Abstract

The current energy crises are not temporary. Geoscientists, especially, should realize that the major restrictions to power growth are geological, environmental, and political, and that these restrictions are not especially amenable to technological solutions.

United States petroleum resources are large but conjectural. Most of these resources are believed to be offshore or in Alaska and thus will be time consuming and economically and environmentally expensive to provide. Even if the safety and location of atomic reactors did not present problems, U.S. nuclear power faces the twin specters of a domestic uranium shortage in the 1980s (the second energy crisis) and the political, environmental, and geological problems of managing radioactive wastes for 700 or possibly 105 yr. The large-scale mining of coal and oil shale will have a tremendous environmental impact on the Rocky Mountain states; a crash program to solve the liquid fuel crisis with these solid fuels by 1980 probably would require massive federal financing and the pre-emption of the water resources of several states. The allocation of energy resources by a few energy companies and (or) various state governors and the nation's president could pose a major threat to the political liberties of U.S. citizens. If these various environmental, military, and political problems are to be avoided, the price of power must be allowed to rise until it includes most of the indirect societal costs and until the United States is virtually self-sufficient in energy production. Zero per capita power growth might be a resulting consequence.

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