Saturday, October 29, 2011

Engineering and the sin of gluttony

Vaclav Smil is distinguished professor in the University of Manitoba's department of environment and geography.  He is the author of countless books and articles.  Smil is one of my favorites in the area of energy policy.

In the November 2011 issue of Foreign Policy (his article is entitled Gluttony in a special section called What Ails America?), Smil writes the following:

"The parallels with America's great public-health epidemic of obesity are inescapable.  Even after throwing away some 40 percent of its abundant food supply, the United States still has the industrialized world's most overweight population.  America similarly produces more energy per capita than any other major rich economy - - so much so that if the United States were to consume that energy at a rate comparable to Germany or France, it would be a massive energy exporter.  Instead, America imports more than 25 percent of its energy, paying more than $2 trillion for the privilege over the past decade - - and still ends up with little to show for it.  The United States now faces the choice of curbing its energy appetite with deliberation, commitment, and foresight, or waiting for the unraveling economy to put it on a painful crash diet."

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