The Problem

The world energy appetite is growing at an alarming rate.  The world population just passed 7 billion and it is projected to grow to over 9 billion by 2050.  The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are combining large populations with intense economic development. Their thirst for energy is massive.  For example, China is starting to import coal from the US.  Both India and China are developing new nuclear reactors,.  Clearly, China and India will be strapped for energy.  What should they do?  Meanwhile the US is having trouble meeting its own energy needs.  Every country is competing with every other for a limited supply.  Prices must rise dramatically. 

Between now and 2050, global energy usage is expected to rise by a factor of three or more.  The US economy is growing at the 1% -2% range now.  If we emerge from the recession, growth will at least double.  But India and China are growing at 8% and 10%. Where will we get enough energy?

The US Energy policy is not clearly defined.  Our production lags our consumption by 23%.  This causes many to yell "DRILL BABY DRILL!"  But this is just a Band-Aid.  Even with the big new oilfield in North Dakota, we will not keep up with new demand, let alone wipe out the need for imports.  Others tout natural gas.  They point to massive quantities of gas embedded in shale.  The advent of 'hydrofracting’ has made the gas extractable.  Many new electric plants are being powered by gas.  But still the demand is too high.  As a result, we still build new coal powered plants.  Coal is plentiful and relatively cheap.  But our three main fuel sources generate millions of tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are leading to climate change and global warming.

Meanwhile nuclear power is still largely out of favor.  Safety and nuclear by-products raise concerns. As power sources go, nuclear is inexpensive. Despite Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, the nuclear safety record competes favorably.  And it doesn't produce any carbon dioxide.   There are far more direct and indirect deaths from the fossil fuel industries.  They are expected and therefore taken for granted.

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