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Gas prices got you down? Conference explains it all

GRAND RAPIDS -- If your jaw still is on the ground after paying $4.19 for a gallon of gas, an upcoming conference at Calvin College is calling your name.

"I specifically scheduled the conference in May because the gas prices were going to be high," said Aaron Wissner, organizer of the International Conference on Peak Oil and Climate Change: Paths to Sustainability. The conference runs Friday through June 1.

"I thought that would help increase the number of people interested in coming and learning about what exactly is going on."

About 200 people were registered as of this week, and more can be accommodated.

So what is going on? It's as simple as supply and demand, according to Wissner, a Wayland Middle School teacher and an activist for reducing dependence on oil.

"It's the combination of increasing global demand for oil and a supply that is not increasing at all," he said.

Oil companies have been pumping 85 million barrels a day for the past four years without change, he said. Yet demand has increased annually. Meanwhile, the price of oil has gone from $30 per barrel to more than $100.

A believer in the peak oil theory, where global oil production will reach its peak and then begin an inevitable decline, Wissner does not see this as a temporary situation.

He lined up more than 40 speakers at the three-day conference to talk about that and related issues, including climate change, water issues and land use.

The event starts Friday evening with an introduction by Mayor George Heartwell.

The first speaker is David Goodstein, author of "Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil" and vice provost and physics professor at the California Institute of Technology.

U.S. Rep. Vern Ehlers prepared a video presentation for the conference, too.

"One of the goals of the conference is to bring together people from different areas of interest -- the business community, the environmental community, elected officials," Wissner said.

"Bring all these people together to share some information and learn something about what's going to be happening in the future."

Send e-mail to the author: creister@grpress.com

Editorial Notes: Contributor Aaron Wissner writes: We've received a bit more press on the conference, including a one-hour talk show on GRTV Public Access 24, a 15-minute radio interview for WYCE 88.1 Catalyst Radio, and another 12-minute radio interview for the local NPR station WGVU - AM/FM. We've also extended the $99 registration rate for a couple more days. peakoilconference.org

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