"The United States has had the same 'energy
policy' for 200 years — cheap energy at any price."
That is the assessment of Lee Gerhard, chairman of
AAPG's Division of Public Affairs Governmental Affairs Committee.
With fossil fuels underpinning the world economy
and many scientists saying the peak of global production is near
— or even past — the need for a reasoned approach to national
energy supply and demand is apparent and becoming more urgent, Gerhard
A forum scheduled during the AAPG annual meeting
in Houston will give members an opportunity to learn more about
current efforts to put a national energy policy in place and perhaps
help shape the debate.
Gerhard and Robert T. Sellars Jr. will moderate the
March 11 panel discussion, titled "U.S. Energy Policy: Progress
or Political Stagnation?"
It is the second forum sponsored by DPA and the Environmental
Geosciences and Energy Minerals divisions.
Gerhard said audience members will have a chance
to comment and ask questions after forum speakers introduce four
major areas of discussion:
Philip H. "Pete" Stark, IHS Energy Group, will present data on the
current global energy situation.
Through his position at IHS, Stark studies and documents
global energy availability.
David Applegate, director of the American Geological Institute's
Governmental Affairs Program, will present an up-to-date outline
of efforts in Washington.Applegate assists AAPG with information flow with
Congress through his position at AGI.
Scott White, University of Kansas Energy Research Center, will discuss
the potential roles of various alternative and renewable energy
White is an energy economist who works in the area
of alternative and renewable energy supplies and economics.
Charles J. Mankin, Oklahoma Geological Survey director and secretary
of AAPG, will look at where the nation needs to go in terms of energy
policy and how to get there.
Mankin lectures widely on U.S. energy policies and
is a leading advocate of science-based policy.
AAPG and DPA staged a successful Energy Summit in
Washington, D.C., last April on the need for a national energy policy,
attracting a crowd of various invited federal staffers and agency
representatives. Another is planned in September, and useful data
and ideas garnered from the March 11 program will be included, Gerhard
He said he hopes the September forum will be held
in the Capitol.
Barring dramatic developments, Gerhard said he expects
the status of efforts in Washington to be the same on March 11 as
for much of the recent past:
"Partisan politics will have stymied efforts to develop
an energy policy for the United States."
Competing for a Consensus
Many competing proposals have been advanced in Congress,
but no consensus has developed regarding any of them, Gerhard said.
But the need for a forward-looking strategy is apparent,
Many researchers say that in the next four decades,
40 percent of U.S. energy needs will have to come from yet-to-be-developed
sources and technologies, Gerhard said.
While fossil sources will continue to fuel the world
for the foreseeable future, some scientists say the peak of global
production will occur within the next 25 years.
"Some say it occurred last year," Gerhard said.
In any case, the capital requirements of maintaining
the current fuel mix "will be excessive," he said.
Recent industry mergers reflect that reality, as
exploration and production moves to ever-more remote and expensive
locations, he said.
Increased access to fossil sources is needed, including
locations off the east and west coasts, the Gulf of Mexico and federal
lands in the Rockies, he said.
The political debate risks favoring pet projects
over substantial energy sources, he said.
Despite the usefulness of some alternatives, he said,
they remain marginal, adding that after decades of research and
billions of dollars spent, alternatives contribute only about 2
percent of the nation's energy.
"Wind can't replace coal," he commented.
If wind sources continued to grow at 20 percent per
year, it would take another 45 years for wind to make a significant
difference in the country's energy supplies, Gerhard said.
Other sources — nuclear, solar, hydrogen, helium
3, and others — range from being useable with current technology
to "pretty far out there," he said.
Gerhard said nuclear sources appear to have the most
potential. He said new technologies and inventions will be needed
to capitalize on alternative sources, and more funding is needed
to find more efficient ways of finding and extracting fossil fuels.
"In the immediate future, fossil fuels will continue
to play a major role," he said.
"We'd better get our act together — you can't create
supply from nothing. There are geologic controls that government
regulations can't change."
Neither can we conserve our way out of our energy
needs, he said.
Will It Play in Peoria?
Gerhard called President Bush's proposed energy policy
a "good start," because that policy, as outlined, addresses accessing
domestic sources, environmental concerns, conservation and development
of new technology and sources.
Gerhard also said he personally agreed with Bush's
recent move away from seeking more energy-efficient vehicles to
adopting alternative power sources, such as fuel
"An 80-miles-per-gallon vehicle basically means running
on roller skates," he said. "That may make sense in the Beltway,
but it doesn't make sense in Nevada."
In addition to access, the other main component on
a sound policy is strategic planning, Gerhard said.
Developing plans and being ready for contingencies
is always better than reacting to a crisis, he said.
"You've got to plan ahead. The problem is always
going to get here before you expect it."