UNC Charlotte’s Office of International Programs hosted Dr. Johan Enslin, Director, Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC) who spoke on energy independence for the Great Decisions lecture series on Feb. 26. This was the fourth lecture of the series.
“Energy independence, by taking the bargaining chip of oil dependence off the table, would be good for American foreign policy. But the very technological advances that make independence possible have created a dilemma for lawmakers. In a government with fixed resources, should the U.S. encourage more traditional fuel production or invest in the young technology of renewable resources?” – Jonathan Chanis, Great Decisions 2014.
What is Energy Security?
Energy security combines three factors; national security, economic security and environmental security. Energy security makes energy independence possible, but for that to happen there needs to be a secure and reliable energy source. Energy also has to be affordable and easily accessible so economic growth can occur. For instance, ten years ago, natural gas was not as affordable as it is now, which made it unpopular choice of fuel then. From an environmental perspective, it’s also essential to consider the impact of energy use on the environment. We also need to consider energy independence and production in terms of regeneration, waste management and carbon dioxide production. If all three factors work together, energy efficiency will increase, meaning “more can be done with less.”
The Energy and Security Act of 2007 was created to push the U.S. into an improved state of energy independence and security. The act aimed to do this by increasing production of renewable, clean fuel sources and by manufacturing more efficient cars, products and buildings. Independence would have come from using a natural-gas infrastructure, which can be measured by Key Performance Indicator (KPI). It measures what is done or accomplished with energy. Dr. Enslin asserted that the only real power the U.S. has with energy is to generate it and consume it. America uses an energy generation business model that is 80-90 years old. Therefore the reliability factor of energy decreases because of this antiquated model.
Issues and Considerations
Data is taking an increasing use of energy. Today, It takes more energy to run a smartphone for a few hours a day than it does a refrigerator for an entire day. The world is in the crossroads of energy as important decisions need to be made about new technologies involved in clean energy production. It’s an international game and a nation cannot isolate itself when dealing with energy related issues. Dr. Enslin recommended that everyone should look internally and make some changes. Most basic everyday comforts come at a cost.
“We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times… and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK. That’s not leadership. That’s not going to happen.” – President Barack Obama.
Options for Energy Generation
Dr. Enslin predicts more electricity will be used in the coming years, not less. Population growth and the amount of energy used per capita in America each year, around 800 kilograms, contribute to this estimation. Compared to the U.S., Europe uses about half of that. Energy is relatively cheap in America and the use per capita dropped in the U.S. by around 15 percent, but the use of energy for domestic products increased greatly.
The question of whether to invest in traditional or non-traditional energy sources still remains. Nuclear generation is an option. Building a new plant would be very expensive, with a few planned constructions in the U.S. actually being scrapped due to the length of time it would take to complete; 40-years. Investing in over 40 years of production is extremely expensive. Fracking provides more time to complete projects that need finishing. However, dependence on oil has to decrease rapidly in energy regeneration. Natural gas is being exported as soon as America gets it.
For now, Dr. Enslin provides good news about electricity. He believes it is a reasonable way to move toward energy independence and security. As a quick fact, the U.S. uses about half of the world’s electricity.
Presentation summarized by Lauralane Osborne, UNC Charlotte (International Public Relations major)