With little fanfare, most aspects of the U.S. energy system seem to have settled into a fairly stable, predictable pattern. To my mind, we have reached an "energy plateau" likely to persist for maybe a decade or more into the future.
Energy is not now high on the radar screen of the general public, so there is little public pressure for significant change in the U.S. energy system. (Electric utility deregulation, which is government-driven, I discuss below.) The low level of public interest reflects the availability of abundant, reliable, and low-cost energy supplies. In addition, the general public feels that the environment is in fairly good condition in most places, so energy-related environmental concerns have abated significantly. All in all, the U.S. public seems generally happy with its energy system and has focused its attention on much more pressing issues.
Fuels: Expect Current Trends to Hold
Oil. The world oil resource base is widely believed to be large and adequate for many more decades of increasing global demand. Prices are low because a competitive industry has been doing its job well and OPEC has been relatively well behaved (em trends that show every indication of continuing for quite some time.
On the downside, oil production in the United States is declining. Imports have passed the 50-percent level and will certainly continue to increase. Imports drain high levels of capital from the United States, forcing further expansion of U.S. exports to maintain a reasonable economic balance. However, since this issue does not excite the public or policymakers, these trends will likely continue.