Hundreds of people at an Earthjustice energy forum gave a standing ovation to Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius last week in Denver after hearing her tale of fighting off Big Coal so that Kansas could have a clean energy future.
Both Gov. Sebelius and Earthjustice presented their visions of what a national clean energy agenda might look like.
But they weren’t the only visionaries at the program. Tucked into a panel discussion following the Sebelius speech was Randy Udall, who nine years ago predicted the oil crunch America faces today, including the economic devastation it would bring.
Randy, a member of the famous Udall political lineage, gave a speech in 1999 that blended history and crystal ball into the best depiction I’ve read of America’s deep addiction to oil. In just a century, Randy points out, we’ve discovered, built our lives on, warred over, and have almost depleted what he calls “a gift of geology, a one-time windfall.”
Using words like an ice pick, Randy makes clear the connections between oil and our wars in the Middle East. You can feel the trembling father in him as you read his words:
“My son is 7. He’ll be 18, fighting age, in 2009, about the time an Oil Crunch may arrive.”
The Oil Crunch has come a year earlier than he predicted, along with the consequences he foretold: “oil prices will rise, perhaps overnight with staggering impacts on the global economy. This absolutely predictable, absolutely inevitable oil crunch will likely have tremendous economic impacts. Hitting as the Baby Boomers retire, it could rock our economy, psychology, and sense of self.”
Back in 1999, Randy had already answered those who in this moment are clamoring to drill ourselves out of trouble.
“In fact, the U.S. is already one of the most thoroughly explored and drilled countries on Earth. Of the 4.6 million wells worldwide, 3.4 million have been drilled in this country. Very very few prospects remain. With the exception of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and a few deep water basins, we’ve been there and done that. From the oil industry’s perspective, the U.S. is Swiss cheese.”
At best, drilling the ANWR and our costal zones will give us a handful of years of oil, he warns.
Randy’s clear, haunting words are fresher today than then. You have to read the whole speech.