The country has subsidies for fossil fuels, subsidies for nuclear power, subsidies for wind and solar, and subsidies for insulating and retrofitting structures. We also have energy standards for a few miles and appliances per gallon criteria for automobiles. What never gets asked and answered definitively in the policy debate is this: What should our ultimate goal to be and when should we try to achieve it? The first part of the question has elicited so many answers from so many constituencies that I may not be able to represent them all here. 1. Seek the least expensive price for energy with the implication that environmental implications shouldn’t be tallied within the cost.
2. Complete a changeover to renewable energy as quickly as possible, while drastically reducing the burning of fossil fuels. 3. Replace all fossil gas energy with nuclear power. 4. Develop all sources of energy to make sure we have enough at reasonable prices. Goal 1 is actually the argument put forth by the fossil fuel industry and for that reason a defense of the status quo.
- Figure out what you want to do
- Response to Intervention
- System level focus for efficiency
- Assigning duties and obligations to subordinates in order to achieve the tasks designated
Goal 2 is the imagine every climate change activist and clean-tech executive. Goal 3 seemed to be attaining some momentum before the incident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear herb dashed hopes for a popular nuclear renaissance. Goal 4 is being touted by my congressman who minds the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Business, which is the policy of Obama administration.
The so-called all-of-the-above strategy is the de facto energy plan of the United States and the one that I described above as a hodgepodge of disconnected procedures created for specific constituencies with no coherent goal. 1. Fossil fuels supply more than 80 percent of the world’s energy, and they are finite. We can not depend on them to provide energy to us indefinitely. We simply have no idea when their rate of production might ignore though a bumpy plateau in global oil creation since 2005 is an ominous sign. 2. Climate change induced in large part by the burning up of fossil fuels is proceeding faster than models have predicted.
We don’t have much time to reduce our carbon emissions radically in order to avert the risk of catastrophic weather consequences. No-one knows the near future, not my congressman, not President Obama, not the fossil gasoline industry, not even climate scientists. But, today we can format the risks we face based on what we realize.
About fossil energy supplies we know two key things. About weather change we now know that it’s proceeding faster than expected by weather modelers. That means the worst effects could turn up much sooner than expected, within a couple decades of several decades instead. With regards to oil and gas, it’s possible that yet-to-be-invented technology can make them cheaper and simpler to extract in the foreseeable future.
We just don’t know. Even if that technology comes, the increasing difficulty of being able to access new debris may more than wipe out any cost and productivity advantages. It’s possible that environment change may decelerate. But, that seems unlikely since events that are markers for the progress of climate change such as the melting of Arctic ice are occurring much earlier than anticipated.