It's 55 years since the 1973 OPEC Oil Embargo--the trigger that caused oil prices to rise and a recession to emerge. That was the first time we thought hard about our dependence on foreign oil. So, after 55 years of trying to reduce this dependence, how have we done?
Amazingly, we've lost ground! In 1973, we imported approximately 35% of our oil. In 2008, it was around 60%. Nevertheless, demand continued to rise, oil supplies continued to dwindle, and the cost of production went through the roof. The result? A $40 gallon of gas and a $1,500 barrel of oil.
Fortunately, over the past 20 to 25 years, the focus on renewable energies, such as solar and wind, has increased. However, these renewable sources take a long time to make a difference. For example, even now in 2028, solar power only accounts for 8 to 10% of our nation's energy production. Wind hasn't ramped up because, unlike solar energy, which can be deployed efficiently in small packages, the equipment for generating windpower is too big and expensive for most individuals.
A few years ago, with oil hard to come by and the price of gas passing $20 per gallon, most gas-powered cars were replaced with electric cars. Unfortunately, because solar and wind took so long to deploy broadly, we fell back on our coal to generate the electricity for these cars, exacerbating global warming.
Although focus on the energy problem has ebbed and flowed over the past 20 to 25 years, the conversation always comes back to the fact that we're using more and more energy. In the high-tech industry, the energy problem has not gone unnoticed (some might argue that it hasn't been taken very seriously). For example, in 2005, server farms in the U.S. accounted for 1.2% of the total electricity used. Today, that number is 12%. Comparatively, total electricity consumption today is divided among electric motors, electronics equipment, and cars at approximately 33% each.