Securing the Future of Energy

PALO ALTO – Today’s huge global energy problems in no small measure reflect the essentially nineteenth-century business plans that three of the world’s largest industries are still pursuing.

Electric utilities still largely burn fossil fuels and sell the power to homes and businesses. Oil companies still drill for and refine petroleum, and principally sell gasoline and diesel fuel. Automobile manufacturers still bend steel into vehicles that generally must be powered by petroleum-based fuels.

Until recently, each of these giant industries was comfortable continuing on its familiar and comfortable nineteenth-century path into the twenty-first century. Each had also succeeded in getting government to insulate it against any need to make fundamental changes.

But recent developments are beginning to create increasingly heavy seas for these industries. Indeed, many observers detect approaching storms of epic proportions. What has happened?