New Energy Sources

March 14, 1973

Report Outline
Search for Clean Sources of Power
Progress Toward Energy Utilization
Prospects for National Energy Policy

Search for Clean Sources of Power

Threat of Energy Crisis and Fossil Fuel Shortage

As America awakens to the growing reality of the energy crisis, the need for development of new and clean energy sources becomes increasingly clear. That the nation will someday run out of its traditional fossil fuel sources is incontrovertible—only the timing of depletion can be argued. This is not an easy concept to grasp. Ninety-five per cent of the current U.S. energy supply comes from oil, coal and natural gas, and Americans have grown used to a plentiful supply of cheap energy in all forms—especially electricity, natural gas, heating oil and gasoline. But no longer.

The winter of 1973 may have helped many people face up to the gravity of the fossil fuel shortages. Supply problems which had been predicted for years finally arrived. Schools, factories and homes in many parts of the country were hit by shutdowns or rationing. And with the coming of spring, the chilling fact began to hit home that the energy crisis now came in all seasons, that winter freeze-ups might be followed by summer brown-outs. Although the immediate causes of the short-term energy crisis continued to be debated—blame fell on delivery systems, lagging exploration, import quotas, refining capacity and government controls—it seemed evident that the long-term problem could not be solved by reliance on traditional fuels or policies.

What was needed for the long run, many energy analysts, environmentalists, economists and engineers agreed, was a stepped-up program of research and development of new energy sources—solar and geothermal power, nuclear fusion, hydrogen fuel, wind and tidal power, and other possibilities. It was expected that all energy would be more expensive in the final decades of the 20th century, and higher costs probably would encourage efforts to use energy more efficiently and to conserve it whenever possible. As stated by Peter G. Peterson when he was Secretary of Commerce: “We are moving into an era in which every energy option will have a cost. It may be a balance-of-payments cost, an environmental cost, a competitiveness cost, a discomfort cost, or all of these costs. But the cost will always be there…. The era of low-cost clean energy sources is almost dead.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Alternative Energy
Sep. 29, 2006  Biofuels Boom
Feb. 25, 2005  Alternative Fuels
Nov. 07, 1997  Renewable Energy
Jul. 09, 1993  Electric Cars
Jul. 10, 1992  Alternative Energy
Mar. 26, 1982  Solar Energy's Uneasy Transition
Nov. 20, 1981  Wind and Water: Expanding Energy Technologies
Aug. 31, 1979  Synthetic Fuels
Nov. 12, 1976  Solar Energy
Mar. 14, 1973  New Energy Sources
Aug. 14, 1968  Steam and Electric Autos
Jan. 22, 1929  Federal Water Power Policy
Oct. 08, 1928  Status of the Muscle Shoals Project
Jan. 26, 1927  The Colorado River Problem
Energy and the Environment
Energy Conservation
Renewable Energy Resources and Alternative Fuels