Are We Running out of Energy?

I brainstormed a list of topics I hope to explore and questions I hope to answer in my energy and clean technology research. I have graduate degree in international relations with a specialization in international economics and U.S. foreign policy. So I would really like to understand how large-scale adoption of clean energy technology would affect international geopolitics and trade.

How can you begin to answer such a question? As president of a research business, I’m curious what information sources are out there to enable consumers, voters, investors, business people and policy makers to understand energy issues broadly and deeply make wise choices.

Over the last nearly 10 years my research has centered on Internet marketing and commerce. I’ve never studied energy. It turns out there is a bewildering amount of information already in circulation. I was able to quickly learn from the Energy Information Administration, and agency of the US Department of Energy, for example, that in 2007 United States imports 58% of its oil. (That’s a significantly smaller percentage than the “nearly 70%” cited in T. Boone Pickens’ plan. I do not know how to explain the difference nor whether that difference is material.)

This minor statistical variation I just highlighted is nothing, however, compared to the yawning chasm in rhetoric between those who advocate aggressive exploitation of domestic fossil fuel resources and those who believe we need to look elsewhere for our energy.

According to an article by Richard R. Loomis and Susan Salter in World Energy Source,

“We have enough oil, natural gas, oil shale, coal and uranium to provide power for centuries. We have a growing consensus that we need to drill, onshore and off. But partisan intransigence and ridiculous environmental claims prevent us from utilizing these American resources.” Pickens, though, sees things differently. “Despite growing demand and an unprecedented increase in prices, oil production has fallen over the last three years,” he observes. “Oil is getting more expensive to produce, harder to find and there just isn’t enough of it to keep up with demand.” Pickens’ advice may be suspect, however, because he “has a vested interest in saving the planet” according to Loomis and Salter. Don’t we all?

Who’s right? I don’t have the tools yet to say for sure. But I’m working on it. If anyone can contribute a clear argument, backed by data, one way or the other, please leave a comment.

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