Learning Salon: Understanding The Oil Shift

Published on April 10, 2014

Deborah Gordon 1

The future of the global oil market is shifting. Oil is not running out but increasing as new oils emerge in the United States and worldwide, unlocked by new technologies and price points. These unconventional products will undoubtedly require strategic guidance and policy frameworks to usher them into the 21st century—and protect the environment along the way.

Amplifier Strategies, in partnership with Erol Foundation, hosted a private event for families interested in learning more about new oils and the future of sustainable resources management. The salon featured guest speaker Deborah Gordon, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Carnegie Oil Initiative. Deborah shared her expert knowledge of the oil shift and discussed how the Oil Initiative is helping develop policies and realign incentives on global oils.

Erol founders Julie and Sebastien Lepinard approached Amplifier Strategies with an interest in joining a Collaborative Initiative on the environment, in keeping with Erol Foundation’s sustainable environmental systems funding area. Amplifier’s ongoing research for the Initiative revealed that the oil industry as we know it is transitioning. The natural resources and technologies exist to harvest oil products for the next 500 years. Oil products are becoming more geopolitically accessible and less internationally regulated.

For the Lepinard family and the future of their foundation, the Oil Shift Learning Salon marks “one step of the philanthropic learning journey that we’re on,” said Sebastien. Julie and Sebastien each plan to remain involved in research and solutions around sustainable environmental systems.

The presentation focused on the transition from conventional crude oil to new forms of fuel, some of which are ultra-light liquids and others are dense, carbon-heavy, and trapped in rock. Each of these options has pros and cons, including the environmental effects, investment, and infrastructure.

Deborah Gordon Oils

From initial extraction, unconventional oils will require more time and energy to produce a final product than conventional oil. Policy measures around carbon taxes and strict regulation of waste runoff are viable options for controlling harmful emissions and other hazards. Each of these fuels also necessitates careful planning, regulation, and as Deborah put it, a departure from business as usual for public interest and policymaking. “We think we can foretell the future by staying on the curve that we’re on,” she said, “but in reality the economy changes the shape of that curve constantly, and that’s what has happened with big oil.”

The world is no longer dependent on carbon-heavy crude oils, but in the United States and elsewhere, oil products remain essential to 21st century industry. The Oil Initiative and partnering organizations across the globe are working to strike a balance between oils and alternative fuels moving forward.

The Erol Foundation thanks Deborah Gordon contributing to a wonderful Learning Salon! We invite everyone to learn more about the Oil Initiative here.