"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them". Albert Einstein

The World's Energy Portfolio Needs Rebalancing

J. Peter Lynch

The World’s Energy Portfolio Needs Rebalancing
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them". Albert Einstein
by J. Peter Lynch

Unfortunately, it is becoming quite apparent that the U.S. is taking a shortsighted approach to "financing" our energy future. We are depleting our "energy capital" (oil, gas and coal) by utilizing them at a far greater rate every year, with very little thought given to the long-term (50+ years) consequences. The major difference between the financial and the energy world is that our current primary energy capital (fossil fuels) is NOT replaceable; it is by its very nature "non-renewable". As a result, our responsibility as managers of our planets future and its energy portfolio is to create an "energy balance sheet" that has the proper mix of fossil fuels and renewable energy sources to allow growth for all the world's inhabitants over the long term.

It should be obvious that we should not be using "limited" fossil fuel assets for jobs that can be done by "unlimited" renewable assets.

For example: fossil fuels should NOT be utilized for applications, such as home or commercial building heating. Does it seem logical or a "good idea" to burn something at thousands of degrees to produce heat at 75 degrees for your house? This task could be much more efficiently accomplished with a simple solar panel that produces 160-degree heat, with zero emissions as an additional benefit.

The main problems, as I see it, are: lack of leadership and lack of education.

1. Lack of Leadership:

America's failure, as the world's greatest country, to assume a leadership position to organize the world's resources to address and solve this problem.

Obviously the world cannot address a problem of this magnitude without the assistance and cooperation of the world's richest country and consumer of 25% of all the energy on the earth. What we need is a well thought out Long Term Energy Plan and, in the short term, a new "Marshall Plan" for Energy. To date the current U.S. administration has done virtually nothing to give the impression that they consider this to be a crisis. There is a growing feeling that it is the "rest of the world" and the US. This has to change and hopefully the current administration or perhaps the next will awaken to the critical nature and magnitude of the problem we are facing.

As one of the great men of the 20th century and one of our greatest Presidents once said:

"We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources and we have just reason to be proud of our growth. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils shall have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields, and obstructing navigation…The natural resources I have enumerated can be divided into two sharply distinguished classes accordingly as they are or are not capable of renewal…The minerals do not renew themselves. Therefore in dealing with the coal, the oil, the iron, metals generally, all that we can do is try to see that they are wisely used. The exhaustion is certain to come in time". Theodore Roosevelt

If Theodore Roosevelt saw the handwriting on the wall in 1907, what is the problem with the current administrations vision? To not prepare and be ready for this eventual situation is a colossal failure of leadership.

2. Lack of education:

Lack of education on the part of the American public. I truly believe that people will "do the right thing", IF they are appraised of the true facts and costs of all the alternative courses of action. However, the American public is not getting nearly enough information on this crisis and the media, in general, puts little, if any, focus on this subject.

For example, current polls tell us that the three top concerns of the American people are:

  1. Terrorism
  2. Iraq
  3. The Economy

I would agree that this is a fairly accurate picture of what Americans are concerned about. However, before a solution to a problem can be applied, I think it is very important to understand the "true cause" of the problem. It is my opinion that the "true underlying cause" of all three of these problems is: the world's current total dependence on fossil fuels. As a result, this dependence is really our number ONE problem.

  1. Terrorism - Terrorism is rooted in the mid-east (where most of the OIL is). We are there because of OIL and we spend hundreds of billions per year "protecting" our oil supply.
  2. Iraq - Iraq is the third largest producer of OIL in the world. I realize that Saddam was a dictator, but so are half of the rulers in the third world and we are not "liberating" their countries, because they have no OIL.
  3. The Economy - The economy is growing at this time. But if you want to cause a major problem with the US economy just cut off its supply of OIL. Everything in our economy is dependent on fossil fuels and our supplies of oil are much more limited, much less secure and the margin of error today is razor thin. This is a very dangerous position for our country to be in.

All of this is the result of us failing to properly understand how to balance our worldwide energy portfolio and how to properly structure our energy balance sheet to include assets that will grow (renewable sources of energy) and not only assets that will decline (fossil fuels). We all have to recognize the fact that there are major problems in the energy area and we must face them directly and move to solve them.

These "natural" resources are finite in nature and by their very definition are NOT renewable. As a result, we are presently trapped in an upward price spiral which cannot cease unless the basic laws of supply and demand change (unlikely) or we shift our strategy and thinking to one of energy capital preservation, rational energy utilization and developing renewable assets.

Our thinking in the U.S. is to use as much as we want, based upon the FALSE premise there will always be enough or we will just find more. There is little thought given to conservation or the welfare of future generations. This is precisely the thinking that got us into this tenuous situation and it will certainly NOT be the thinking that will get us out of this predicament.

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them". Albert Einstein

As long as we insist on being dependent on a non-renewable energy sources we will continue to have price increase after price increase. It is like building a house in a valley that floods every time it rains. When it rains, the basement floods (big surprise), complaining about the flooding will do nothing to solve the problem. It is a much better idea not to build your house in the valley, but to move to higher ground. We must take immediate steps to preserve our energy capital and rapidly expand and develop our energy assets from renewable sources such as solar energy, wind and biomass.

We must change the current path we are on, take responsibility for our situation and move to a financially stable and environmentally sustainable path, or suffer the consequences of our shortsighted and financially irresponsible actions.

"To each generation comes its allotted task; and no generation is to be excused to perform that task." Theodore Roosevelt

J. Peter Lynch has worked, for 28 years as a Wall Street analyst, an independent equity analyst and private investor, and a merchant banker in small emerging technology companies. He has been actively involved in following developments in the renewable energy sector since 1977. He is currently a financial and technology consultant to a number of companies. He can be reached via e-mail at Solarjpl@aol.com
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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