November 9, 2008
Tomgram: Michael Klare, The Energy Challenge of Our Lifetime
Today, TomDispatch offers the first serious overview in the new Obama era of what energy expert and author of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy, Michael T. Klare, terms the “challenge of our lifetime”: the American energy crisis. And so it is. But here’s the irony. As energy prices soared these last years — a perfect moment to have put real human energy (and funds) into the development of renewable alternatives — an all-oil-all-the-time, drill-baby-drill administration launched its oil wars while simply ignoring long-term solutions to our energy problems (except for a disastrous sally into corn-based biofuel). Now, amid global economic devastation, the price of oil has dropped precipitously, more than halving its 2007 top price of $147 a barrel. As last week ended, the price of a barrel of crude oil briefly dipped below $60, once again making investment in alternative, renewable energy systems look unprofitable and — global warming aside — beside the point.
But don’t believe it for a second. Consider present global energy prices the equivalent of a mirage. Just this week, the International Energy Agency released the findings from its upcoming annual report, warning that, in the coming years, oil will once again break the $100 a barrel barrier and — they target 2030, but it could be far sooner — the $200 barrier as well. Whether six months or six years from now, a new spike in energy prices, if we are unprepared, could rock an already staggering planet.
No time, it’s clear, will be the right time to invest our scientific prowess, technological skill, and funds in the genuine, safe energy future that we need, which is why it must simply be done — and soon. For a nation that once had a can-do reputation, but has lived through its share of can’t-do administrations, Klare’s warning about the real challenge that faces us should be sobering indeed. Tom
Obama’s Toughest Challenge
America’s Energy Crunch Comes Home
By Michael T. Klare
Of all the challenges facing President Barack Obama next January, none is likely to prove as daunting, or important to the future of this nation, as that of energy. After all, energy policy — so totally mishandled by the outgoing Bush-Cheney administration — figures in each of the other major challenges facing the new president, including the economy, the environment, foreign policy, and our Middle Eastern wars. Most of all, it will prove a monumental challenge because the United States faces an energy crisis of unprecedented magnitude that is getting worse by the day.
The U.S. needs energy — lots of it. Day in and day out, this country, with only 5% of the world’s population, consumes one quarter of the world’s total energy supply. About 40% of our energy comes from oil: some 20 million barrels, or 840 million gallons a day. Another 23% comes from coal, and a like percentage from natural gas. Providing all this energy to American consumers and businesses, even in an economic downturn, remains a Herculean task, and will only grow more so in the years ahead. Addressing the environmental consequences of consuming fossil fuels at such levels, all emitting climate-altering greenhouse gases, only makes this equation more intimidating.