Monday, March 08, 2004

Global Challenges for U.S. Energy Policy: Economic, Environmental, and Security Risks

The summary of a Brookings Institution event held this past Friday can be found here. Excerpts:

...As the demand for energy threatens to outpace supply, the need for reduced oil consumption and alternative energy sources has become more urgent. The rising price of oil and concerns over global warming have created additional pressures to cut consumption.

...After the opening remarks by Reilly and Yergin, the conference's first panel addressed the projected global demand for oil through 2050. Guy Caruso, an administrator at the Energy Information Administration, presented data suggesting that demand will continue to rise at rates that exceed supply.

"The key point isn't so much the specific numbers—it's the trends," said Caruso. "The big picture for the United States is indeed one of growing import dependency—not only for oil—but growing in dependence on natural gas, too."

...(Former CIA Director) Woolsey rejected pushes for fuel cell cars and corn ethanol subsidies, saying that such changes would require a massively expensive and unrealistic conversion of the U.S. infrastructure. He did, however, believe that the United States could eventually become self-reliant, especially if hybrid cars—Woolsey admitted to being on a waiting list for a hybrid car—were promoted and used more aggressively. Hybrid cars can be used in the existing infrastructure.

...Harvard Professor and Co-Chair of the National Commission on Energy Policy John Holdren offered a sharp rebuttal to Felmy's optimistic outlook on global warming.

"Global warming will adversely impact every dimension of human well-being that is tied to the environment," Holdren said. "We are not about to run out of oil; the more interesting question is whether we'll run out of environment."

The event casts a light on the seriousness of the energy challenge faced by the U.S. The real question is: How to move forward?


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