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The Energy Problem - Choices for an Uncertain Future

As with all of the NIF issues guides, three or more approaches are offered for discussion, each of which represents a different point of view.

Problem statement: America’s way of life seems threatened by unstable sources of energy, while many see growing evidence of environmental damage. As demands for energy escalate, both in this country and in rapidly developing nations, we may soon reach a point of no return. It is time to face the difficult choices that must be made to ensure a sustainable future.

Approach 1:  Reduce our dependence on foreign energy: Much of the oil Americans use comes from the Middle East and other politically volatile countries that cannot be relied upon to continue supplying our needs. This poses an ongoing threat to our security. The United States has many untapped reserves of oil and natural gas. Our best course of action is to make all possible use of these domestic energy sources.

Approach 2: Get out of the fossil-fuel predicament. The escalating use of fossil fuels is wreaking havoc on our environment. Most scientists agree that global warming has begun in earnest and unless we slow down the burning of fossil fuels, we face catastrophic climate changes. We must get serious about such as wind farms and solar power, and rethink the use of another clean energy source—nuclear power.

Approach 3. Curb our appetite. Reduce our demand for energy. We are missing the point when we go looking for new sources of energy. What we need to do is find ways to use less energy in the first place or to use it more efficiently. The United States is home to less than 5 percent of the world’s population but uses more than 20 percent of its energy. Cutting back on consumption is the cleanest and most workable way to deal with impending shortages.

Resources for the Forum:

Forum Agenda (Microsoft Word document)

Energy Problem Issue Guide in Brief.pdf  In preparation for the forum, please read at least this 8 page briefing book so you can participate fully in the discussion.

Energy Problem Issue Guide Available from NIF. Excerpts:

This issue contains the seeds of numerous knotty questions, such as, "Is global warming/climate change real?" and "How safe is nuclear power?" Many people agree that action must be taken to become more energy independent and stop global warming. Opinions on what exactly what actions should be taken, however, vary widely. To some degree, it boils down to whose ox is being gored, so I have researched the opinions of experts who should be relatively neutral.

However, in the process, I also became aware of several credible sources of information that makes me wonder if the climate change debate is as settled as I initially thought. So, I have included some interesting sources you may wish to read/view. This demonstrates a problem with many of the issues that may be discussed in forums: the participants may not know all of the pertinent facts, and sometimes, the facts are not clear. But, public policy choices must be made nonetheless. The question often becomes: "Citizens or Experts: Who Should We Listen To?"

The Pickens Plan – An Antidote to America’s Addiction to Oil What the Pickens Plan is, how it fits within existing and potential sources of energy, what Michigan's wind power potential is, and energy policies necessary to implement the plan.

Books on Energy Issues, Nuclear Power and Climate Change:

Richard A. Muller, “Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines” (2008), a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley (Highly Recommended).

Professor Muller takes a balanced approach while he debunks many of Al Gore's "evidence", showing how

  • some of the temperature data used to support the theory of climate change has been distorted,

  • some of the increase in hurricane intensity has been exaggerated,

  • the tornado frequency and wildfire damage costs data have been "cherry picked" to show the data which seems to support the theory while ignoring the rest,

  • the news media has been biased,

  • the "hockey stick" graph used was the result of incorrect mathematical manipulation, and

  • many scientists believe that the increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the result of climate change, not the cause.

Nonetheless, this expert in climate change believes the weight of the evidence supports the conclusions of the International Panel on Climate Change, as endorsed by the US National Academy of Sciences. Professor Muller was a coauthor on a technical book on past climate and a reviewer of the Academy report.

Richard Wolfson, author and lecturer of the 12 lecture audio course from The Teaching Company “Great Courses” series entitled “Earth’s Changing Climate”. Professor Wolfson did his undergraduate years at MIT and Swarthmore College, obtained a Master’s Degree in environmental science from the University of Michigan and his Ph.D. in physics from Dartmouth. He is the author of numerous physics, nuclear science and climate change books and a physics professor at Middlebury College for over 25 years.

David Sandalow, author of “Freedom from Oil: How the Next President Can End the United States’ Oil Addiction” (2008), the Energy & Environment Scholar and the senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, and former assistant secretary of state and senior director on the National Security Council staff.

Thomas L. Friedman, author of “Hot, Flat and Crowed: Why We Need a Green Revolution and How it Can Renew America” (2008) and “The World is Flat” (2006, 2d ed.), three time Pulitzer Prize winner, writer for the New York Times and author of several other book related to international affairs.

Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran, author of “Power to the People: How the Coming Energy Revolution Will Transform an Industry, Change our Lives, and Maybe Even Save the Planet” (2003) and “Zoom: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future” (2007), an MIT trained engineer and correspondent for The Economist with a decade of experience covering environmental and energy issues, and teacher at NYU’s Stern School of Business.

Gwyneth Cravens, “Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Power” (2007), former associate editor of Harper’s Magazine, and writer for the New York Times, The Washington Post and other publications.

William Tucker, author of “Terrestrial Energy: How Nuclear Energy Will Lead the Green Revolution and End America's Energy Odyssey” (2008), writer of numerous articles published in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Spectator and the Weekly Standard.

Ted C. Fishman, author of “China, Inc.: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World”, writer for numerous national publications, including the New York Times and Harpers.

Alternative Views:

What if global-warming fears are overblown? In a Fortune interview, noted climatologist John Christy contends the green crusade to fight climate change is "all cost and no benefit." May 14, 2009.

Climate Change - Is CO2 the cause? Professor Bob Carter from Australia disputes the reliability of the science behind the theory of climate change, identifying alleged holes in the scientific data and analysis.

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4

Analyzing the IPCC`s climate change models Bill Kininmonth, the head of Australia`s National Climate Centre from 86 – 98,  looks at the climate change issue and the IPCC`s projections to see if they are logical or not. This is a video response to Bob Carter’s series above.

Climate Change - Bob Carter’s 5 Tests of CO2. Professor Bob Carter makes an examination of whether Climate change is due to CO2 emissions.

Part 1   Part 2

Science & social aspects of climate change. Bob Carter’s 2008 AEF presentation. An excellent summary of the power of green propaganda.

Part 1   Part2   Part 3

The case against dangerous global warming Bill Kininmonth explains the science of Global warming.

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4

Note that both Bob Carter and Bill Kininmonth are a part of The Science and Public Policy Institute. I don't know how much their work has been critiqued or responded to, or just how valid their arguments are. The fact that they are in the minority, however, is not conclusive, as science is not conducted by consensus or by a majority vote, but by analysis of the "known" facts and experiments to tests the theories. Their statements appear plausible, however. More digging into the subject by contacting other specialists is needed to firm up just what I believe.

Past & Future Climate Change – Scientist David Archibald analyzes of the data concerning climate change and  it`s causes to then predicts what the future climate is likely to be.

Part 1  Part 2   Part 3   Part 4

Professor Fred Singer on Climate Change Fred Singer was one of many scientists who spoke out at the international conference in New York about the scientific data that dispels the myth that CO2 drives Climate Change.

Part 1   Part 2

Why the IPCC models are wrong Roy Spencer, Ph.D. explains his research into discovering that precipitation (rain) is the regulator of the earth’s temperature and this has not been factored into any IPCC models (Part 1) and that the IPCC models under estimate natural feedbacks plus have sensitivities far more than the natural system has & therefore they greatly exaggerate what effect CO2 has on global temperatures (Part 2).

Part 1   Part 2 

The Science and Politics of Climate Change (YouTube video) Complete video Climatologist Mike Hulme examines frequent misconceptions about the science and politics of global climate change. 

Spin Cycle: How the Media Portrays Climate Change In this Pennsylvania State University program, Paul Knight and Fred Gadomski, meteorologists and senior lecturers at Pennsylvania State University, engage in a conversation on the frequency of catastrophic and dramatic weather events, the media's interpretation of weather statistics and what is really going on behind heated debates over the climate. As hosts of the show 'Weather World,' Gadmoski and Knight help sort out the facts, and the fallacies, behind weather headlines.

Special Report: The cold truth about global warming  A report written by William Campbell Douglass II, M.D., a self-proclaimed "myth buster".

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