Discussions include oil prices, hurricanes, and media portrayal
On Thursday, March 24, Keene State College welcomed John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil and founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy, for a four-part day to discuss energy policy, effects of various current events on oil prices, and the workings of the oil industry as well as Shell’s reaction to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Hofmeister’s day at KSC, organized by journalism professor Rodger Martin, culminated in a speech in the Mabel Brown Room concerning his book, “Why We Hate The Oil Companies.”
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Hofmeister was president of Shell Oil for four years. Following retirement, he created the non-profit organization Citizens for Affordable Energy to advocate better solutions to energy policy and seek productive change from Capitol Hill, which he claims has completely failed in all efforts to make America more sustainable.
Hofmeister has proposed a plan to remove energy from normal legislative procedures and create an outside energy commission to serve in the nation’s best interests.
“He has the most coherent plan for energy sustainability that I have ever heard,” Martin said of Hofmeister. “This needs to be heard.”
Hofmeister’s four-part day began in the Alumni Center with a short speech focusing mainly on hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the British Petroleum oil spill, followed by a reception, a press conference for journalism students, and the final speech at the end of the evening in the Mabel Brown Room.
Hofmeister began his first speech by outlining the security precautions put in place by Gulf of Mexico oil companies, noting they are the world’s standard for oil rigs and refineries.
He detailed the process by which Shell closed down the oil rig off the coast of New Orleans, La. prior to Hurricane Katrina.
“There’s a whole orderly shutdown procedure, and by 24 hours before the storm, the rig is empty and no one is at risk,” Hofmeister said. “So that whatever that storm does, no one is in harm’s way.”
Having held the position as president for only four months when Katrina hit, Hofmeister touted no deaths or harm of employees following the disaster, though the rig, several refineries, and an office building in central New Orleans suffered damage.
According to Hofmeister, the damaged rig, which produced 80,000 barrels of oil per day, remained down for 15 months and cost $500 million to repair.
“During that time, about 25 percent of the country’s oil refineries shut down,” Hofmeister said. “You saw gas prices go up.”
Shortly after Katrina hit, Hurricane Rita devastated the Gulf Coast near Texas, which affected more of America’s oil industry mainly located in the area.
“Now 50 percent of the country’s refining capacity was shut down,” Hofmeister said. “We took excess oil from Europe and brought it in.”
Throughout his presentations and lectures, Hofmeister made sure to spend time discussing the future of oil and other resources that can be used for energy.
In response to a student’s question, Hofmeister said the U.S. should not worry about ever running out of oil. His reason was that there are plenty of oil reserves Americans haven’t even begun drilling in yet.
“We have more energy in this country than we will ever need,” Hofmeister said. “Don’t let anyone tell you we have a shortage; they are telling you a falsehood.”
But Hofmeister said that doesn’t mean we should depend on oil forever. He talked in great length on the terrible aspects of oil.
“Oil can only work in a closed system,” Hofmeister said. “Because no human should ever see, touch, smell, or taste it.”
According to Hofmeister, 93 percent of what we use for energy is crude oil, nuclear power, coal, and natural gas.
Just 5 percent comes from hydropower and dams, and only 2 percent comes from solar and wind power.
Hofmeister is determined this distribution of percentages needs to change.
He said he wants the future U.S. to solely be run on wind, solar, and water power. He stressed how all these sources are free, safer, and would function just as well as crude oil for fuel.
During his final speech of the day, Hofmeister worked to get the audience fired up about the issue and told them it’s up to us, not the government, to help make the change.
“Let’s take it away from Congress, take it away from the President. They’re not going to get the job done,” Hofmeister said. “We can do this, ladies and gentlemen. Not as Republicans, not as Democrats, but as American citizens.”
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