Yale SOM Energy Club Hosts Discussion of the Future of Oil
The Yale SOM Energy Club promotes the energy industry to students, advises them on how to land a good job or internship, organizes treks around the country to visit energy-related companies, and invites speakers to campus to discuss key, often controversial, issues. On April 12, the club welcomed Robert Zubrin, president of Pioneer Astronautics, to discuss his plan to wean the United States off foreign oil. James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and a senior fellow at the Jackson Institute, introduced Zubrin, calling him a "real champion in dealing with the oil problem in a sensible, reasonable way."
In Zubrin's view, the oil-producing nations that make up OPEC hold too much power in global affairs and have long acted in ways detrimental to the interests of the United States. Noting that the cartel's production now is little changed from 1973 while the world economy has doubled, Zubrin argued that OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, has been rigging oil prices and enriching itself, while impoverishing much of the rest of the world. He also accused OPEC of precipitating the 2008 global financial crisis, displaying a chart that showed that when oil prices rise, so does U.S. unemployment. "And the situation can be expected only to get worse if nothing gets done," he said.
The answer to the problem, as Zubrin sees it, comes down to two words: flex fuel. If the U.S. passes a law mandating that all new cars be able to be run on alcohol-based fuel, the power of OPEC would essentially evaporate. In three years, he predicted 40 million flex fuel cars would be on the road, an amount that would force automakers to build such cars for the global market. "It would put a permanent global restraint on the cost of oil," he said. "Whoever controls the world's fuel supply controls the human future."
Howard Chang SOM/FES '12, an Energy Club co-leader, noted that the club consistently brings in thought-provoking speakers, including leaders from General Electric and Exxon Mobil and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Daniel Yergin. "The energy sector has broad impacts in terms of economic, security, and environmental issues—and not just for those interested in the sector," he said. "Our goal is to bring in speakers who can provide multiple perspectives on these topics, while appealing to all Yale SOM students in addition to audiences from the other graduate programs and Yale College. I think we've done that. Whether you agree with them or not, there's no doubt our speakers have sparked conversations that continued long after the event ended."