is NO solution to America’s (and the world’s) energy needs. Sure, I’d rather not pump $40 of gas when I not long ago I only pumped $30 and I remember even cheaper times. But if we are serious about our economic future, we will take those high prices as a warning: we’d best be looking at alternatives. The world, primarily the now developed western nations, has been blessed with almost free petroleum energy for the past century. We built our economies and societies on that assumption. Now the well is going dry just as other nations begin to rapidly develop their economies. America is more and more at risk in a world of energy competition.
America is unprepared to compete for energy resources, especially against China which holds so much of our debt. Three decades ago, Americans were rudely awakened to their energy dependence. We vowed to conserve and seek alternatives. We did. Somewhat. Thousands of homes sprouted solar water heaters. But cheap petroleum always lured us away. Alternatives could not compete so we stayed with our drug.., I mean energy, of choice
So here we are in the first years of the 21st century looking at the end of the rainbow. Cheap oil is gone forever; too many people in the world depend on oil. The petroleum infrastructure is vast, cumbersome and vulnerable. Relying exclusively on petroleum in a world of energy competition is risky and just plain foolish. America will need to kick start some of the alternative ideas that we’ve talked about for 30 years. Not just ideas for generating energy but also for using it more efficiently.
Complete energy independence increasingly unlikely. Certainly not in petroleum, not at our current rate of consumption and not with other nations competing for limited supplies. Given the scale of our needs and distribution of resources, it’s hard to imagine an scenario where the United States will remain a strong economy without cheap petroleum. There’s always coal–America has lots of coal–but mining and burning coal is hard on the world. The US is already the runaway biggest polluter
on the planet. So we really need to look at how we use energy. Europe and Japan, long accustomed to high energy costs, have maintained a decent standard of living with far less energy than the United States.
Conservation and new technologies will not solve America’s energy needs. They will, however, give us a chance to transition to the New World Energy Order. postscript
Jacob Weisberg has an interesting piece
. He argues that high energy prices are the only real incentive for looking toward a post petroleum economy.