Energy: The Master Resource
Everyone has heard a lot about the topic of energy lately, and many people have an opinion on such issues as “U.S. energy independence,” “renewable energy,” “peak oil,” “fracking,” “nuclear energy,” “coal,” and so on. Often where one stands on these issues relates to where one sits politically, with politicians and a compliant media constituting the drivers of the public’s knowledge about energy. Regardless of political ideology, an often thin veneer of “knowledge” is used to support the various opinions. Beneath this veneer lies a wasteland of ignorance about what energy really is, how important it is to modern society, how much is produced, and how much we currently consume—or might be able to consume—in the future. The spectrum of opinions held range from “the end of cheap fossil fuels will cause a death blow to civilization” to “we can easily wean ourselves off of fossil fuels,” to “we have enough fossil fuels to last hundreds of years” to “wind and solar can provide all our energy needs.” Among the least informed, it seems, are the very politicians who often drive the national conversation about energy. Few of them have scientific backgrounds, and all of them feel compelled to address the needs of particular constituencies. The press tends also to be notoriously uninformed, even misinformed, about energy. With all due respect to them and to former Vice President Al Gore, the state of America’s energy security, as well as the enormous shortcomings of most visions of a sustainable future, are much greater “inconvenient truths” than even climate change.