Risk, Sustainability and Oil Sands

I was recently invited to to give a talk on risk and sustainability at the CSPG-AAPG Oil Sands and Heavy Oil Symposium: A Local to Global Multidisciplinary Collaboration. The symposium is being jointly sponsored by the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists (CSPG) and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), the two predominant petroleum geology organizations in North America. It will be held in Calgary at the Metropolitan Centre on October 14-16, 2014.

According to the organizers, the conference is expected to attract 500 geologists from Canada and the U.S., plus representatives from other heavy oil producers in China, Venezuela, and Russia. The topics of discussion will include the international nature of oil sands and heavy oil resources, the geology and characterization of producing deposits, technological advances, and sustainability.

My talk will be part of a session on regulatory and sustainability issues, being co-chaired by Kevin Parks and Travis Hurst. I’ll be speaking on work that I have been doing with Michael Lounsbury, Lianne Lefsrud, and Chang Lu that looks at multiple perspectives on risk, with a particular emphasis on cross cultural understandings of risk. Our analysis finds that technical, financial and perceptual understandings of risk are seldom sufficient to explain how societies decide what is risky, what is safe, and whether and how to proceed.

Update: A copy of my presentation is below. Additionally, a short companion paper is available through SSRN.

Wine Consumption Circa 1934

Fortune has re-published an article on “The Wines of the U.S.” originally written in 1934, shortly after the December 1933 repeal of prohibition.

Source: http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2012/03/25/american-wine-fortune-1934/

The article reported that:

In 1918 U.S. wine consumption was 51,000,000 gallons. During prohibition it trebled. Mr. Garrett was one of the few people who realized that amazing fact — that by 1928 the annual consumption of wine had become about 160,000,000 gallons a year. During those years liquor consumption increased only 50 percent — by gallons, 60,000,000. Yet the liquor business was organized and aggressive, and the wine industry had been disrupted.

The statistics told Mr. Garrett more. In 1918 some 3,000,000 gallons of wine were imported to fill the slippers of chorus girls and the gullets of the rich. Most of the 51,000,000 gallons produced domestically was sold in bulk and drunk by the foreign-born people of the cities. Of the 159,000,000 gallons consumed in 1928 only a few thousand were imported and only 5,000,000 produced legally and domestically for refreshment while communing with the Lord.

That left 154,000,000 gallons which were made illegally in cellars and legally in homes. Since the foreign-born population has not increased since 1918, it seems logical to conclude that much of the 100,000,000-gallon increase in those years was due to new habits contracted by the rank and file of the population. In other words, prohibition has done something very startling to the taste of this nation.

What a potentially fascinating setting for exploring organizational processes. In particular, the distributed, interactive and sociomaterial organization of (il)legal practices, and the role of such practices in (re)shaping the regulatory landscape.

One potentially sympathetic jumping off point that comes to mind: Lauren B. Edelman, Christopher Uggen and Howard S. Erlanger, 1999, The Endogeneity of Legal Regulation: Grievance Procedures as Rational MythAmerican Journal of Sociology, Vol. 105, No. 2, pp. 406-454.

Numbering the Discontent

The graphic accompanying a recent New York Times article seems to capture in numbers the sentiments so many have been trying to express lately. Among 31 OECD countries ranked on social justice, the United States is among the bottom 5 overall (just ahead of Greece, Chile, Mexico and Turkey), and in the bottom 5 or 10 countries on 7 out of the 8 indicators ranked. For those of us who were (a) once children, (b) enjoy remaining healthy, or (c) hope to grow old someday, the news is a sobering reality check.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/29/opinion/blow-americas-exploding-pipe-dream.html