Sunday, May 3, 2009

Energy Myths and Realities

Finally, there appears to be some common sense out there for dealing with energy issues. This is an excerpt of an April 2, 2009 speech given by the Questar CEO Keith Rattie.

Now, the “consensus” back in the mid-1970s was that America and the world were
running out of oil. Ironically, some in the media were also claiming a
scientific consensus that the planet was cooling, fossil fuels could be to
blame, and we were all going to freeze to death unless we kicked our fossil-fuel
habit. We were told we needed to find alternatives to oil – fast. That task, we
were told, was too important to leave to markets, so government needed to
intervene with massive taxpayer subsidies for otherwise uneconomic forms of
energy. That thinking led to the now infamous 1977 National Energy Plan, an
experiment with central planning that failed miserably. Fast-forward to today,
and: déjà vu. This time the fear is not so much that we‟re running out of oil,
but that we‟re running out of time – the earth is getting hotter, humans are to
blame, and we’re all doomed if we don’t stop using fossil fuels – fast. Once
again we‟re being told that the job is too important to be left to markets.

Well, the doomsters of the 1970s turned out to be remarkably wrong. My
bet is that today’s doomsters will be proven wrong. Over the past 39 years
mankind has consumed nearly twice the world’s known oil reserves in 1970 – and
today proven oil reserves are nearly double what they were before we started.
The story with natural gas is even better – here and around the world enormous
amounts of natural gas have been found. More will be found. And guess what? The
30-year cooling trend that led to the global cooling scare in the mid-70s
abruptly ended in the late 70s, replaced by a 20-year warming trend that peaked
in 1998.

The lesson that we should’ve learned from the 1970s is that
when it comes to deciding how much energy gets used, what types of energy get
used, and where, how and by whom energy gets used –that job is too important not
to be left to markets.

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