THE search for alternatives to fossil fuels continues apace. So delegates at Canada's Gas & Oil Exposition 2007 in Calgary, Alberta, were thrilled at the prospect of a presentation from S. K. Wolff, speaking for the US National Petroleum Council - which advises the Department of Energy on behalf of the oil industry - and Florian Osenberg for ExxonMobil.
The delegates were, perhaps, a little disconcerted to hear Wolff declare that current US and Canadian energy policies - including the exploitation of Alberta's billions of tonnes of oil sands - are "increasing the chances of huge global calamities". However, many showed keen interest in his proposal that in "the worst-case scenario, the oil industry could keep fuel flowing". It could do this, he said, by transforming the millions of people who die each year into oil.
"We're not talking about killing anyone," he added. "We're talking about using them after nature has done the hard work. After all, 150,000 people already die from climate-change-related effects every year." Thus the two unveiled their "Vivoleum" technology, promising to turn these multitudes of sad events to good use.
They demonstrated the product by handing out candles, which they said were made from the remains of "an Exxon janitor" who had willed his body to the common good. At this point, as delegates held candles smelling of burnt hair and watched the opening frames of the janitor's last video testament, they started to harbour some uncomfortable suspicions.
The truth soon emerged. Wolff and Osenberg are "Yes Men", members of the group that in 1997 registered the website www.gatt.org spoofing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, predecessor of the World Trade Organization. They told the press later that their real names are Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno and you can see photos and more at www.theyesmen.org/agribusiness/vivoleum/event/ - the site www.vivoleum.com having been closed for alleged trademark violation.
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