Bipartisan Study Commissions
The United States needs to create two bipartisan study commissions. Energy availability and efficiency (1/energy intensity) determine what GDP can be generated. Once we can agree on a reasonable energy policy, we can address what GDP/capita we wish to maintain which establishes what population the US can support over the long term of 100 to 500 years. One function of such commissions would be to identify scientific and manufacturing bottlenecks which need to be investigated. These issues will not be resolved by short-term politics as usual since highly technical issues and long implementation times are involved.
1. Transition from fossil fuels to geothermal, nuclear, solar, etc.: The proven reserves of oil, natural gas, and coal will all be burned by 2100 at current rates of use. How can the price of gasoline and other fossil fuels be made to reflect the real costs to help make alternatives more competitive in the near term? Energy is going to cost more and a smooth transition in supplies and price will be very advantageous. Some agreement on alternative energy sources needs to be reached soon and at what costs. These energy transitions will probably occur over the next few hundred years so energy projections will need to cover a few hundred years and will need to be updated as new information becomes available. Thus, both political parties need to agree on the basics to give continuity and some hope of success.
2. Transition to a stable population: The amount of energy available and energy efficiency (1/energy intensity) determine national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, the GDP/capita in dollars per person per year also depends upon population. If the population grows faster than the energy supply at a given energy efficiency, the GDP/capita will drop with serious political consequences. Since changing a population requires a lot of time, we would be wise to reach and maintain a GDP/capita which we can hope to maintain with probable energy sources for many decades. A continuously growing population will require an ever increasing supply of energy to maintain a constant GDP/capita. Thus, assuming a continuously growing population is very dangerous.