University of Connecticut

Events Calendar

Special Lecture

Monday, April 14, 2014
2:00pm – 3:00pm

Storrs Campus
Gant Science Complex, Room PB-121

Ripudaman Malhotra, SRI International, in Menlo Park, CA

“A Cubic Mile of Oil: Realities and Options for Averting the Looming Global Energy Crisis”

A Cubic Mile of Oil is a call for an informed public debate on energy, arguably the biggest challenge we face. The book is a citizen's guide to energy and its aim is to stimulate an informed debate about the choices for energy sources. The book makes all the technical discussion accessible and relatable by dispensing with mind numbing multipliers like billions, and trillions or unfamiliar quantities like Watts and Btus. We use a cubic mile of oil (CMO) as the metric for comparing all global energy flows. The current global consumption of oil (ca. 86 million barrels a day) amounts to 1 cubic mile over one year. We also express the amounts of coal and gas consumed in CMO equivalents, instead of in billions of tons of coal, or trillions of cubic feet of gas. By the middle of this century, the global energy demand is expected to rise to somewhere between 6 and 9 CMO. Where are we going to get the energy from? 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 tougher challenge that we face in balancing the tension between protecting the environment and the moral imperative of providing adequate affordable energy to people around the earth so they may lead healthy productive lives. Between 1981 and 2005, China lifted over 600 million people out of poverty; it accomplished this laudable feat by increasing its energy consumption four-fold. The world still has over a billion people without access to any electricity, and another billion-and-a-half with inadequate supply. Poverty still claims the lives of 15000 infants each day—equivalent to the death toll in the wake of the tsunami in Japan in 2011. It's going to take CMOs of energy to alleviate that scourge. Unless our solutions are able to scale to the level of a CMO/yr, we would be just nibbling at the edges. The book goes on to describe the different energy sources, their potential, and the requirements for developing any of them to a level approaching 1 CMO/yr. The numbers are truly staggering: 150 Three Gorges Dams! 2,500 1-GW nuclear reactors, 3 million wind 2-MW turbines covering 580,000 square miles, 70,000 Andasol solar parks, 4.5 billion rooftop 2-kW PV systems... But this is the reality that we must acknowledge.


Dawn Rawlinson, 486-4916,

Physics Department (primary)

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