The Sustainable-And Young-Hydrocarbon Energy Age

By Bradley, Robert L., Jr. | Ideas on Liberty, November 2001 | Go to article overview

The Sustainable-And Young-Hydrocarbon Energy Age


Bradley, Robert L., Jr., Ideas on Liberty


As the Bush administration confronts the economy's growing need for affordable and reliable energy, the critics of the hydrocarbon-based energy economy are back to the drawing board. The "soft" energy path of subsidies and mandates for conservation and nonhydro renewable energy-hatched during the 1970s energy crisis and popularized during the eight years of Clinton/Gore-was not supposed to end in price spikes and shortages in the California laboratory. Energy demand has rapidly grown even as the economy has become one-third less energy intensive. Nonhydro renewable energies constitute less than 2 percent of the supply mix after a quarter century of private and public effort. And hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles remain decades away from mass penetration at best. Meanwhile, a plethora of technological advances promise to increase the global market share of oil, natural gas, orimulsion, and coal beyond today's 85 percent and extend the hydrocarbon era well beyond the 21 st century.

Central economic planning may be intellectually dead, but planning for "energy sustainability" remains an environmentalist mantra. The theme of Earth Day last year, "New Energy for a New Era," set forth the goals to reduce total energy usage, phase out nuclear power, and substitute renewable energy for fossil fuels.

This prescription is at odds with market and political realities. Electricity generation has grown at twice the rate predicted by the Department of Energy in the last five years because of new uses of electricity in the digital age. Environmentalists, who talk a big game about renewable energy, oppose most renewable capacity on close inspection. They have turned against the kingpin of renewable energy, hydropower, in favor of fish migration and returning rivers to their natural state. Environmentalists have blocked wind and geothermal projects in "sensitive" areas-- where they are commonly located. Solar farms and some biomass projects have been questioned by environmentalists as too land-- intensive for the (limited) energy that is produced. Their professed concern about the role of carbon dioxide (C02) emissions on global climate fails to square with the fact that carbon-free hydropower and nuclear power, also vehemently opposed, produced 90 times more electricity in the United States last year than wind and solar combined.

Hydrocarbons are an expanding energy resource, not a depleting one as doomsayers have long alleged. The world's proved reserves of crude oil are 21 times greater today than they were when such recordkeeping began over a half century ago. Reserves of orimulsion, a recently commercialized tar-like oil, are greater than the global supply of crude oil. World natural-gas reserves are five times greater than they were in the mid-1960s. Coal reserves are four times greater than originally estimated a halfcentury ago and twice as great as all of the known oil and gas reserves combined on an energy-equivalent basis. Energy economists are still looking for a "depletion signal" nearly two centuries into the hydrocarbon age, increasing interest in the Thomas Gold hypothesis that superabundant hydrocarbons deep in the earth are slowly seeping toward the drill bit. Another explanation is that human ingenuity and financial capital are not depletable but expanding resources, explaining why hydrocarbon supplies are increasing even after consumption increases.

Cheaper Energy

Increasing affordability has resulted from the increasing abundance of hydrocarbons, whether measured in terms of inflationadjusted prices or work-time pricing (the amount of time it takes the average laborer to purchase a unit of energy). The average laborer today can purchase a tank of gasoline and several days' worth of residential electricity in about two hours of work time. In 1940 the same purchase of 15 gallons of gasoline and 100 kilowatt hours of electricity required most of the workday. To use a more recent example, substantially higher naturalgas prices paid by consumers this year are about the same as the prices consumers paid in the mid-1980s, adjusted for inflation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Sustainable-And Young-Hydrocarbon Energy Age
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.