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VIEWPOINT Energy transitions and the market BY A N T H O N Y J. A H E R N IN 1800, WOOD WAS our nation’s main source of energy. Wood 1 provided about 0.5 quads that year. At the beginning of the Civil War, total U.S. energy use increased to about 3 quads, of which 2.5 quads came from wood and 0.5 from a new fuel — coal. In 1885, just after the Brooklyn Bridge was completed, the westward expansion of railroads had pushed coal use to equal that of wood. Each provided about 50 percent of the nation’s total energy use of 5.4 quads. In 1920 shortly after WWI, the U.S. was using about 20 quads. Coal had surged to 15.5 quads; wood had slipped to 1.6 quads; and two new energy sources had arrived. Oil provided 1.7 quads and natural gas 0.7 quads. In 1945 at the end of WWII, the U.S. was using about 31 quads. Coal provided 16 quads, but oil had grown to 10 quads. Natural gas provided 4 quads; wood accounted for 1.3 quads; and hydroelectric power provided 1.3 quads. Post-WWII, the U.S. economy took off. By 2009, energy use was 100 quads. Coal had risen to 35 quads, and natural gas had grown to 23 quads, surpassing oil’s 20 quads. Wood was 2 quads; hydroelectric power, 1.3 quads; and nuclear power, 8.4 quads. Notice that it took decades for our energy supply to transition to new sources. All of the energy transitions of the past 200-plus years share a common characteristic: New energy sources were better than the old in some unique way. Often the new source did not necessarily eliminate other sources but added to overall supply. Sometimes governmental involvement was instrumental in the early development of a new energy source. Nuclear power is a good example. But it was acceptance of the new energy sources by the private market, based on economic benefits or technical superiority (electricity), that propelled growth. Our federal government today is playing a huge advocacy role in the expansion of wind and solar power. I’m all for the government funding R&D, especially regarding energy. But it appears that the power and money of the federal government is being used to “manage” the next energy transition. Meeting our nation’s future needs is too important to the welfare of our economy for the government to supplant the role of the market in choosing energy options. 1 A quad is a unit of energy equal to 1 quadrillion (1015) British thermal units (BTU). The quad is a convenient unit for describing energy resources. One quad is also equal to 183 million barrels of petroleum, 38.5 million tons of coal, or 980 billion cubic feet of natural gas. 2 COUNTRY LIVING • APRIL 2013 Volume 55, No. 7 April 2013 Contact us: Anthony Ahern Steve Oden Rich Warren John Howley Chris Hall Bernice Mattison Nikki Heath Adam Specht Margie Wuebker Chip Gross Sandy Woolard Tim Dickes President & CEO Dir. of Comm. Managing Editor Comm. Manager Art & Prod. Manager Publications Coord. Graphic Artist Comm. Specialist Food Editor Outdoors Editor Advertising Advertising COUNTRY LIVING (ISSN 0747-0592) is the official publication of Ohio Rural Electric Co- operatives, Inc. With a paid circulation of 294,786, it is the monthly communication link between the rural elec tric cooperatives in Ohio and West Virginia and their members. Subscription price: $4.30 to $6.50 per year to co-op members; $12 per year to nonmem- bers. Nothing in this publication may be re- produced in any manner without specific written permission from Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives, Inc. All rights reserved. Alliance for Audited Media Member National advertising representatives: NATIONAL COUNTRY MARKET, based at 611 S. Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78704 1-800-NCM-1181 The fact that a product is advertised in Country Living should not be taken as an endorsement. If you find an ad- vertisement misleading or a product unsatisfactory, please notify us or the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Consumer Protection Section, 30 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215, or call 1-800-282-0515. Cooperative members — Please report any change of address to your local electric cooperative. Periodicals postage paid at Columbus, OH and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to editorial and advertising offices at: 6677 Busch Boulevard Columbus, OH 43229-1101 Telephone — 614-846-5757 Serving on the Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives, Inc., Board of Trustees are George Brake, chairman; Dennis W. Schindler, vice chairman; Jack Schmidt, secretary/treasurer; Stephen Huff, Paul Berridge, Thomas McQuiston, Robert McCort, Donald McCracken, Jack L. Kitchel, Daniel McNaull, Robert E. Wise, Shirley J. Stutz, David Corbin, Barry Jolliff, Warren Taylor, James R. McConnell, Eu- gene Royer, Mitch Headley, John Saxton, Edward P. Sanders, Harold E. Cooper, Larry Weirich, Jeff Wilson and David P. Miller. Anthony J. Ahern, president; Kurt Helfrich, counsel.