In America, the supply of and demand for energy is evolving dramatically. Given that, what’s the right combination of sources and production to ensure we not only can secure our long-term energy needs, but also make sure that it is distributed appropriately?
That question was the core of an engaging conversation between leaders in the energy and automotive fields at this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival this weekend. Together, Tom Fanning of Southern Company, Roger W. Sant of AES Corp. and Chris Hostetter of Toyota brought a number of good ideas to the table during the conversation. But the key takeaway was we’re going to need everything -- especially in an increasingly carbon-constrained world.
“The mistake we shouldn’t make is that there is a silver bullet,” explained Sant. “We’ve got a real job ahead of us.”
The good news is that current policy and practice is pointing America in the right direction. The uptick in natural gas production, the increasing affordability of solar and wind installations, and even policies like vehicle fuel standards are helping to form a more diversified American energy portfolio.
Even companies outside the energy production sector are thinking hard about the need for a diverse set of energy sources. Consider Toyota, a company that clearly has a seat at the table during any conversation about liquid fuels like gasoline -- but also one which is embracing solar technology, installing panels inside its Prius model, as well as developing electric cars. In fact, Hostetter, the company’s Vice President of Strategic Planning, shared during the panel that by 2030, the company’s whole lineup will likely be electrified.
“To have sustainable mobility for us is an urgent issue,” Hostetter said.
Of course, the panel warned, these new sources of energy should not distract from the need for the United States to be conscious of our immense power needs and the conventional sources that fuel that demand.
For producers, that means balancing a commitment to renewables and nuclear fuel while continuing to find progressive ways to use coal, oil, and natural gas. “The number one thing we as a business, as a company, as an entire industry can do to lower emissions over the next 15 to 20 years is to produce more natural gas,” said Marvin Odum, CEO of Shell, earlier in the week.
A balanced approach will not only clarify the direction energy goes in the long-term, but it will also put more power back into the hands of individual consumers -- and have a strong effect on the progression of climate change. But to achieve that, Americans must think extensively about efficiency. Whether that means personally adjusting consumption through lifestyle changes, or addressing it from an infrastructure standpoint, efficiency is the glue with which the American house of energy will stick together.
“We should use less where we can, but we should use more where we should,“ said Fanning.