That 1970’s Energy Narrative

Ever since the early 1970’s the public has assumed the U.S. is running out of domestic sources of energy. The OPEC oil crisis of 1973 reinforced this idea as people waited in long lines to buy gasoline at skyrocketing prices.  Much of the current opposition to natural gas development stems from the persistent narrative that energy is scarce and all fossil fuels are bad for the environment.

These ideas have been repeated so many times they have become unquestioned articles of faith in many segments of our society.  Reports fitting this old familiar story line often seem more credible than those that don’t.  But, the energy facts have changed and the all-too-familiar 1970’s energy narrative is now as badly out of date as those flared white trousers John Travolta wore in Saturday Night Fever.

A New Energy Narrative

The Limits to Growth – A 1972 Piece of Hysteria Later Proven Wrong on Virtually Everything

Until recently we did expect oil and gas to be increasingly scarce and expensive. A few extremists actually welcomed it. But, because of horizontal well boring technology, the U.S. now has access to vast new energy supplies and is on track to become a net energy exporter by 2020.  Many experts believe we could be completely independent of imported oil by 2035!

Natural gas from shale is also fueling a manufacturing renaissance in the US as cheaper energy makes domestic industry globally competitive. In 2010 shale gas supported one million new US jobs and will likely support 1.5 million by 2015.

Now, everyone agrees it is smart to conserve energy and become less dependent on foreign oil. But it is important to also recognize the burning of natural gas much reduces carbon dioxide output, along with harmful emissions, compared to the consumption of other traditional energy sources.  Contrary to some discredited reports, increased use of gas has already improved public health through better air quality, and played a major role in significantly reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite this good news, we continue to be susceptible to that old 1970’s narrative.  As public understanding of science decreases, politically driven advocacy is often mistaken for scientific fact and sound risk/benefit analysis.  Confusing claims and counter claims often lead us to fall back on feelings formed in decades past, especially when new energy developments come closer to home.  Reflexive suspicion of energy companies threatens more than natural gas development.


1970’s Gas Lines


Technology Is Our Friend, Not the Enemy

Ironically, resistance to wireless “smart” electric meters now jeopardizes the growth of wind and solar contributions to the electric grid.  Incredibly, this opposition is based on many of the same specious health claims as opposition to hydraulic fracturing.

New energy technologies and improved development techniques have, nonetheless, substantially changed our future energy picture.  Reliable science and actual experience have proven the safety and enormous economic benefits of shale gas development.  Continued conversion to inexpensive natural gas along with development of affordable renewable energy is the most effective way to fight global warming right now.

It’s time to tell a new energy story that truthfully reflects the critical role that clean, abundant natural gas will play in both sound environmental policy and sustained economic growth for decades to come.


  1. Dan says:

    Good article except for the narrative about global warming, which the jury is still out and not confirmed as to the cause other than natural cycles of the earth’s climate.

    • Ken Klemow says:

      Depends on who the jury is. According to the mainstream science community, anthropogenic global warming remains an accepted explanation of the changes in climate that we are experiencing. For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who continue to deny, no explanation is possible.

      • Todd says:

        And from those that continue to “drink the koolaid”, you get posts like this one. We could go back and forth with this rhetoric you started all day but AGW is not an accepted explanation from the mainstream science community, it’s political fear mongering to support an extremist green agenda. Don’t both responding because I can pretty much guess what you’re going to say.

  2. Tracy says:

    I suspect that opposition to smart meters, at least in this country, has at least as much to do with privacy concerns as it does with specious health claims. I agree with you that the health claims are specious, but the privacy concerns? That part I get…although probably a much bigger problem where privacy and control are concerned is smart phones, rather than smart meters.

    But smart meters definitely fit into the “energy is limited” meme that we’re all supposed to adopt without thinking.

    • fred jones says:

      Tracy, one would hope conservation steps, whether or not “energy is limited” ……saves us money. When supplies of whatever energy source we are discussing, are up because demand is down, be it extraction methods, or new technology ( more fuel efficient cars, homes, furnaces, etc) we the consumer wins with our wallet. There is a lot of “thinking” going into all this as last I knew, the world was getting more crowded and since a billion Chinese decided to park their bicycles and started driving cars, energy we all depend on, will become more expensive IF we don’t find ways to conserve.

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