Nov 7, 2005
Peak oil was discussed in Rimini, Italy, for three full days on oct
27-30 at the 32nd conference "The Soul of The Empire" organized by the
Pio Manzu' center. The conference was sponsored by the United Nations, the European
Commission, the Italian goverment and other international bodies.
Initially, the conference had been
planned to revolve around the so called "Rimini Protocol" proposed by Colin Campbell two years ago at a previous Rimini conference. Campbell, founder and honorary president of ASPO (Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas), had conceived the protocol around the idea that
governments should agree on a voluntary reduction of oil consumption
before being forced to do so by depletion.
However, despite a number of excellent presentations, including the one
by Campbell himself, the conference seemed to have lost aim and focus along the way. The
"Rimini protocol" was mentioned by some of the speakers, but it was
never discussed in any depth. Talks wandered over a
large number of subjects, from geology to new forms of energy. Some were too specialized for the audience and others were merely advertising for the nuclear industry.
The main session of the conference, the one that
attracted the largest audience and the most media attention and that should have been centered on the Rimini Protocol, can be best
described as a "banality fair." In this session, with the notable
exception of James Schlesinger, former director of CIA, we saw
industrialists and politicians competing with each other in telling the
public that everything is well in the best of words and that human ingenuity is the ultimate resource which will solve all problems, should any appear.
So, the Rimini conference was a lost opportunity in terms of
providing a clear message to the public about peak oil. However, as always, we can see the glass as
half empty or as half full. Up to now, discussing such matters was
reserved to small groups of heretics and the Rimini conference was still
the first "official" high-level worldwide conference on oil depletion.
It was the first case in which agencies such as the United Nations, the
European Commission and others, even admit that this subject is
something worth talking about. Whether this will lead to a larger public
debate is difficult to say, but we can at least hope that it will be so.