JACKSON, Tenn. – Oct. 25, 2010 – Though the world is facing challenges related to energy production and consumption, two oil industry experts are optimistic about the future of energy.
Lloyd Hansen, owner of Nortek, Inc., and William J. McDonald, president of EnerPro LLC, spoke at Union University Oct. 20 as part of the ongoing Town and Gown series on the theme of energy sustainability and stewardship. A crowd of more than 100 attended the lecture in the Carl Grant Events Center.
In his address, Hansen discussed the emergence of nations such as China and India and what increasing demand for energy in those countries will mean for use of the world’s energy resources in the coming years. In August, China’s aggregate gross domestic product surpassed that of Japan.
“China has advanced beyond all expectation and it has advanced in its need for energy resources from this date on,” Hansen said.
Hansen explained the importance of shale gas, and talked about how technological advances have allowed for greater collection of natural gas from shale. He showed a map of shale basins in the United States, indicating that the U.S. has great amounts of natural gas resources.
One of the most important developments in coming years, Hansen said, would be the ability to convert natural gas into a clean liquid that could be used for fuel. He suggested that nations such as China or Russia could be a pioneer in that gas-to-liquid conversion.
“If we can implement this (gas-to-liquid) technology, it becomes a very positive answer,” Hansen said. “And I suspect that we will shortly.”
Hansen also encouraged Union students to consider a career in the energy field, a “fascinating business” with plenty of opportunities for Christians to spread the gospel among those in the field.
McDonald presented an overview about the past, present and future of oil and natural gas. Oil is important, McDonald said, because “It touches everything we do. It’s essential to our life.” He provided a list of dozens of products that exist because of oil – from artificial hearts and balloons to medical equipment, dentures and a host of other everyday items.
McDonald also analyzed some of the alternatives to fossil fuels, such as solar and wind energy, and gave some benefits and drawbacks to each.
“We have to look at all these alternatives, not only in terms of the sustainability and the reliability they will provide, but at the stewardship aspect,” McDonald said. “How good are they? How clean are they?”
Such alternatives may be viable in the longer term, but for the foreseeable future, McDonald said the world will continue to be dependent upon fossil fuels.
“The populations in China and India and other emerging countries are growing very, very rapidly,” he said. “Population growth alone in those countries will cause a much greater demand.”
This continued demand for energy from oil and coal provides challenges technologically, economically and politically, McDonald said, but overall the U.S. energy outlook is positive. He encouraged the use of natural gas and clean coal technology as the United States attempts to develop more sophisticated systems of energy production.
“We must plan and look forward to where we can transition to other alternatives and keep them in the context of how they are cost effective and reliable in providing a sustainable resource,” McDonald said. “We must remember, respect and fulfill our obligation to be good stewards of our resources and the earth’s fragile environment.”