Energy abundance vs. the poverty of energy literacy

Article Highlights

  • Abundant energy is necessary for our way of life, for our civilization.

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  • Most people only think about #energy when it's expensive or not there.

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  • If abundant energy vanishes, we may see the end of democracy & the freedom & creativity that leisure makes possible.

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Energy is all around us and we consume copious quantities of it. We only question it when it’s expensive or not there. Therein lies a challenge for politics and society.

Editor’s note: This essay is the first in a series that will explore issues in energy literacy and energy policy.

In the midst of all the debate over fossil fuels, we seem to have forgotten this fundamental role of energy in life. We think that all we need energy for is to drive our cars, fly around the world, run our electrical gadgets. But more important is that abundant energy is necessary for our way of life, for our civilization.

If that energy were to vanish, we would find ourselves once again living at the margin, and might well see the end of many things that we don’t associate with an energy supply, including democracy and the freedom and creativity that leisure makes possible. —Daniel B. Botkin

Even though energy is all around us, and we consume copious quantities of it in virtually every form imaginable, most people only really think about energy when one of two things happens: Either they open their mail one day and have an unwanted epiphany when they realize that one of their energy bills has become uncomfortably high—for diesel fuel, electricity, natural gas, heating oil, propane, and so on. Or, they suddenly have one of their energy systems or energy-dependent devices let them down, as, for example, when the electricity goes out; the alarm clock fails; the stove won’t light; the water heater breaks down; the car runs out of gas or has a flat battery; their Kindle, netbook, iPod, or Droid is powerless; or, worse, they wake up to a dead coffeemaker (something that would probably disturb many Americans most of all).

Read the full article on The American.

Kenneth P. Green is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

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