This is my assigned subject - plus the request that as opening speaker, I attempt to put the petroleum situation in proper perspective. Either would have been a difficult assignment had your speaker possessed more wisdom and vision and had available a staff of economists, statisticians, reservoir engineers, exploration geologists, ecologists, and even nuclear physicists. Lacking all of these, I began to seek the counsel of better informed persons and to study reports, some published and others private.
I find the immediate future highly confused. One news story states: "Crude market tight but cut back feared." Another reads: "March rate of 49.6% vastly above year ago but drastic cut back in April possible." If we are so uncertain about next month, how can we project for five years? We would need to project world and national energy demand, the role of petroleum and nuclear energy, import policies and availability of both foreign crude and tankers, national and state producing capacities, Railroad Commission allocation policies, and finally a guess at what portion of national domestic demand Texas would be assigned or could preempt.
None of these can be answered clearly; but I will give you a set of numbers to which you can apply your own correction factor.
However by way of putting this program in perspective, I will impose first upon your patience by preaching a sermon about matters that most of us would rather not discuss but that, nonetheless, are vital to survival.
"Dare we sit - fat and complacent - while two-thirds of the world's people are hungry?" A quotation from a minister, professor, politician, or even warmed-over from one of my public official speeches of the past? NO - none of these! It was in answer to a question raised during a meeting of the Advisory Council to the Engineering Foundation, and it was given by one presumably both knowledgable and practical. Knowledgable because he is U.S. representative on the International Food and Fiber Commission; practical because he is a Texas professional engineer, but more significantly is head of one of the world's largest food companies with sales of over one billion dollars per year.
This man, "Tex" Cook, Chief Executive Officer of General Foods, give dismal statistics on how rapidly civilization is losing the race between population and food supply. He felt that, despite our universal tendency to bury our heads in the sand, we engineers should be concerned, and he declared that something could be done. "American know-how in food production could be a force of far greater significance to civilization than the-atom bomb." If this know-how were widely practiced throughout the world and accompanied by an arresting of the population explosion, there is a chance for survival of civilization - so "Tex" Cook and other authorities believe.
The population flood (flood being a better word than explosion) has awesome implications, is already much more serious than most are willing to recognize, but significant progress has been made in some areas of the world - for example, in Japan, about which we all have heard, and also in Italy, which may be surprising. If this progress could spread over Asia and South America, there might be basis for hope. But the population problem can be studied elsewhere.
The application of scientific, engineering technology to agriculture "more important than the atomic bomb" - is a neglected subject, one that engineers can understand and perhaps do something about, and moreover is significantly related to any realistic projection if petroleum demand. The four main principles of such technology are:
improved seeds and better planned crops suited for the climate, soil, and food needs of the particular area;
vastly increased water supply for irrigation;
immensely increased supplies of fertilizer. (For example, the U.S. is the world's largest producer of nitrogen fertilizer manufactured principally by the petroleum industry.