Tuesday, March 15

"A Cubic Mile of Oil"

Ripudaman Malhotra

Associate Director

SRI International's Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory

March 15, 2011
6:00 to 7:30 p.m.

A Cubic Mile of Oil is a call for an informed public debate on energy. The book describes how much energy the world uses and from which sources, where we are headed, and what it would take to utilize alternate methods for generating energy. The cubic mile of oil (CMO) is a metric for comparing global energy flows from all sources.

The current global consumption of oil (about 80 million barrels a day) amounts to 1 cubic mile used in one year. Each year, the world uses 0.8 CMO of energy from coal, 0.6 from natural gas, and roughly 0.2 from each of hydro, nuclear, and wood, for a grand total of 3 CMO. By about 2050, global energy demand should rise to between 6 and 9 CMO. Where will we source the energy needed to live and sustain growth? 

In his book, Dr. Malhotra and his co-authors reframe the debate about energy supply, which is often portrayed as a tension between the moral imperative to protect the environment vs. preserving the energy industry's economic interests. This simplistic view misses a more pressing challenge: to find a suitable equilibrium between protecting the environment—which would require us to stop using fossil fuels—against the equally important call for social justice—of providing people around the world with sufficient affordable energy so they can live healthy, productive lives. There are choices to be made, and the public must get engaged.

Ripudaman Malhotra is associate director of SRI International's Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory. In this role, he works extensively on the processing, properties, and analysis of coal, oil, natural gas, and biofuels. Malhotra conducts detailed mechanistic studies in these systems, and has developed innovative processes to achieve desired product selectivity and increased efficiencies.