The Energy Problem: Choices for an Uncertain Future

I wanted to let you know about a new discussion guide that I have been working on for the past year or so with the National Issues Forums and the Kettering Foundation.

It’s called The Energy Problem: Choices for an Uncertain Future. Like other National Issues Forums issue books, it is designed for small groups to deliberate on a difficult public question, in this case what choices we should make as a nation when it comes to energy.

From the introduction:

America’s way of life seems threatened by unstable sources of energy, while many see growing evidence of environmental damage. As demands for energy escalate, both in this country and in rapidly developing nations, we may soon reach a point of no return. It is time to face the difficult choices that must be made to ensure a sustainable future. This issue discussion guide invites people to consider the following three approaches:

Approach #1: Unreliable Souces – Reduce Our Dependence on Foreign Energy
Much of the oil Americans use comes from the Middle East and other politically volatile countries that cannot be relied upon to continue supplying our needs. This poses an ongoing threat to our security. The United States has many untapped reserves of oil and natural gas. Our best course of action is to make all possible use of these domestic energy sources.

Approach #2: Get Out of the Fossil-Fuel Predicament
The escalating use of fossil fuels is wreaking havoc on our environment. Most scientists agree that global warming has begun in earnest and unless we slow down the burning of fossil fuels, we face catastrophic climate changes. We must get serious about developing alternative energy sources such as wind farms and solar power, and rethink the use of another clean energy source–nuclear power.

Approach #3: Curb Our Appetite – Reduce Our Demand for Energy
We are missing the point when we go looking for new sources of energy. What we need to do is find ways to use less energy in the first place or to use it more efficiently. The United States is home to less than 5 percent of the world’s population but uses more than 20 percent of its energy. Cutting back on consumption is the cleanest and most workable way to deal with impending shortages.

The issue book can be ordered for a nominal fee at this page. You can download an eight-page abbreviated version (the “issue brief”) here.

Thank you to the Kettering Foundation and to the National Issues Forums for the opportunity to work on this important issue.