Dr. Ripudaman Malhotra, Associate Director, Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory, SRI International, San Francisco Bay Area, USA delivered a Guest Lecture titled “A Cubic Mile of Oil: Realities and Options for Averting the Global Energy Crisis” at Sir C. V. Raman Auditorium, University of Hyderabad on Nov. 05, 2013.

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The talk aimed at exploring issues concerning energy and sustainability. The debate about energy supply has often been portrayed as a tension between the moral imperative of protecting the environment or preserving the economic interests of the energy industry. This simplistic view misses the larger challenge that we face in balancing the tension between protecting the environment and the moral imperative of improving the lives of people around the earth.

We had energy crisis in past such as the one in 1917 in US. Crisis brings with it precious opportunity to learn useful things but, unfortunately the humankind has wasted many such avenues that could have resulted in addressing some of the key energy questions effectively.

The energy challenges in future pose tough choices for all of us. It’s time to reframe the debate about energy supply. Energy is essential for daily life and sustainability. It’s crucial to ensure adequate, affordable energy for all to live a healthy and productive life. However, current practice of energy production and consumption are not sustainable. Energy use is central to way of life and consequences of not meeting future energy demands are dire. This requires focus on a comprehensive energy policy that must be able to answer “how much”, “how” and “from where” questions of energy management effectively.

Different units of measures are in place for different sources such as Gallons/ Barrels of oil, Tons or BTU for coal, SFCs for natural gas and Kwh for electrical energy. Lack of uniform unit to measure energy results in non-comparable analysis in studies on energy related issues. The Cubic Mile of Oil or CMO has been devised to address this issue that becomes very helpful in analysis of energy issues at world level.  A cubic mile of oil (CMO) corresponds very closely to the world’s current total annual consumption of crude oil; this is equivalent to consumption of crude oil for 365 days at the rate of 18 million barrels per day or 1.1 trillion gallons of oil.

A Cubic Mile of Oil describes the various energy sources and how we use them, projects their future contributions, and delineates what it would take to develop them to annually produce a CMO from each of them. The requirement for additional energy in the future is so daunting that we will need to use all resources. We also examine how improved efficiency and conservation measures can reduce future demand substantially, and help distinguish approaches that make a significant impact as opposed to merely making us feel good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  by Kumar Ashish, Research Scholar in the School of Economics