1972-1997, Twenty-five years of energy and environmental history : lessons learned.

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Given the events of the past 25 years concerning energy and environmental issues and our reaction to them, what lessons can we learn? First, the individual American consumer wants and expects energy to be a stable commodity with low prices and easy availability. As evidenced by the heated debate over increasing the federal gasoline tax by $.05 per gallon (which would still leave Americans paying only one-third of what Europeans pay for gasoline), increases in energy prices elicit very strong public and political opposition. As further evidence, it has been argued that the general public support of the Gulf War ... continued below

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23 p.

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Drucker, H. December 17, 1997.

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Given the events of the past 25 years concerning energy and environmental issues and our reaction to them, what lessons can we learn? First, the individual American consumer wants and expects energy to be a stable commodity with low prices and easy availability. As evidenced by the heated debate over increasing the federal gasoline tax by $.05 per gallon (which would still leave Americans paying only one-third of what Europeans pay for gasoline), increases in energy prices elicit very strong public and political opposition. As further evidence, it has been argued that the general public support of the Gulf War was due, in part, to a recognition of the need to maintain a stable source of cheap oil from the region. The American public wants to maintain the benefits of cheap and abundant energy and expects its political leaders to make it happen. A second lesson is that if constraints on the energy supply do occur (e.g., the OPEC-imposed oil embargo) ardor environmental impacts from energy use do appear to be significant (e.g., SO{sub 2} and CO{sub 2} emissions), the preference is for a technology fix rather than a behavioral change. This is evidenced by our reliance on moving low-sulfur coal more than 1,000 miles from Wyoming to burn in Illinois power plants rather than reducing the demand for electricity with energy-efficient measures in residential, commercial, and industrial activities. National research programs to produce an automobile that gets 80+ miles per gallon take higher priority over working to get people to use mass transit to reduce their driving mileage. Americans expect that advanced technology can be relied upon to come up with solutions to energy and environmental problems without having to change their lifestyles. The experience with natural gas, in which a regulatory change (deregulation) was combined with technology developments (horizontal drilling and improved gas turbines for electricity generation) to increase available supply and hold prices down, has added to the confidence in the efficacy of technology fixes to solve energy and environmental problems. Third, it is difficult for government to tamper with energy markets and achieve the desired results.The energy system has shown itself to be a complex adaptive system that adjusts to even the most strenuous burdens in ways that are not easy to predict. Governmental attempts to predict and then prescribe the development of the future energy system are bound to meet with limited, if any, success. Rather, the more appropriate goal seems to be development of a robust and flexible energy system that can evolve and adjust to changing conditions. Given the experiences of the past and the lessons learned from these experiences, what might the future bring? Some predictions can be made with considerable confidence. It is highly likely that the trend of deregulating the energy sector will continue, with electricity deregulation a virtual certainty. It is also highly probable that the demand and consumption of energy from developing countries will soon surpass those of the US, Europe, and Japan, thus making them serious competitors for limited fossil fuel resources. In the environmental arena, some form of emission control of greenhouse gases from the energy sector will be agreed upon soon by the international community. More stringent regulations in the US for the emissions of some air and water pollutants are also likely. Preservation of biological diversity will also likely continue to be an issue of increasing importance.

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23 p.

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OSTI as DE00008906

Medium: P; Size: 23 pages

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  • 25th Annual Illinois Environmental Conference, Chicago, IL (US), 11/24/1997--11/25/1997

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  • Report No.: ANL/OTD-EEST/CP-95052
  • Grant Number: W-31-109-ENG-38
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 8906
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc794632

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

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  • December 17, 1997

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Dec. 19, 2015, 7:14 p.m.

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  • April 10, 2017, 3:43 p.m.

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Drucker, H. 1972-1997, Twenty-five years of energy and environmental history : lessons learned., article, December 17, 1997; Illinois. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc794632/: accessed November 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.