High energy use (power consumption) increases wealth, health and education levels. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, most energy has come from fossil fuels: coal, oil and natural gas. Whatever the eventual lifetimes of these fossil energy resources, they are not renewable. Sooner or later, fossil energy will not be available to underpin our prosperity.
Thus non-renewable energy is not a long-term option. We must have renewable energy if we are to maintain high living standards among advanced economies, and if more people in developing nations are to access enough energy to develop their human potential. But how much energy is enough?
I think we need to have this discussion prior to making any recommendations or conclusions on policy. If human beings, and Americans in particular, require a certain amount of energy of different qualities (for heat, electric power and mobility), then those needs are what policy should seek to provide. But we must first outline our needs, as best we know them, and then have the policy discussion based on those facts.
In setting energy policy, is it a sound – or necessary – approach for government to identify a specific level of baseline energy that is essential for each individual?