The Future Of Energy Use

Posted by | September 27, 2011 13:58 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

Daniel Yergin probably knows more about oil and energy usage than anyone else.  I read his book The Prize a few years ago and can’t recommend it highly enough (although it is not an a quick read in any sense of the word).  He has a new book out now on our energy consumption over the past two decades and our prospects for the years ahead.  From a review:

On present course, we will find it in fossil fuels. Predictions of the end of oil have, so far, been wrong, and Yergin predicts they will continue to be wrong. Rickover’s 1957 speech, Yergin reminds us, was a warning that the world would run out of fossil fuels sometime after 2000, probably by 2050. In fact, oil production is five times greater than it was in 1957. Coal remains the central source of electricity. For all the talk of the “end of oil,” fossil fuels still make up about 80 percent of the world’s energy mix. And with natural gas, shale gas and new technologies for extraction becoming more important, fossil fuels are likely to play a central role for decades to come.

Unless we shift our ways. Burning fossil fuels has a cost — perhaps an unbearable one. We now have a mountain of evidence that the 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide that humans pump into the atmosphere every year are changing the earth’s climate in ways that will have negative effects for most people. Yergin recounts the making of the scientific consensus that has developed around global warming. His narrative makes clear that there really is no longer a serious debate in the scientific community about the basic facts of global warming, though there is uncertainty about its extent and its effects. (Some scientific studies suggest that things could turn out much worse than the “average” case.)

The book sounds like a must read for those interested in energy policy and the environment but a depressing one.

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Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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