Need for power presents a threat and opportunity

A survey of the way families in rich countries such as ours use electric power discovered that flat screen television sets, iPods, cell phones, game consoles and other gadgets consume a huge and growing percentage of power generated — and that this demand is growing rapidly.
A New York Times team learned that the average U.S. family has about 25 consumer electronic products, compared to just three in 1980. Worldwide, consumer electronics now represent 15 percent of household power demand, and that is expected to triple over the next two decades, according to the International Energy Agency.
That agency estimated that electronic gadgets alone will require “building the equivalent of 560 coal-fired power plants, or 230 nuclear plants.”
As the world gets richer and more and more people have the disposible income to buy such stuff, it will become more and more difficult to limit the production of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that are causing climate change.
This alarming set of facts presents the U.S. with a challenge that is also an opportunity.
Setting aside the threat of global warming for the moment, there are other urgent reasons to become energy independent and, in the process, to move away from dependence on imported oil.
The need to generate more and more electricity to power the new lifestyle that technology is thrusting upon us — and the rest of the world — should be met with solar, wind and other renewable, inexhaustible sources.
That imperative explains why the “green” energy industry is becoming the fastest growing manufacturing industry on the face of the globe. American scientists and engineers are developing much of the technology needed to push this revolution forward. But, unfortunately, far too little of the job-creating manufacture of the actual generating equipment and plants occurs here.
Part of the problem is that the renewable power industry is still taking shape and must be subsidized until demand grows large enough for economy of scale to bring costs down.
Another complication is that energy regulation in the U.S. occurs at both the state and national level. Subsidies and other incentives are uneven and unpredictable across the country. As a consequence, nations such as Germany, which generates half of the solar power in the world today, are far ahead of the United States in jobs created by renewables.
It doesn’t have to be that way. The U.S. has the engineers, the research scientists and the technological know-how to be the leader in renewable energy. Our nation also needs the high-paying, secure jobs that industry is creating in other parts of the world now.
Those jobs will be the foundation of tomorrow’s economy; of tomorrow’s prosperity. Today’s leaders should make certain that America gets its share of that bonanza.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.