Taking Action: TEDxOilSpill

The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill currently unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico is already the worst environmental disaster in American history.

On June 28th, the TEDxMidAtlantic organizing team is holding a day-long event to consider the current crisis along three axes:

  • Mitigation: Understanding and alleviating the effects of the spill
  • Alternatives: What might an oil-free future look like and how we can get there
  • Policy: How global energy policy can help lead to a cleaner and more stable future

We are partnering with a broad array of organizations and agencies, including the World Wildlife Fund, National Geographic, National Public Radio, the United States Departments of State and Energy, Mission Blue, TED, and many others to assemble a program that we hope will lead to a better understanding of the present situation and illuminate a path towards a more workable future.

Admission fees to TEDxOilSpill will also help to fund an expedition to the Gulf of Mexico. Renowned photographers James Duncan Davidson and Kris Krug are heading to New Orleans next week to record the sights and sounds of real people, real landscapes, and the real issues facing the Gulf Coast at this critical time. And they will share their stories at TEDxOilSpill.

For those of us who are entrepreneurially-minded, it is hard to sit by and watch this horror unfold. We hope that by creating this forum, we are making a valuable contribution — one that will amplify the efforts of the many volunteers and professionals who have dropped everything to respond to this urgent and ongoing catastrophe.

I was seventeen years old in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez disaster appeared to be the defining energy crisis of our age. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make much of a contribution then. With this disaster, which is already many times worse, I am grateful to be in a position to advance the global energy dialog — even just a little bit.

Please join us and please spread the word about this event. We are on a short timeline and are organizing speakers, presenters, and partners urgently. You can also participate in the event, wherever you are, by organizing a TEDxOilSpill Meetup in your area.

Please email tedxoilspill@tedxmidatlantic.com, and visit tedxoilspill.com for more information.

Event Details

June 28th, 2010
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC

Register to Attend

It’s Official: Food is Oil

I would not have anticipated ever writing anything with this thesis: Fidel Castro was right.

A couple of years ago, he made it known that the global subsidy of biofuels would lead to an increase in the price of food because of the diversion of grain stocks (such as corn) into fuel production.

It seemed basic economics at the time and he’s been proven correct. We saw it in the developed world first in the form of an increase in the price of milk (made from corn, essentially) and subsequently all dairy products.

Now we see it in the form of other grains, like rice and wheat, and there is no obvious end in sight. The craze to invest in biofuel technologies was nothing other than a stall tactic, to prevent investment in real alternative energy sources. While it’s nice to re-use things like old fry oil to run your Mercedes or semi, there just isn’t enough used restaurant oil to make a dent in our demand for energy.

Instead we’ve taken the final step in linking our food supply to the energy market: we’ve decided to invest heavily (and irrationally) in converting our food directly into energy with ethanol and soy biofuel subsidies.

It’s not as though there had not previously been a link; oil companies have been powering agribusiness for the last 75 years at least. Petroleum waste products have been productively combined with chlorine and other chemicals to produce a huge number of chemicals that have proved useful as pesticides (and as PCBs, PVCs, and other plastics) and have led to the current abundance of food.

Ostensibly, this is a good thing; however as this has occurred, farming has become big business, and the same corporations that control the chemistry of the food supply (like Monsanto and Exxon/Mobil) now control the food supply itself. There’s no monopoly like two monopolies.

If this theses are correct, one of the best things we can do to lower food prices and to promote investment in sustainable alternative energies is to loudly protest the investment in biofuels.

By removing subsidies for biofuels, we 1) direct food back to the food supply, thereby easing prices, 2) promote investment in sustainable alternative energy solutions, 3) agitate the monopoly link between corporate farms and the petroleum products they use, 4) put additional pressure on automakers to seriously consider the development of non-petroleum powered and, certainly, of non-biofuel powered vehicles.

So, I exhort you: help stop the subsidy of biofuel production. If there is a natural market for it, it will stand on its own.

Otherwise all we’re doing is making food less affordable, creating agony for countries that can’t afford these price increases, and extending the life of the petroleum monopolies.

Certainly new technologies like slow discharge capacitors hold real promise. Let’s develop these ideas and show the oil companies that their stranded costs are their responsibility, not ours.