Flavin - SErEcrIoN l6 Reinventing he E nergyS ystem t F...

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SErEcrIoN l6 Reinventing the Energy System Christopher Flavin and Seth Dunn TheAraboilembargo ofl973-lgT4andthedisruptioninpetroleumsuppliesduetotheoverthrowoftheShahoflraninl9TS both resulted in gasoline shortages and long lines at gas pumps in the United States. Headline news stories about an energy crisis increased dramatically. Recognition of future vulnerability to perhaps more drastic crises resulted in numerous governmental and private studies of energy supply and demand. Today, there is little doubt that limits on recoverable petroleum resources will reduce the worlds reliance on this convenient. energy source in the not-too-distant future. Christopher Flavin is the president of the Worldwatch Institute and is actively engaged in international climate change and energy policy discussions. Seth Dunn was a staff researcher, research associate, and energy/climate team co-leader with the Worldwatch Institute from 1996 to 2OO2 and remains a senior Worldwatch fellow. In "Reinventing the Energy System," in Lester B. Brown, er al., State oJ the World 1999: A Worldwatch Institute Report on Progress Toward a Sustainable Society (W W Norton, 1999), from which the following selection is taken, Flavin and Dunn argue that the combined effects of changing societal needs, the development of new technologies, and serious global environmental problems are likely to speed the transition to a new world energy sysrem in the early part of the twenty-first century. They predict an accelerating shift to the more efficient use of energy and the replacement of fossil fuels by renewable sources of the sort advocated by Amory B. Lovins. Flavin and Dunn state that this energy transition may "reestablish the positive but too often neglected connections between energy, human well-being, and the environment." Key Concept: forging an energy system to meet world needs in the twenty-first century hen the American Press Association gathered the country's "best minds" on the eve of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and asked them to peer a century into the future, the nation's streets were filled with horse-drawn carriages and illuminated at night by gas lights that were still considered a high-tech novelty. And coal-whose share of commercial energy use had risen from 9 percent in 1850 to more than 60 percent in 1890-was expected to rernain dominant for a long time to come. The commentators who turned their crystal balls toward the nation's energy system foresaw some major changes-but missed others. They anticipated, for exam- ple, that "Electrical power will be universal. . . . Steam and all other sorts of power will be displaced." But while some wrote of trains traveling 100 miles an hour and mov- ing sidewalks, none predicted the ascent of oil, the prolife- ration of the automobile, or the spread of suburbs and shopping malls made possible by cars. Their predictions also missed the many ways in which inexpensive energy would affect lives and livelihoods through the advent of air-conditioning, television, and continent-bridging jet aircraft. Nor did they foresee
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Flavin - SErEcrIoN l6 Reinventing he E nergyS ystem t F...

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