What Will Happen to Our Energy?

With the government foolishly handicapping the oil and gas industries and pushing other alternatives, the future is not very bright.

Access to energy has been taken for granted for a long time because prices have been pretty fixed and there has been plenty of it. The business side of energy, on the other hand, was left to people who worked in the industry, made policy, or traded on the market for a living. But the noticeable rise in prices and the fear of running out of energy have brought energy issues to the top of people's minds.

This shortage is mostly the result of policies made by the US government, like the Green New Deal and the cancellation of the Keystone pipeline, that discouraged capital investment in the future production of fossil fuels so that the energy system could focus on clean energy. The move to electric vehicles (EVs) is a big part of the government's plans for a clean energy future. However, this change raises serious questions about whether or not the energy infrastructure can be changed to support this change.

Global issues like government shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected demand, supply chain disruptions, which affected supplies, the geopolitical turmoil of the Russian war in Ukraine, and changes in oil production targets by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, as well as central bank interference and government spending, have sent shockwaves through all parts of the world economy, and much of it has to do with energy. Today, people talk about energy in terms of long-term trends, like the desire to move away from fossil fuels and the search for green and sustainable replacements to fossil fuels. The alarmist view of climate change is at the heart of these problems. It drives government policies and makes it harder for the economy to find the best energy path.

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Energy Transition

Since about 1850, the world's population has grown quickly because fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas provide cheap and plentiful energy. Carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels have been seen as a big problem that needs to be fixed quickly in the last ten years. Leading wealthy countries have pushed for policies that support green and carbon-free energy sources like solar and wind. But it's not reasonable to think that phasing out fossil fuels in the way that is usually suggested is possible.

US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was surprised when Congressman Thomas Massie told him that charging an electric vehicle (EV) would take as much power as running twenty-five refrigerators. Buttigieg was testifying about infrastructure and talking about how much power would be needed for a large number of people to drive EVs. As things stand now, the US government won't be able to reach its goals because current energy sources are being slowed down and there aren't any good clean energy sources to replace them.

The US can't reach the goal of switching to electric vehicles as quickly as lawmakers want to because of how the electricity grid works now. Currently available carbon-free alternatives, on the other hand, are not as trustworthy as proponents say they are at making the steady baseload energy that is needed. So, moving the energy infrastructure in this way would be a waste of a good chance. Using green, carbon-free energy sources like wind and solar to make that much power would be very expensive, while fossil fuels are no longer as popular. Here, nuclear and geothermal energy can help, as long as the government doesn't get in the way.


Most nuclear power plants today work by uranium fuel pellet rods fissioning, which splits atoms in a nuclear reactor and starts a chain reaction. The fissioning gives off a lot of heat, which raises the temperature of a fluid that is moving, usually water, which can make steam. The steam is then used to turn turbines that make energy without any carbon. Nuclear power is already known to be a clean, safe, and efficient way to get baseload energy. People who remember the nuclear disasters at Hiroshima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima may be surprised by the last point. Fear of these dangerous situations has turned public opinion and public policy against nuclear power, making it a highly regulated business.

Since the Fukushima accident, however, the public's view of nuclear power has been changing. Negative feelings about nuclear power have changed as more and more countries develop and use it as part of their overall energy mix to improve energy security, lessen the impact of fluctuating fuel prices, make their economies more competitive, and work toward their climate change goals. The European Union has even said that both nuclear and gas are "green and sustainable" forms of energy. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved NuScale Power's plan for small modular reactors in January 2023. This was a big step toward making uniform and scalable nuclear reactors in the near future.

In the future, things are looking good for cutting-edge liquid salt thorium-fueled reactors. These reactors use thorium, which is a common metal, to make energy and get rid of radioactive waste hundreds of times more effectively than uranium reactors. The way forward for nuclear energy is to get rid of rules that have slowed its growth, in part because of its bad image over the past few decades. Nuclear energy is still a highly regulated business, with reactor safety and where to put nuclear waste being two of the most important issues for policymakers. Nuclear energy, on the other hand, has the ability to provide energy that is effective, scalable, and free of carbon. Because of this, it should be one of the world's main sources of energy.

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Geothermal energy is not as well-known as nuclear energy and is even less understood than other types of energy. Under the top of the earth is molten rock that is very hot. The most common way to get energy from geothermal sources is to drill straight down into the earth's surface to get to the hot rocks. The rock then heats the cool water, which turns into steam. This steam rises to the surface and is used to power electric engines.

This type of energy is already used in many places around the world where hot rock is close to the top of the earth. For example, Indonesia and Iceland, which have a lot of volcanoes, use this type of energy. At the moment, that's the only kind that can make money and makes business sense. But the future of using geothermal energy will rest on the development of deep geothermal energy, in which even deeper holes are drilled to reach hotter rock formations that don't depend on where they are. Here, techniques and technology developed by the shale-oil drilling business, such as horizontal drilling, can be used in a different way to solve the problem of getting to deep geothermal energy. This puts the oil and gas business in a position to help with the energy transition instead of just giving up on fossil fuels, which is what most policies say should happen.

Even though there has been a lot of talk about how bad fracking is in the business, the US Government has not outright banned it. Instead, it has only limited new permits for oil and gas projects on federal lands and waters. At this point, policymakers will either add more rules to the industry, including rules about horizontal fracking, or they will see the worth of these techniques when they are used to get geothermal energy and try to tap into this energy source.

Future Energy

Developed economies can look at some ways to move forward with the infrastructure needed for an energy shift, both on their own and with the help of other countries or regions, by setting goals that can be done right away. This can start with expanding current conventional nuclear facilities that don't have to deal with legal and permit problems. From there, the goal for the next ten years or so could be to work on research and development for advanced nuclear plants that use thorium instead of uranium for the nuclear fuel cycle. In the meantime, the oil industry's knowledge can be used to make horizontal drilling work well enough to get to deep geothermal energy.

By getting rid of regulatory barriers that hold back current energy industries and push impractical climate goals, and by using these two sources of energy, humanity may have a real chance at truly clean, sustainable electricity that will move the energy paradigm away from fossil fuels while still recognizing their legitimate and important role in the near future.

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