21st Century Energy Crisis

In the 1970s the US suffered from the first international energy crisis. It began partly as a political action by Arab States in response to the 1973 Yom Kippur War in Israel. Of course, the US favored Israel. The war triggered the Arab oil embargo. The embargo resulted in an artificial supply disruption but there was no genuine scarcity of fossil fuels. The Arab states had long desired to control the international oil market. The effects of the the 1973-74 energy crisis linger in the memory of everyone alive at the time. I recall several personally impactful effects…

In January 1974 I was a public school teacher required to welcome students to their classroom in pitch darkness. Between January 6, 1974 and April 27, 1975 daylight savings time (DST) was reimposed as an energy saving measure to conserve electricity during high demand late afternoon hours. A lower national speed limit was imposed along with odd-even day ‘rationing’ at gasoline stations. Crude oil prices jumped several hundred percent. Gasoline prices quickly rose to $1/gal. A second crisis occurred in 1979 during the Iranian Revolution. This crisis was not as serious as the one in 1973-74, but it illustrates how vulnerable the world is even to minor fuel disruptions. Now we have a similar situation owing to the Russian prime minister’s limitation of natural gas and oil exports to Europe. We might call this the “Russian energy embargo of 2022.”

To avoid the perception that our current series of posts has become too political, we remind readers that our Science/Faith blog theme is relevant to our current discussion of energy. God has authored the reality that energy sustains human existence. He also established the physical truth that energy can be converted from one form to another. Scientists describe these convertible forms of energy—heat, light, motion, electrical, chemical, and gravitational. Our timeless God created ancient forests and other life forms giving rise to fossil fuels and minerals we extract today in enormous quantities from below the surface of our planet. In our day these fuels supply energy for the world population approaching 8 billion. 

Energy is defined as “the ability to do work.” Earliest humanity was commanded to “have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26b). In Gen 1:28, they were also counseled to “…fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion”…(over the living things.) In a broader sense, Adam and Eve and their many descendants have worked and used energy to modify and control their environment for thousands of years to build human civilization.

In the 21st century we have arrived at a pivotal time in US history. Powerful political forces are pushing our society to quickly transition from non-renewable fossil fuels to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. These powerful forces are intensely idealogical. Huge financial resources are being legislated by our governments. In the $737 billion “Inflation Reduction Act” passed on August 16, 2022, Congress allocated $369 billion for climate change initiatives. This provides money for solar panels, wind power, electric cars, energy storage, and many other climate and clean energy initiatives, including generous tax credits.

We are not adamantly opposed to the use of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar generated electricity. Neither are we ignorant of our responsibility to care wisely for our environment. However, the transition to renewable energy should be judiciously implemented. In our day about 20% of our energy needs are satisfied by renewables. Energy demand is projected to rise by 2050. Will our world be able to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources before mid-21st century? We must guard against an overly optimistic view of the promise of renewable energy. Our view is that renewable energy such as wind and solar is not ‘ready for prime time.’ Many analysts advocate a sharp decrease in fossil fuel consumption. As a result Europe is threatened with an energy crisis which could become a fertilizer crisis and ultimately a serious food supply crisis. In addition, during the winter, residents will be much more concerned with global cooling than global warming. (We will all need additional layers of warm clothing.) Cutbacks in coal consumption have reduced availability of electricity in the power grid—many people may soon be unable to recharge their electric vehicles in any type of weather, especially during rolling blackouts. 

Under the threat of electrical blackouts from failures in the power grid, many analysts may call for a revival of fossil fuels such as coal, and increases in natural gas and oil production. As I write, the recently installed British prime minister has plans to reverse restrictions on fracking. Apart from draconian mandates by politicians, there is still a plentiful supply of coal, natural gas, and petroleum waiting to be recovered. 

During the 1973 energy crisis, Robert G. Anderson, writing for the FEE (Foundation for Economic Education) stated, “The present ‘energy crisis’ stems not from a problem of economic scarcity, but instead from non-market forces which are interfering with free market prices, and thus causing shortages to develop. The problem of economic scarcity is present in nearly every situation of our lives. We are not in an ‘energy crisis’ now because energy is scarce, but rather because there is a ‘shortage’ of it. Shortages are inconceivable in a free market structure; but they do occur whenever free market methods are abandoned.”  

We recommend our readers devote some quality time researching the 21st Century Energy Crisis. It may become an overwhelming world crisis. They will discover a trove of information often obscured by ideological optimism among our current population of climate activists. May we all pray to our Heavenly Father and diligently ask Him for wisdom to make good choices.

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