Thursday, December 11, 2008
THE FUTURE OF ENERGY
Getty Images file
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles took the spotlight at July's Plug-In Conference and
Exposition in San Jose, Calif. How much will plug-ins change the energy game?
If the plans being laid for the economy and the environment work out the way President-elect Barack Obama's advisers hope they do, the future of energy can be summed up in one word: electricity.
That one word covers a lot of policy twists, however: What will the economic downturn mean for initiatives to cut down on greenhouse-gas emissions? What will the recent drop in gasoline prices mean for efforts to boost alternatives to fossil fuels? Can the electrical grid handle increased demand? How do you smooth out the highs and lows of power generation? Where will all that power come from?
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has repeatedly cited a catalog of challenges for future energy policy, ranging from the global supply-and-demand imbalance to climate change and the threat from "petro-dictatorships." Some people might look at that list and conclude that "we're cooked ... we're completely fried," Friedman said during a conference sponsored last week by the Center for American Progress, Washington's most Obama-centric think tank.
"That's one way to look at that list," Friedman continued. "I look at it the way John Gardner looked at a similar list - and he said, 'That list? That's a list of incredible opportunities masquerading as insoluble problems.'"
That reflects the thinking of Obama's top advisers on energy and environmental policy, who would make "green infrastructure" a top target for next year's economic stimulus. Based on statements made during the campaign as well as afterward, they see energy innovation as a key economic driver as well as a way out of the climate-change mess. full story