While oil gets the attention, America uses just 15% more of it today than when the first modern energy crisis hit in October 1973.
So, seemingly, we did learn something in '73 which is somewhat gratifying. Conservation, fuel efficiency, etc., seem to have paid off.
But electricity use is up 115% since then, thanks to all those plasma screens, iPhones, computers and data centers. And all economic forecasts see substantial growth in demand for electricity—think just of the coming electric cars—yet lots of problems in meeting it.
Why, you ask?
Right now the nation has 760 gigawatts of power plants to meet current consumption, with another 154 in reserve capacity to maintain grid reliability. But in fact only 10 gigs is truly excess capacity. The other 144 is utterly essential to keep lights on when unexpected demand arises from heat waves, outages or maintenance downtime. That reserve will begin to shrink quickly. NERC estimates that over the next decade 135 gigawatts of new capacity will be needed to meet the growth in consumption. But right now plants producing a total of 57 gigawatts are planned.
Here in GA a judge recently refused the permit for a new coal powered plant. There are no nuke plants coming on line and the vapor ware?
Ninety percent of electric power is fueled by nonrenewable coal, natural gas or nuclear power. Renewable sources will not cover the growth in demand. While wind is gaining ground (and now supplies 1% of power), hydro's share (7%) is shrinking as dams are dismantled. Solar, at 0.01%, is an inconsequential contributor.
Meanwhile we ignore the remedy for increased natural gas (drill here, drill now), refuse permits for coal powered plants and let politicians get away with promising solutions based in technology which isn't near ready and would take years if not decades to establish and integrate.
And they call that an "energy policy".
Me? With all the confidence I have in Congress, I'm thinking about investing in a generator. Forbes recommends buying candles.
Forget the generator, install a PV system while the taxpayers are helping foot the bill. There is still a huge upfront cost but consider it as prepaying your electric bill at a fixed rate for the next 20+ years (most system components have a 20 yr warranty). Up here in NoCal, I calculated a 10.8 yr payback with very conservative guesses on rate increases, time value of money, etc...