Every generation faces a major challenge. In the past 100 years we have seen wars, economic depressions and an iron curtain that divided the world for decades. Undoubtedly, our generation too will have to come to terms with a major crisis. While we can only speculate what that may be, the challenge of developing a new fuel source ranks very high.
For centuries the world has utilized coal, oil, and other non-renewable fossil fuels as the primary source of energy for everything from lights to spacecraft. At our current rate of consumption, the planet cannot endure this kind of energy expenditure. With globalization offering empowerment of millions every day around the world to own cars, use air conditioning and power electronics, the rate of energy use is skyrocketing. China and India in particular are each bringing over a billion people into the modern energy world. In part, this competition has driven the costs of fuel up as demand for energy is increasing much faster than the available supply.
While the supply-demand problem of energy is becoming easier and easier to see through our wallets, it is only a matter of time until this becomes an even bigger international issue. It will not be long until countries begin to compete over access to oil. Because fuel is such a necessity for the modern economy to power our computers, trucks, cargo ships, cars and trains, no country is willing to go without it. As if the soon-to-be intense competition for oil between India, China, the US, Europe and others were not problem enough, a sick twist of fate has left the majority of the worlds' oil supply in the hands of a few rogue nations. The world's largest oil producers are Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iran and Nigeria. Each has a history of human rights issues, social problems and most importanty, international political difficulties. When oil supply gets worse, the countries wielding the most power will be those who least deserve it and least able to handle it.
Beyond the supply of fossil fuel, its very use is causing tremendous environmental damage. The notion of global warming used to be almost a joke. Even if it were true, it was happening so slowly that no one alive today would survive to experience its real effects. But look at the last 12 months. Last August demonstrated a hurricane season unmatched in decades. As you may recall, the national weather service actually ran out of names to give all of the hurricanes. The following winter was unusually mild. Here in Ohio there was hardly snow to speak of. Now this summer has shown an incredible heat wave throughout the whole of the United States with temperatures of 100 degrees no longer limited to the southwest, but into the northern plains and Midwest.
The challenge of our generation may be to find a solution to this compounding problem. We need to discover a new form of energy that is clean, renewable, and sustainable. No time soon will fossil fuels be entirely replaced, but they need to be subsidized as soon as possible to alleviate today’s energy woes.