According to some experts oil is a finite resource and within the next 25 years a global peak will occur in oil production. At the same time, oil use is continually expanding as more and more industries, countries and global use demands additional oil. In fact, some experts believe that oil reserves will be depleted within the next thirty years (Sheehan, Cambreco, Duffield, Garboski, Shapouri, 1998, p. 2). Projections such as these, if they are found to be true, will present future Presidents of the United States with a continuing source of trouble that will necessarily have to be addressed, probably more than once. How those future (and current) Presidents address the issue of a depleting oil supply will likely shape the face of not only America, but the entire global community.
One expert offers a grim outlook regarding the future of energy around the world. In 2009, Ayhan Demirbas wrote that the “declining availability of fossil fuels may cause increases in fuel prices and declining security of energy supply in the current energy system” (p. 212 -213). He also wrote that oil is the fossil fuel that is most in danger to become short in supply (p. 213). If what Demirbas writes turns out to be true, then the Presidents of the United States will have to replace that fuel source with a different source that is just as inexpensive and environmentally friendly as oil.
Demirbas believes that natural gas (NG) can be one source of energy that replaces oil. He writes “the NG is the fastest growing primary energy source in the world, and that the reserves and resources of conventional natural gas are comparable in size to those of conventional oil” (p. 213). However, what replaces oil in the long run is probably not as important as what it will take to make the change happen, or even if such a change is truly a change worth making.
One recent article states “President Obama could jump-start a green revolution today without spending more money or awaiting approval from Congress” (Klare, 2010, p. 11), and it looks as though he is well on his way to doing so. His halting of oil production in the Gulf and other areas means that other more costly forms of ‘alternative’ energy will be used and the oil that domestic producers are able to access will be more expensive as well. Obama’s energy ‘policy’ seems to be one of change, change, change, yet nothing changes except the cost. On one hand it’s easy to stop companies from drilling for oil (especially when you are President) but it’s an entirely different matter to come up with an alternate source of oil that America can actually use. Future Presidents will have to face this same fact. Some experts believe that wind is the answer, others believe nuclear energy is the answer, while others tout natural gas.
Whatever the answer is, Presidential policy will have to address the issue in an ongoing manner. The problem is that policy making is much more complex than most environmentalists believe. One recent article attempted to explain the problem by stating “providing secure energy supplies at reasonable prices has and continues to be a preoccupation of most, if not all national governments, and a myriad of energy policies and related environmental policies have been developed and implemented over time to help achieve these objectives” (Baker, 2010, p. 57).
A long-term approach to energy policy will always be difficult to achieve due to the many varied interests that will have influence over such policy. What will be needed is someone of strength and character to lead the way, which is a problem when Presidents rule through the use of polling numbers rather than from a principled viewpoint.
Some Presidents will push for one method, while others will likely push for an entirely different energy source, however a key would be to continue using the readily available sources while developing other forms of energy at the same time.
According to Baker “there will be no significant short-term relief for the United States from dependence upon oil imports, given the lead times required to develop existing resources and alternative energy sources on a sufficient scale, achieve significant conservation, and generally alter the pattern of energy end uses” (Baker, p. 58).
The experts agree that alternative sources of energy can be developed, but they also agree that it is going to take time. Each President will have to make choices based on the expectations of how long it will take to replace what is currently being used. Attempting to shortcut those projections will likely lead to a more disastrous scenario.
The future likely holds out much in the way of hope in developing alternative fuels, after all the attitude that first developed electricity, oil and coal fuel is the same attitude that is ‘fueling’ the growth of alternative energies. Working together, and that includes our current and future Presidents, will surely see some of those energies provide America (and the world) with a clean, inexpensive and efficient energy source. Working against each other will only provide further obstacles for accomplish that feat. As Baker so aptly states “energy is a critical resource that underpins economic growth and development and enables the military and national security” (p. 58). Keeping that thought in mind will likely assist the future Presidents of the United States in making those tough decisions that will have to be made.
Baker, A.B. (2010) International economic interdependency and U.S. national energy policy, Energy Journal, Vol. 31, Issue 4, pp. 57-78
Demirbas, A.; (2009) Global renewable energy projections, Energy Sources Part B: Economics, Planning and Policy, Vol. 4, Issue 2, pp. 212 — 224
Klare, M.T. (2010) Clean, green, safe and smart, Nation, Vol. 291, Issue 5/6, pp. 11 — 15
Sheehan, J.; Cambreco, V.; Duffield, J.; Garboski, M. Shapouri, H.; (1998) An overview of biodiesel and petroleum diesel life cycles, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Energy, pp. 1 — 35
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