The Energy Series – Helping the Public Better Understand Energy Issues

Episode 5 with Michal Moore

Michal Moore is Area Director of Energy and Environmental Policy at The School of Public Policy as well as a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Energy, both affiliated with the University of Calgary. He is the former Chief Economist at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado and a former regulatory commissioner with the California Energy Commission.


There are many popular misconceptions surrounding energy issues. Some people, for instance, believe we will soon run out of oil. In this enlightening interview, Professor Michal Moore argues that this is not likely to happen for another 200 years. We’re unlikely to wean ourselves off of oil anytime soon either, despite what some would like, because of its many advantages: It’s convenient, cheap, and has a very high energy density.

People don’t like oil because they see it as dirty. Nuclear power, which Moore calls the cleanest form of energy we’ve got, has a different image problem. “We have to overcome a public perception—not necessarily knowledge, but a perception—that it’s either evil, or that it’s going to fall into the hands of terrorists, and they’re going to produce bombs as a result of it.”

Surveys of Canadians and Americans also show that people are unaware of where their electricity comes from. They would like to think it comes from renewables. “The perception is that it’s out there, I can get it, and it’s cost effective,” says Moore, “when in fact the wind doesn’t blow all the time; it’s blowing mostly at night when we’re not using that power; solar is only available during hours of sunlight—and they’re very expensive.” Even aside from cost considerations, he estimates that at most 35% of our total electrical load could be covered by such intermittent sources.

As for hydro power, Moore points out that it got started when land was cheap or free, or governments could easily displace people who could not fight back. There are not many more big hydro projects going up today. On the other hand, small-scale projects that simply generate electricity from normal river currents can be attractive for communities near those rivers and far from other sources of power.

Links of interest: Michal Moore at the University of Calgary

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