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California energy crisis affects all Americans

Jan. 25, 2001

California's energy crisis reminds the nation, yet again, of the need for a wider range of energy options. Electricity prices in California are averaging $330 per kilowatt-hour, 11 percent higher than the price last year, according to CNN's Web site.

As consumers complain of the high prices, and legislators and businessmen argue over the cause of the electricity shortage that has led to rolling blackouts across the state, the crisis is only expected to get worse, perhaps even affecting the national economy.

The U.S. Department of Energy predicts a 40 percent increase in natural gas costs and a 29 percent jump in fuel oil over the next year. As oil, electricity and natural gas are the main sources of energy in the United States, we are forced to pay whatever price is asked when shortages occur.

Of course, the problem is not totally out of our control. Wasting energy contributes to the problem. Though the energy shortage has not yet affected Texas, it easily could. Being students at an affluent private school, it is easy for us to dismiss the problem as not having any relevance to our daily lives.

However, the problem in California is becoming so serious that we should all conserve energy. Turning the lights off when you leave a room and turning off your computer when you leave the house are good examples.

The government can also play a big role in alleviating the problem. If there were more types of energy available, it would lessen the negative consequences when there is a shortage of oil, electricity or natural gas. There are several alternative energy sources that have yet to be researched and utilized to their fullest extent, such as solar, geothermal, biomass (biodegradable plant remains), hydropower and wind.

However, none of these energy sources are close to being readily available on a large scale, in part because of inadequate funding from the public and private sectors for research and development of these energy sources.

Last summer and fall's soaring gas prices sent politicians scrambling for short-term solutions to lower the costs. The California energy crisis is in the same situation because the energy source is unreliable. As long as California and the United States continue to seek short-term solutions and fail to devote the time, money and manpower required to expand energy options, the nation will suffer.