energy in transition
1. the era of cheap and convenient sources of energy is coming to an end. a transition to more expensive but less polluting sources must now be managed. understanding this transition requires a look at the two-sided connection between energy and human well-being. energy contributes positively to well-being by providing such consumer services as heating and lighting as well as serving as a necessary input to economic production. but the costs of energy--including not only the money and other resources devoted to obtaining and exploiting it but also environmental and sociopolitical impacts--detract from well-being.
2. for most of human history, the dominant concerns about energy have centered on the benefit side of the energy--well-being equation. inadequacy of energy resources or (more often) of the technologies and organizations for harvesting, convening, and distributing those resources has meant insufficient energy benefits and hence inconvenience, deprivation and constraints on growth. energy problems in this category remain the principle preoccupation of the least developed countries, where energy for basic human needs is the main issue; they are also an important concern in the intermediate and newly industrializing countries, where the issue energy for production and growth. aside from having too little energy, it is possible to suffer by paying too much for it. the price may be paid in excessive diversion of capital and labor, or it may be' paid in excessive environmental and sociopolitical impacts. for most of the past 100 years, however, the problems of excessive energy costs have seemed less threatening than the problems of insufficient supply. between 1890 and 1970 the monetary costs of supplying energy and the prices paid by consumers stayed more or less constant or declined, and the environmental and sociopolitical costs were regarded more as local nuisances or temporary inconveniences than as pervasive and persistent liabilities.