Is there an energy crisis?

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-111099080710562.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of’, ‘Ljubisa Radovic is professor of Energy & Geo-Environmental Engineering, graduate program chairman, and Fuel Science at Penn State University’);

In his book, Energy and Fuels in Society, Ljubisa Radovic states: “There is no energy crisis and there never has been one.” With the wide range of energy sources available, the crisis may be more political than resource based. Our political system works through creating crises. The crisis atmosphere is intended to rally public support behind desired policy changes. Middle East oil has frequently been labeled as the prize that has been key to U.S. energy policy since the end of World War II. The administration’s energy bill, which failed to pass in previous congressional sessions, laid out priorities, including substantially more funding for oil, coal, natural gas and nuclear, and stressing increased centralization of production and distribution.

In the 1970s, this approach was labeled the “hard path” by Amory Lovins. In contrast, the “soft path” advocated efficiency, renewables and decentralized power production. The “soft path” has always included environmental concerns as a major component.

“Soft path” supporters have made three major national political efforts since World War II to gain federal backing for their policy preferences. One was at the close of the Truman administration, when a solar economy was contemplated. The second was when the Carter administration gave substantial support to renewables.

After Carter’s defeat, the Reagan administration persuaded Saudi Arabia to flood the market with cheap oil and cut the price to around $10/barrel to bankrupt Russia. If Carter’s policies had continued, our current energy system would be substantially different.

We are now in the third great debate over energy policy. Peak oil advocates present a crisis scenario: new discoveries are not keeping up with demand; over time, prices will continue to rise. Their argument is built on data supplied by Campbell, formerly employed by the oil industry.

The question remains: “How good is the data?” If the data is accepted as valid and a true crisis exists, it lends credence to the idea that our military action around the world will be influenced by our oil needs.

High energy prices and increased competition add to the crisis atmosphere. A new element in the debate is global warming and the need to reduce climate-changing gases by reducing global dependence on fossil fuels.

It may split environmental supporters of the “soft path” into pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear camps. The energy crisis can be seen as a struggle over our energy future and its economic, political and social implications.

We hope that the national outcome will provide appropriate support to efficiency and renewables. Rather than wait for federal outcomes, local political leaders have created energy policies based on efficiency and renewables in the belief that they will be beneficial to local economic and environmental interests.

We believe efficiency and renewable energy sources should have a more prominent role in the local and global energy picture and that we should work toward that end. Reference: Ljubisa Radovic, Energy and Fuels in Society: Analysis of Bills and Media Reports, McGraw-Hill (College Custom Series), 1997 Web edition (continuously updated):

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