The United States' energy future isn't in as much of a crisis as previously predicted, Tyrus Cobb said at his National Security Forum meeting Thursday, but that doesn't mean the potential for future crises can be ignored.
Cobb, joined University of Nevada, Reno, energy policy professor John Scire and two other energy experts, during the forum. The group noted that the U.S. is less dependent on foreign sources that it has been in years past, but the laws of supply-and-demand still can wreak economic havoc if a volatile region erupts.
Cobb used the example of a war between Israel and Iran causing the shut down of Middle East shipping lanes that the world oil supply relies on.
"If that happens, then we're looking at $250-a-barrel oil, and the producers are going to sell to whoever is willing pay that price," Cobb said, adding that in that scenario, domestic production just doesn't matter as much.
To that extent, the forum kicked around different ideas on preventing an event like that from crippling the U.S. Paul Thomsen with Ormat Technologies, a geothermal production firm with wells in Nevada, boasted of his industry's stability and local control - he also chided the U.S. government for not thinking long-term on energy.
"Our pursuit of the cheapest resource today often hurts us in the long run," he said. He added at the end of the discussion: "We don't have an energy policy today. The U.S. has just always chased what was cheapest."
He noted that the last study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated 3,000 megawatts of geothermal energy was available in the West - an estimate from 1978.
He said most of the surface wells have been tapped, but that overall capacity from geothermal will peak out much higher than the 30-plus-year-old prediction.
All the panelists agreed that the United States shouldn't let this era of more localized production pass without planning for the future, be it with solar, natural gas, geothermal or something else.
"We have a breather - better not waste it," Cobb, a former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan.