Everyone’s definition of what is an energy “crisis” is different, so naturally what it will take to get us out of it will differ depending on the person. Some would say that by a traditional definition we’re not in an energy crisis now at all, at least not in the sense of the crises that pinched the US consumer market in 1973-74 and again in 1979–the old paradigm of people lining up at gas stations and gasoline being rationed based on whether the numbers of your license plate are odd or even. Yet I believe we are in an energy crisis because so long as the lion’s share of our energy needs are met by fossil fuels, the prices will keep going up and the effect on our environment, especially global warming, will keep getting worse.
What will it take to get us out of it? Money. Lots of it. More money than anybody wants to spend, at least right now. What I believe we truly need is a massive conversion of our energy infrastructure to renewable energy sources. This is going to take billions, if not trillions, of federal dollars in subsidies and tax incentives to green energy businesses, the cessation of subsidies and tax breaks to fossil fuel and nuclear companies, and massive public and private investment in research and development of affordable renewable energy resources. This is not realistic at the present time, however, for political reasons; especially given the poor state of the US economy right now, funneling vast amounts of public cash into speculative ventures would be seen as wasteful and silly by a lot of people, and the economic pain that would result would make our recession even worse. However, I think the time will come when a significant portion of the public realizes that not only our environmental and economic future but our national security depends on the abandonment of fossil fuels. Once that point is crossed the political will may exist for a large-scale effort, equivalent to the effort made by the entire American society during World War II to change over the nation to war production. Once we see solving the energy crisis in the same terms as winning World War II, we can do it. Curiously this is what Jimmy Carter said in 1979 when he called the energy crisis “the moral equivalent of war,” but those words have mostly been forgotten since then, except to denigrate Carter for being so idealistic.
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