Section IV – Defining a Rational Path Forward to Achieve Energy Security
It should now be crystal clear that the age of fossil fuels is ending in the United States and America must prepare for the new future. White’s Law explains the terrible consequences of failure to plan and act accordingly. Without adequate per capita energy supplies, a nation’s culture or standard of living cannot be maintained. It is foolish to hope otherwise, is it not? Consequently, from a strategic energy security planning perspective, this means that the United States needs to replace fossil fuels with something else before affordable fossil fuels are no longer available.
This is where picking a planning horizon of 2100 comes into play. As will be seen in the following analyses of a hypothetical all-nuclear energy infrastructure, the size of the replacement non-fossil fuel energy infrastructure is quite large. Such a large infrastructure will not be built quickly. Thus, while picking 2100 may now appear to be impractically far in the future, as the scope of the effort required to implement a practical solution to replace fossil fuels is identified, this initial impression may change.
With 2100 being the hypothetical goal for achieving energy security with domestic non-fossil fuel energy sources, the transition would look like Fig. 13 below. By 2100, the United States would no longer be using a significant amount of fossil fuels.
Currently, the fossil fuel industry often takes great umbrage at any discussion of transitioning America to non-fossil fuel energy sources. Many see this as an either-or future. In reality, to maintain order in the U.S. energy market, it is important that both sides work together. The United States cannot make it to 2100 primarily on fossil fuels, as the earlier quantitative analysis shows. At the same time, the United States cannot simply abandon fossil fuels because the replacements are not yet available. Hence, the transition strategy shown in Fig. 13 is not only good for America, but good for the fossil fuel industry as well.
Let us put this transition into numbers. From around 15 billion BOE/yr. of fossil fuel energy consumed presently, the consumption of these fuels would, ideally, steadily decline to zero in 2100. To make this happen without supply disruptions, the U.S. fossil fuel industry would still need to produce about 673 billion BOE of fossil fuels or about 50% of the remaining U.S. fossil fuel endowment discussed above. This means that current private investment in fossil fuel production capabilities and privately-owned reserves would not be arbitrarily diminished in value. Instead, a robust U.S. fossil fuel industry would continue for most of the rest of the century.
With this new appreciation that the fossil fuel industry is not the enemy, but the underpinnings of maintaining America’s energy security, what will replace fossil fuels? Conventional fission nuclear energy? Ground solar energy? Wind? Fusion nuclear energy? There can be no real transition plan for America to follow without identifying a suitable replacement energy supply capable of tens of billions of BOE annually. The first step is to analyze the magnitude of the non-fossil fuel energy supply needed by 2100, starting with an understanding of the units of energy used in this analysis. The unit “BOE”, after all, is oriented towards fossil fuels. We need to switch to the unit made famous by the Back to the Future movie’s Doc Brown—the gigawatt.