Speakers at last week’s energy conference in Kearney were thorough in pointing out shortcomings of current renewable energy sources — including ethanol, solar and wind — but the conference fell short of convincing us the world can continue its heavy reliance on petroleum-based energy.
Nebraska’s Platte Institute for Economic Research assembled an impressive array of experts for its conference, whose central message appeared to be: “Until there’s something better, petroleum is the energy of choice to fuel the global economy.”
This status quo approach to energy certainly is based on reality, but cleaner forms of energy absolutely must power our world’s future.
Speaker Robert Bryce, a long-time petroleum journalist, argued it would require acres upon acres of new wind turbines to keep pace with global energy demands. He said petroleum has such a great energy density that renewable sources don’t come close to matching its bang for the buck.
It is difficult to argue against Bryce’s assessment. So much of our planet’s economy is driven by oil, gas and coal, it seems impossible to imagine what life would be like if suddenly all of mankind would have to depend on wind, solar and other renewables.
Yet that is the future we, as a human race, must achieve. Practically speaking, people must depend upon coal, oil and gas today, but it is unrealistic to believe our reliance on petroleum can go on indefinitely.
The world has a finite supply of petroleum, despite Bryce’s assertion that “the more we find, the more we find.” Someday we will either run out of petroleum or our planet will choke on the pollution our usage has created.
Today we cannot rely on renewable energy to power the world’s economy, but it is incumbent that we develop cleaner, greener solutions for tomorrow. Climate change, regional instability and the inevitable rising costs of unlocking increasingly difficult petroleum reserves force mankind to pursue alternatives.
Thank you, to the Platte Institute, for assembling speakers and panelists who told us the obvious: The planet must continue burning petroleum until something better develops.
The energy conference succeeded in drumming petroleum’s merits, but it failed to fuel the aspirations of people who are convinced there will be more sustainable days ahead.