The last time I saw Michael Economides I thought: “I wish he would go on a diet because we’re going to lose him too soon to a heart attack.” I had had the same thought many times over the years. Now, even as I am greatly saddened to hear of his passing, I have changed my mind.
One of my most fond memories of the gregarious Greek was when he drove my film crew and me from Houston to College Station as we were shooting interviews for my documentary film “spOILed”. The hour and a half trip flew by in what seemed like 20 minutes as I fired question after question at him about everything from horizontal drilling to hydrogen fuel cells. I loved every minute of it. So did he. Even my normally ADD cameramen were transfixed.
That was the essence of the great energy provocateur. There was nothing he enjoyed more than talking about oil, natural gas and coal as well as “energy pretenders” such as wind and solar. As anyone who attended even one of his countless presentations can attest, Dr. Economides absolutely loved explaining energy reality to large gatherings of people. He delighted in destroying the ill-informed arguments made by energy elitists and environmental extremists.
On that trip to College Station we talked a lot about the world energy picture. Economides had been traveling to China frequently to advise authorities there. He told me the Chinese were baffled by U.S. Energy policy. They were suspicious of the Americans because no nation in its right mind would simply stand back and allow them to assume control of a massive percentage of world energy supplies. But that’s exactly what we were doing then and it’s what we are doing today.
When we arrived at Texas A&M University Economides happily lectured a sizable group of students. He was a guest speaker for his wife who was not able to teach that day. After the presentation he kindly answered the questions of students who wanted more information.
On the trip back Dr. Economides insisted we have lunch at a fine restaurant in Houston not far from his office. The food was outstanding and Economides enjoyed every bite. He tried to pick up the sizable check even though he was graciously giving us his time.
During the theatrical run of spOILed I spoke to more than 150 audiences in thirty-plus cities. From Bakersfield to Midland to Kansas City to Denver people wanted to know more about the “big guy with a thick accent and black, curly hair.” They loved the way he cut through energy nonsense with direct, yet colorful and entertaining analogies. He was the star of our film.
We were in San Diego when I last saw Dr. Economides. He was hunched over his laptop making some last minute changes before a morning speech. He looked up from the computer and gave me a giant grin. “Mr. Mathis, it is so good to see you again!” he bellowed in his unmistakable accent.
He thanked me for including him in “spOILed”, saying the film had made him even more famous resulting in the booking of more speaking engagements.
“Now I must go,” he said, snatching up his laptop. “People are waiting to hear my blah, blah,” he said laughing.
That’s how I will remember Dr. Economides, laughing as he was rushing off to inform and engage another audience, not moving very quickly because of his considerable girth.
In the end, how many of us will be able to say that for decades we did what we loved, challenged generally accepted—but stupid—ideas, laughed easily and consumed life with great passion?
Michael Economides died on an international flight on November 30. He left us too soon at the age of 64. We should all be so lucky.
Mark Mathis is the Director, Producer and Co-Writer of “spOILed”.