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The forthcoming energy crisis-Can it be stopped?

Stefanie Spear  |  02/19/11 @ 7:45pm

I was sitting in a room with nearly 100 people participating in a corporate sustainability roundtable listening to a panel on the future of advanced and renewable energy according to electric utilities and there wasn't one person in the room that disagreed that the U.S., and rest of the world, is headed toward an energy crisis.  Of course, that fact, all on its own, is certainly not hard to believe, but when you start to list the things that could be accomplished today to help prevent this crisis tomorrow and nothing is getting done, you simply want to scream, "Why can't our policy makers pass a comprehensive U.S. energy bill?"

You certainly don't have to look far to find elected officials on the state level passing clean energy mandates, including renewable electricity standards (RES), to diversify their state's portfolio of electricity generation.  There are nearly 30 states that have passed a RES mandating a certain percentage by a certain date of electricity to be generated by renewable sources of energy.  Even this month, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley introduced a wind bill that would require the state's four utilities to sign fixed-price contracts of at least 20 years with offshore wind developers who are expected to build wind turbines 12-miles off the coast of Ocean City.

Obviously, the work being done in individual states is not enough.  Nor, would the passage of an U.S. energy policy, all on its own, provide what is needed to curtail a crisis.  Certainly leveling the playing field between renewable and nonrenewable sources of power, by eliminating the more than 10 billion dollars of incentives provided to the fossil fuel industry annually, would be a good start.  But, consumers of this power also play an enormous role in preventing an energy crisis.  Energy efficiency needs to be aggressively adopted to slow the energy demand growth so that rising clean energy supplies can make deep cuts in fossil fuel use.  But more than anything, people need to become conscious of their energy usage.

Smart metering in homes and businesses will educate consumers about base-load need and provide a pricing structure to reduce peak demand.  But nothing is better than energy users understanding how many kilowatt-hours they are using per month and implementing ways to reduce that amount.  Reducing wasted electricity use alone could make a large dent in consumption.

Of course, the growing appetite for energy globally only makes matters worse, and increased U.S. exports of coal to China and other countries continues to challenge the issues of coal mining, including mountaintop removal, and carbon dioxide emissions.  But, we can't just sit and wait for this energy crisis to come, we need to work everyday on ways to prevent it.

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Stefanie Penn Spear, founder and executive director of EcoWatch (www.ecowatch.org) and president of Expedite Renewable Energy (www.expediterenewableenergy.com), has been working on environmental issues for more than 20 years.  Follow Spear on Twitter at twitter.com/StefanieSpear.

EcoWatch is an Ohio-based nonprofit dedicated to providing a voice for grassroots environmental organizations and activists working to better our planet.  Expedite Renewable Energy develops solar and wind projects in Ohio.

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