A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Unwelcome Sequel to “Erin Brockovich”

Cheap energy may take toll on progress

The Energy Department released its annual pre-report report on Thursday. And perhaps lost in the 12-page dry-as-ice pdf was what it may portend for the future of green technology and the environment.

The report, which previewed what the Energy Department plans to say in its annual report in March, predicted that the cost of our utilities would remain low through 2035.

While holding the line on the costs of natural gas, oil and electricity sounds like a good thing, in reality, it’s more bane than benefit.

That’s because lower utility prices today and in the near future will likely retard the economic and environmental imperative for developing alternative energy sources like solar, wind or nuclear power.

Of course, there are a few caveats worth noting. First and foremost, it’s a prediction made by a branch of the federal government (insert your own punch line here). Without being too flip or cavalier about the government, suffice to say it has struggled in the prediction business the past decade or so (see weapons of mass destruction, the housing bubble and 15 million unemployed).

So, like most predictions – and especially ones with a 25-year time horizon – it should not be viewed as inviolate. The report also goes heavily against current and conventional thinking with regards to future energy costs. Nor does it account for limits on greenhouse gas emissions in the form of a cap-and-trade law or any other kind of limits (see the Cancun Agreement this year and Durban, South Africa next year) that would surely raise prices.

Those higher prices may help to offset the environmental costs down the road.