleum industry, and have the choice of spending mid-June in Houston, Riyadh, or Calgary…well, let’s just say it’s no surprise that almost 20,000 attended the GO-EXPO: Gas & Oil Exposition 2007 at Calgary’s Stampede Park.

Excitement filled the hall in which the keynote luncheon speech of Thursday the 14th was scheduled. The conference organizers had already booked the Canadian Minister of Environment and the Korean Consul-General for the first two keynote luncheons, and there was considerable anticipation regarding the third and final event, where Shepard Wolff, Special Advisor to the National Petroleum Council, would be giving the hundreds of attendees the first glimpse of the results of the Study; which is expected to form the framework of a new Bush Administration/Canadian Government joint energy policy.

Instead Wolff shocked the audience of oil-shale experts by giving them advance notice of Exxon/Mobil’s introduction of Vivoleum, the first “renewable” oil resource to be championed by a major oil company.

Why introduce a non oil-shale based product at such a meeting?
Because of the need for redundancy, according to Wolff.

Alberta’s oil sands will become more and more important to the word’s energy picture as production of traditional “liquid” oil is removed from underground reservoirs-but that new importance will come at a price. The far more carbon-intensive extraction and processing technologies might “tip” the balance of global climate to a state of exceptionally rapid change, and new oil production alternatives will need to be in place.

To put it another way, if most oil moves internationally by ship, and these ships dock at terminals, and those terminals (and the oil pipeline access points that are sited concurrently with the terminals) were to become submerged by climate change, or damaged by hurricanes, or were somehow otherwise made unavailable; the global economy would be irreparably damaged-and in an effort to prevent that eventuality Exxon/Mobil has acted.

This brings us back to bio-fuels…

"We need something like whales, but infinitely more abundant…"

--Shepard Wolff, National Petroleum Council

In a time of increasingly violent weather globally, in a time where mass migration of displaced populations and their demands for resources from new hosts will create more and more “migratory mortality”, what better “whale substitute” is there but…people?

That’s right-NPC rep Wolff and his colleague at the presentation, Florian Osenberg, of Exxon/Mobil, announced that the company has made ready for commercial use a process by which human remains can be converted into a useful energy resource-the aforementioned Vivoleum.

"Vivoleum works in perfect synergy with the continued expansion of fossil fuel production” Osenberg informed the raptly attentive audience, "With more fossil fuels comes a greater chance of disaster, but that means more feedstock for Vivoleum. Fuel will continue to flow for those of us left."

In an extraordinary and enormously touching moment, 256 “commemorative candles” were lit to acknowledge the “sacrifice” of an Exxon janitor whose untimely death provided the…raw material, shall we say, that made the candles possible. As the Vivoleum candles burned, the video screens in the hall filled with the image of the dying janitor expressing his desire to participate in this great leap forward for world energy.

And it was at this moment that it became evident to Simon Mellor, International Commercial & Business Development Director of Petroleum (the Exposition’s producer) that these were not real oil industry representatives, that Vivoleum was not a real product, that his event had just been hijacked by The Yes Men, and that action had to be taken at once.

And that’s why he physically forced the two speakers from the stage. Canada’s CTV showed footage (after reaching the page use the “Chris Epp reports” link under the photo) of portions of the speech, the ejection, and the response from the show’s press representative.

Trust me when I tell you it is worth viewing, if only for this nugget:

“…the number of dead [because of global warming] will make death the new black…”

--Andy Bichlbaum, the real person behind “Shepard Wolff”

Those of you who recall the SurvivaBall story of June 2nd will immediately recognize this story as the second of a series detailing the exploits of The Yes Men; and those who are new to the conversation are encouraged to visit the SurvivaBall link for a more complete explanation of exactly what’s going on with these guys, and how they manage to pull off this and other similar pranks on unsuspecting audiences worldwide.

So as it turns out, today’s is a happy story, which I guess makes it OK for me to say…

Vivoleum-you really do light up my life!


Colin Campbell said...

Absolute classic. Thanks for sharing that.

fake consultant said...

first-thanks for the kind words. it's much appreciated.

it was huge fun to write as well, and i hope you also had the chance to read the accompanying survivaball article.