Newsweek‘s Enterprise section is focused on "the future of energy." There are a few good stories in there.
Famed author (at least famed to energy geeks) Daniel Yergin says the end of cheap oil is going to make for an era of enormous technological innovation, driven by private venture capital and entrepreneurialism rather than government programs.
Fareed Zakaria laments the rise of a set of anti-capitalist, authoritarian economic powerhouses fueled by high oil prices (a point the mustache is fond of making).
Best of all, in the normally unbearable My Turn column, presidential wildcard Al Gore shows up to tout the benefits of decentralized energy sources and smart grids. Be still my heart!
Here’s an excerpt:
Taking a page from the early development of ARPANET (the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) — which ultimately became the Internet — we will rely on new kinds of distribution networks for electricity and liquid fuels. We will be less dependent on large, centralized coal-generating plants and massive oil refineries. Societies of the future will rely on small, diversified and renewable sources of energy, ranging from windmills and solar photovoltaics to second-generation ethanol-and biodiesel-production facilities. Widely dispersed throughout the countryside, these streamlined facilities will make the industrialized world more secure and less dependent on unstable and threatening oil-producing nations. Off-grid applications of renewable power sources can provide energy for the 3 billion people now stuck in poverty.
In the industrialized world, these systems will require a newly designed distribution grid. An “electranet,” or smart grid, will be flexible and allow homeowners and businesses to sell or buy electricity on to and off of the grid. It will allow individuals and families to monitor their consumption much as they monitor budgets and bank accounts today.
I think I just had a wonkgasm.
As I keep saying, the energy discussion in this country is unduly weighted in favor of large-scale, centralized sources (nuclear being the paradigm case). But the key to our energy future is not so much one source or another but changes in the way we produce, distribute, and use energy. Namely: we produce in in small quantities, closer to end users, and distribute via an intelligent, transparent grid. Whee!