The following is a summary of the new National Issues Forums discusion guide on Energy posted in the Kettering Foundation’s Friday Letter from Home produced by KF resident journalist, Bob Daley. Texas Forums will have a limited number of these issue books available for free to organizers of these forums. You MUST use a trained volunteer moderator (I’ll match you up!) and agree to submit participant questionnaires and a brief report on your forum. Just leave a comment here if you are interested or send me an e-mail.
“This country is facing an energy problem with an uncertain future and it is time to face up to some difficult choices, some people say. An NIF has a new issue book written by KF Associate/Researcher Brad Rourke, to help with the public deliberation.
Our way of life seems threatened by unstable sources of energy and there is growing evidence of environmental damage. We may soon reach a point of no return, Brad points out in the introduction.
Why is it so serious? Experts say we are “just one unfortunate event away from real trouble, and the world seems increasingly filled with unfortunate events.”
How did we get here? Following World War II, the economic boom was powered by plentiful domestic oil and coal. We fell in love with the automobile and the affiar intensified through the 1960s and the early 1970s. We had cheap gas and better roads and the number of cars on the highways doubled between 1950 and 1972.
Then came the long lines at gas stations after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) stopped shipping petroleum to countries that had supported Israel in the Yom Kippur war. In 1979, the Shah of Iran was overthrown and the amount of oil exported by Iran fell drastically. The price of oil jumped from $3.75 a barrel in the 1970s to more than $70 a barrel last year. At the pump, the cost of gasoline hovered around $3 across the country.
The environmental impact is increasing, too. Global warming is increasing faster than had been predicted. Five of the warmest years on record have occurred in the last 10 years while hurricanes are getting more intense and frequent.
Three approachhes for deliberation are offered:
* Unreliable Sources – Reduce our Dependence on Foriegn Energy
Much of the oil we use comes from the Middle East and other politically volatile countries that cannot be relied upon to continue supplying our needs. This poses an ongoing threat to our security. The United States has many untapped reserves of oild and natural gas. Our best courses of action is to make all possible use of these domestic energy sources.
* Emissions Warning – Get Out of the Fossil Fuel Predicament
The escalating use of fossil fuels is wreaking havoc on our environment. Most scientists agree that global warming has begun in earnest and, unless we slow down the burning of fossil fuels, we face catastrophic climate changes. We must get serious about developing alternative energy sources, such as wind farms and solar power, and rethink the use of another clean energy source – nuclear power.
* Curb Our Appetite – Reduce Our Demand for Energy
We are missing the point when we go looking for new sources of energy. We need to find ways to use less energy in teh first place or use it more efficiently. The United States is home to less than 5 percent of the world’s population but uses more than 20 percent of its energy. Cutting back on consumption is the cleanest and most workable way to deal with impending shortages.