31 July 2013

July Hiatus: Chris Nelder's Tribute to Randy Udall

While I'm on my July blogging hiatus, I'd thought I'd share with you a few posts from friends whose thought leadership I admire. Earlier this month, my pal Chris Nelder wrote about Randy Udall for SmartPlanet. Udall passed away at the age of 61 while on a solo backpacking trip in Wyoming's Wind River Range. 

I recall Udall's cogent, smart, and somewhat snarky comments on pricing energy in conversation with Jim Rogers of Duke Energy at the Aspen Environment Forum back in 2009, where we were both speaking.  

Here is Chris's tribute, in part. You can go here to read the full version:

Randy Udall: An energy hero’s journey by Chris Nelder

Randy Udall by Dan Bihn

Randy Udall had a unique talent for expressing complex realities and befuddling data in a simple, tangible way that anyone could understand; for being able to step back from the immediate issues of the day and put them in a larger, clarifying perspective.

So when I learned last week that he had died on a solo backpacking trip in the Wyoming wilderness, it was a crushing loss. Randy was one of my heroes: a wonderful man who was a hugely important and helpful friend, mentor, sounding board, and teacher to me over the past several years. He was a gifted writer and a compelling speaker. It’s hard to believe we’ll have no more of his words.
He certainly contributed much to mine. It was Randy who, preferring to be credited anonymously as “a perspicacious friend,” said this in my article on “energy independence“ in February 2012: “The masses (and the cheerleaders) love this story because it is one of Abundance and Manifest Destiny in this Exceptional Country of ours.” That phrase expressed beautifully what the shale mania is really all about. A student of human nature, Randy had an unerring ability to detect the emotional underpinnings of our rhetoric about energy and our destiny, and bring it back to earth.

He never doubted that the engines of human activity were redlining, and that we had entered a period of extreme, even existential challenges where “the politics of energy has to surrender to the physics of energy.” He had no doubt that peak oil was a real and a serious issue we would have to confront in the very near future, as the decline of a handful of mature giant oil fields eventually overwhelmed new additions from the thousands of new wells being drilled every year. And he put his shoulder to the wheel in response, co-founding the U.S. chapter of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO), and co-hosting its first conferences.
Over the past several years, I was lucky to exchange emails every few days with Randy and some other fellow energy geeks. (Some of them wrote this touching tribute.) In a kind of ongoing workshop, we passed around data and charts and observations, working through arcane details, trying to detect the reality of our energy situation amidst a growing crescendo of industry propaganda.

Read the complete tribute here.

More about Chris Nelder.