It wasn’t but a few years ago that the idea of energy independence looked a long way off, or maybe even an unachievable goal for the U.S. Even the incremental successes in renewable energy sources weren’t moving at the speed hoped for by some. Electric cars were still seen as mostly a novelty. Our gas- and oil-chugging ways didn’t seem to be changing much.
In 2013, the situation has taken an interesting turn that few would have predicted. New extraction techniques, from hydraulic fracking to deep water offshore drilling technology, have changed the nature of the global energy economy. Predictions are now being made that true energy independence for the U.S. may be possible in the next decade. A recent Bloomberg report predicted that the U.S. would be the world’s largest energy producer by 2020. This may not necessarily translate to cheaper gas, but it may have some interesting effects on the global order of power.
The world has seen its share of countries where oil wealth has been wasted—think Nigeria, Angola, or Algeria. Some countries, such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have (at least on the surface) steered some of their oil revenues into infrastructure developments, looking toward a day when the oil beneath their deserts will run out.
Here in the U.S., we can be even smarter than that, and certainly smarter than we have been in the past. The course that we need to follow in the coming years is to greatly increase our R&D efforts in manufacturing efficiency and renewable energy. Doing it in the near future, while we’re flush with extra oil revenues and abundant energy reserves, is critical. (Not to mention, how nice would it be to be a net exporter of oil?) It’s always easier to save when your wallet’s full, but we always seem to wait until there’s the crisis of an empty billfold to act.
The future of manufacturing in the U.S. depends on some forethought over the next decade. We have to move away from the idea that energy will always be easy and that our global competitors will always be a step behind.
How important is investing in energy R&D to our manufacturing future? Comment on Paul’s blog on Pneumatic Tips, www.pneumatictips.com/blog
Paul J. Heney – Editorial Director
Filed Under: Design World articles