Mad Libs: The Geopolitics of Energy
What does the U.S. oil and gas boom mean for international energy markets and climate change initiatives? We asked top experts, and here's what they told us.
THE UNITED STATES WILL BECOME ENERGY INDEPENDENT WHEN… Major technological innovations occur in extracting oil from unconventional sources. —Jerry Taylor • We decide to take full advantage of our natural gas resource. —Gary Lash • (And if) hydrogen fuel cells are perfected. —Terry Engelder • Cars sold in the U.S. are no longer shut to competing fuels like methanol. —Gal Luft • Gasoline is expensive enough or taxed enough to spur deep changes in energy use. —Valérie Marcel • We take the urgency of climate change seriously and slash our oil use and carbon emissions. —Frances Beinecke • We give serious options to consumers to use different and cleaner forms of energy and fuels, and to get out of their cars and walk, bike, or take transit. —Kate Gordon • Integration of the global economy is reversed and energy no longer plays an important role in supporting economic growth. —Gregory Nemet • Pigs fly. We are like the 500-pound man who, having lost 5 pounds, wants to know when he’ll reach the same weight as Brad Pitt. —Michael Ross • Never. And would be a terrible idea. —David Victor • The sun ceases to shine. —John DeCicco
OPEC IS… Not nearly as powerful as most Americans — at least those who were old enough to read newspapers in the 1970s — tend to believe. —Michael Ross • In serious trouble due to the increasing discoveries of unconventional oil and natural gas supplies. —Kenneth Green • Facing major emerging challenges — shale oil, Iraq, falling OECD demand — whose impact it as yet only grasps dimly. —Robin Mills • Increasingly beset with divisions from their member governments. —Terry Karl • A cartel in name only. —Robert Pindyck • An easy scapegoat to blame for high oil prices. —Christopher Knittel • An ineffective cartel that rides the wave of prices up and down and is unable to protect the long-term interests of its members. —Edward Chow • Still a powerful cartel that largely sets world oil prices through production expansions and contractions. —Daniel J. Weiss • A cartel that owns 80 percent of the world’s conventional oil reserves yet produces only a third of the world’s supply. —Gal Luft • Not going to pump that much more oil. Well, maybe Iraq is. —Steven Kopits • In trouble over the long haul. —David Victor • Declining in influence. —John Graham • Quickly becoming extraneous. —Gary Lash • Doing what cartels have done throughout history: hoping their customers cannot break their addiction. —Jay Apt
THE ENERGY SOURCE THE WORLD SHOULD RELY MORE ON IS… Natural gas. —John Graham, Steven Kopits, Robin Mills, Donald Paul (“It’s plentiful, it’s versatile, and its use can be made quite clean.”), Mark Thurber • Nuclear power. —Giacomo Luciani, Gal Luft, Jacques Percebois • Batteries. Energy storage is the holy grail in terms of enabling other big, important technologies and cleaning up the Earth. —Steve LeVine • Solar. —Reyer Gerlagh, Andrew Light, Daniel J. Weiss • First, conservation (which pays for itself many times over) and then renewables, which can power our lives without undermining our future. —Bill McKibben • Conservation. —Edward Chow • Efficiency (doing the same with less energy), not conservation (doing less). —Jay Apt • Efficiency. The most cost-effective energy strategy is reduced demand. —Daniel Esty • Markets. —Jerry Taylor • Ingenuity. What really matters is efforts on both supply and demand, and pretty much all progress on those fronts is coming from new ideas. —David Victor
CAP-AND-TRADE IS… Just one approach to putting a necessary price on carbon that reflects its social and environmental costs. —Kate Gordon • A nice idea. —David Victor • A catastrophic failure and a bad idea to begin with. —Giacomo Luciani • Not as good as a carbon tax. —Eckart Woertz • A much more efficient way to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions than the current set of policies we rely on. —Christopher Knittel • An effective Republican idea that has sadly been smeared and abandoned as a tool to reduce industrial carbon pollution by Republican leaders. —Daniel J. Weiss • A terrible idea and a dead-end energy policy. —Jonathan Adler • A good concept in theory but will probably do little to curb pollution on a global scale. —Gary Lash • An acceptable, but not ideal, substitute for more direct Pigovian taxation of carbon. —Ramteen Sioshansi • The best instrument to reduce emissions, given that policymakers have so often told the people that taxes are bad. —Reyer Gerlagh • Not a four-letter word! —John DeCicco • A scheme that allows smart people to make a lot of money from futile trading in carbon dioxide molecules under the false promise that it will cool the planet. —Gal Luft • Happening around the world, from Europe to California, Korea, Australia, and others. —Daniel Sperling • Not going to happen in the United States. —Jerry Taylor • Dead dead dead. —Steve LeVine
THE ELECTRIC CAR IS… Promising. —Jacques Percebois • Overhyped. —David Victor • Not the panacea it’s made out to be. —Michael Ross • Far from being as green as most people believe. —Gary Lash • A very exciting possible alternative, especially if the energy mix powering it is diversified beyond coal and natural gas. —Kate Gordon • Going to be the next big thing the moment it is cost-effective. —Ariel Cohen • A nice idea, but not yet ready for prime time. —Jonathan Adler • Probably less important than advertised in the near term and possibly far more important than expected in the longer term. —Gregory Nemet • The best hope of reducing U.S. oil consumption. —Wilfrid Kohl • Too expensive, too unreliable, too limited a range, and too much trouble to charge the batteries. —Robert Pindyck • Better suited for Europe, as the U.S. average mileage is so high. —Eckart Woertz • The technology that opens the door for solar, wind, and nuclear power to compete with petroleum products in the transportation fuel market. —Gal Luft • A nice fantasy until there is a major breakthrough in battery or other storage technology. —Edward Chow • Still far from providing a meaningful alternative to the internal combustion engine. —Ronald Ripple • Unlikely to be anything more than a vehicle for wealthy eco-conscious consumers and hobbyists. —Kenneth Green • Either ugly and affordable (Nissan Leaf) or beautiful and not affordable (Tesla). I want to have my cake and eat it too. —Maximilian Auffhammer • Here to stay. —Daniel J. Weiss • Still far off. —John Graham