Energy Irrelevance

As you might well imagine, our family is a mini Big Bang Theory:  I am a chemical engineer married to a physicist with a son who is finishing his degree in computer science. Conversations around the dinner table can be almost anything from generational differences on political perspectives, to comparisons of communication styles, and of course the latest update on the video gaming world.

Last night we talked a bit about the media, which of course loves to cover things that will attract followers.  The editor’s rule, “If it bleeds, it leads,” sums up their fascination with violence and fear-based stories, and the song Dirty Laundry sums it up so well.  As we were finishing our conversation, I commented that energy is no longer on the minds of Americans, and I gave him a bit of history lesson about the legislation after the two Arab oil embargoes in the 1970s where gasoline was rationed and speed limits lowered to 55-mph.

He was shocked to hear that we repealed the 55-mph speed limit even though it clearly saves energy, money and lives because car wrecks are less fatal.  I gave him a short history lesson about the Fuel Use Act that forbade natural gas as a baseload fuel in power plants … and of course a bit about nuclear, which still powers our navy’s large ships.

As I was finishing this I commented that few today knew very much about how we got here, and like the Holocaust and other tragic events in the past, forgetting history almost certainly dooms us to repeating it.

I commented that today’s preoccupation with solar and wind seems to forget about the “rest of the story” to keeping the lights on and that the idea that batteries would save the day is a bit myopic and costly.

Finally, I suggested an informed dialogue on this to truly develop a national energy strategy and he blurted out: “Nobody cares about things like this.  People want to talk about health care, jobs, and sports.”

He may be right, but if that is true, we are in a very bad place and doomed to see history repeat itself.

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