Today, the world has abundant sources of hydrocarbons. North America alone has considerable potential in its shale deposits and tar sands; they will be exploited once their price per barrel becomes competitive. In addition, U.S. coal deposits rival the world’s largest oil fields in equivalent energy. And U.S. reserves of natural gas are actually increasing. If things are so good, is there a problem?
The answer is yes. Four future factors must be considered: inexorably rising global energy costs, the finiteness of hydrocarbons as a resource, the need for U.S. energy independence, and climate effects from the use of carbon-based fuels.
After decades of government neglect and private-sector disinterest, a broad front of American research and development is now being aimed at developing sources of renewable energy. While the major developmental push has been in land-based sources such as wind and solar, the oceans are also getting greater attention.