My visit to Adelaide

Posted on June 12, 2009


Kjell thought that I should write about his visit in Adelaide (since I would have to translate it anyway) so I will give a brief summary.

Kjell arrived in Adelaide late on the evening of Thursday 5 June after a very, very long flight from Sao Paulo via Sydney. I was able to collect him from the airport and take him to the hotel at which he would be staying. It was great to meet him for the first time after having followed his blog so closely for the past 12 months!

Friday 6 June was World Environment Day. At the University of Adelaide where I work, Kjell was to be hosted by the Environment Institute that had been formally launched the day before. It was quite a coup for the Institute to have such an eminent guest so early after its birth! Scott Mills of the Environment Institute (with capable secretarial assistance of course) organised the accommodation for Kjell as well as the advertising, venues and recording of the two presentations that he gave. Thanks Scott for your help and thanks to the Environment Institute for its financial support!

Kjell gave his first presentation at 10 am. You can download slides from the presentation at the ASPO-Australia website to see it for yourself. The 10 am and 5 pm presentations were both recorded and will be available later at the Environment Institute website. (You will be informed when this happens.) The 10 am presentation revealed the exciting data from Kjell’s Global Energy Systems research group in Uppsala where they reanalysed the data from the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2008 report. By imposing rational (but nevertheless optimistic) limits on the rate of production from fields yet to be discovered and/or put into production and by correcting for a couple of errors in how natural gas liquids (NGL) production is assessed, the Uppsala group revealed a stunning result – that production will not increase up to 2030 but, instead, peak production (“Peak Oil”) was last year and the trend is downhill from here on (even before considering the effects of the GFC). Kjell also showed how his fossil fuel data impacted on the IPCC’s climate change scenarios. After the talk he sat up at the back of the lecture theatre recording a long interview with a journalist from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. This resulted in a very short online news item and I must confess to having been disappointed at such a small response to Kjell’s momentous news. However, the following Tuesday one of my students revealed that he had heard Kjell’’s recorded voice on the nationwide (and very popular) youth music station “Triple J”. So the message did get out to the people who most need to hear it.

After the lecture Kjell had time to chat with Steve Mohr, a Ph.D. student who had flown down to Adelaide from Newcastle to meet him and to discuss his own work on future fossil fuel availability. Bruce Robinson, who convenes ASPO-Australia, was also there. Then the head of the Environment Institute (Australia’s most eminent water expert Prof. Mike Young) together with our climate change professor Barry Brook and a professor in engineering, Gus Nathan took Kjell to lunch at a pleasant restaurant beside the nearby “River” Torrens.

The 5 pm “Energy Realities” event was hosted by Mike Young and involved a shorter presentation from Kjell plus presentations from Barry Brook and Gus Nathan. There was a lot of time for discussion and questions from the audience and Kjell seemed to enjoy this arrangement. I think he also enjoyed being told after the event by some younger people from the audience that he was a bit of a celebrity for them (!). The moment I remember best was Mike Young revealing that he had not realised the degree to which our food production is dependent upon oil until he spoke to Kjell over lunch. We ended the evening with a few beers and then dinner in central Adelaide.

The following day (Saturday June 6, Sweden’s national day) I picked up Kjell, Bruce Robinson and Steve Mohr and we drove to the top of South Australia’s highest peak, the breathtaking 720 m high “Mt Lofty” (I kid you not). It’s a good place for a tourist view over Adelaide and a short walk in the Australian bush followed by a coffee. Then we drove down to the house of my generous neighbour Peter who opened his doors to us (and to anyone else in Adelaide who wanted to meet Kjell) for a BBQ. Quite a few came and I believe they enjoyed themselves but I was too busy running around cooking etc. to notice. Kjell was driven back to his hotel in an old, small Daihatsu Charade that had been converted to run on electricity.

On Sunday morning I collected Kjell early from his hotel so that he could have breakfast with my family before we spent the day touring the Barossa Valley. When I asked one wine-maker if he had heard of “Peak Oil” he was unsure but mentioned that his brother worked as a reservoir engineer in Norway. He wrote down Kjell’s details so that he could email his brother that “Norway’s enemy No. 1” (as the Norwegian media once described Kjell) had sampled his wines. (For the record we visited the Heritage, Lehmanns, Rockford, Liebich [my favourite] and Jacobs Creek wineries.) The Barossa Valley was very green and pretty after some recent above-average rainfall.

That evening we drove to one of the world’s best known permaculture sites, the Food Forest where we were hosted by Graham and Annemarie Brookman for dinner. Kjell is an ex-farm boy so Graham showed him around the property while I snuck off to their vege patch to dig up some Jerusalem artichoke tubers for transfer to my own vege beds. We ate kangaroo and drank the Food Forest’s excellent cider and wine. Around the dinner table that night were also three WWOOFers. There were many topics discussed and Kjell regaled us with much interesting information on energy and more. The factoid that sticks in my mind is that BP employees are now forbidden to speak about Peak Oil publicly. Apparently the head of BP does not believe in peak oil but, rather, “peak demand”. CERA has just said the same so we can see how the oil industry will spin the topic now that Kjell’s research group has “checkmated” [my word] the IEA with its reanalysis of WEO2008.

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