Saturday, October 31, 2015

Scary Energy Scenarios:

My Real Fears on Halloween

From Wikimedia Commons
As I sit down to write this, I realize that I have been bombarded by more than the usual number of scary things this Halloween.  Of course, there are the ghosts and ghouls and goblins, the witches and werewolves, and the vampires and zombies.  But what haunts me more is the specter of an energy future resulting from decisions made on the basis of short-term profit, misinformation, and dogmatic ideologies.

So, it is not the eerie sounds emanating from the dark forest that scare me, or the creaky sounds from upstairs when I know that no one is there.  It is not the skeletons hanging from the trees and rattling in the wind. 

What really scares me is a future where we are less safe because our critical energy infrastructure is not being maintained or operated with the highest attention to safety.

What really scares me is a future where our energy and non-energy infrastructure is at risk because we failed to plan for changes in the environment, population, and emerging needs.
What really scares me is a future where I cannot get the energy I need because short-term pricing and market imperfections have caused valuable energy resources to shut down prematurely.  
What really scares me is a future where the air I breathe is dirtier because misguided attempts to manipulate the market by favoring particular technologies or handicapping others has resulted in more use of polluting sources to back up intermittent technologies.

What really scares me is a future where energy availability is restricted because not enough fuel is extracted, not enough power plants are built, and not enough transmission capacity exists because we did not find a way to balance local interests and societal needs. 

What really scares me is a future where the price of energy is pushed so high that that gulf between the haves and the have-nots becomes a chasm, and social unrest results.
What really scares me is a future where we become dependent on the whims of other regimes because we failed to develop our own resources or because we favored technologies that use materials that are scarce in our country.
What really scares me is a future where we have lost our voice on the international stage because we have taken too rigid and unrealistic a stand, or because we have failed to stay competitive in critical markets. 

What really scares me is a future where we are mired in the use of outdated technologies because we failed to invest in research and development.

What really scares me is a future where we do not realize our full potential in all areas because we are impoverished in the energy supplies that fuel advances in other areas, a better standard of living, and so much more.
These are my ghosts and goblins.  They pertain to all sources of energy and all parts of all the fuel cycles--fossil fuel extraction, gas pipelines, electricity transmission, nuclear power plants, windmills, rare earths, and more.  And, while Halloween will be over tomorrow, and the scary spiders and blow-up black cats and sheet-clad "ghosts" hanging from my neighbors' houses will be taken down in a few days, the things that trigger my energy fears, unfortunately, are not as easy to stuff back into boxes and store in the basement. 

I would like to think that common sense will ultimately prevail and that, in the very near future, we will exorcise the demons of shortsightedness, ignorance, and fanaticism when it comes to energy matters (as well as other matters).  Until then, I am scared.

Happy Halloween!


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