For the public discussion around energy to move forward, people need to turn down their anger.

“We need to start to cancel canceling,” said Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology and Tinker Energy Associates. “Simple dialogue is critical as we go forward in this conversation.”

Tinker was one of two speakers for a keynote session on May 6 at the Offshore Technology Conference, “Environmental Footprints and Economic Impacts of Energy.”

During the session, Tinker cited a recent LinkedIn discussion he was tracking on energy development and the environment. The discussion had been civil until the term “climate change denier” was used to which someone replied “energy denier.” 

“It’s going to take courage, when you see that going on, to come in and say, ‘This is a real dialogue. Let’s have it for real,’” Tinker said. 

Facts centering on the energy conversation often don’t meet the rhetoric, and many people believe that carbon-generated energy is quickly being phased out around the globe. In fact, the opposite is happening. 

Tinker pointed to the example of Germany, which shut down its last nuclear plant in April 2023. The country was forced to restart several coal-fired plants the following October. Worldwide, coal consumption set a record in 2023.

OTC: Will More Electrical Demand Bring Energy Debate Back to Reality?

Tinker said it often takes cheap energy for a nation to become rich, at which point most cultures will start using cleaner sources of power.

Fellow panelist James Bennett, a renewable energy senior adviser for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, focused on offshore wind power generation. He agreed with Tinker.

Bennett believes the wind power industry has a great potential to grow with ongoing infrastructure development in the U.S., but it will remain an intermittent source that will need to work in tandem with more reliable methods of power generation.

“These are complex problems, and the simplistic answer that you can just use wind and we can stop all fossil fuel use tomorrow is just not going to get us where we need to be,” Bennett said.

Tinker said people should stop categorizing the different sources of energy as morally good or bad. A gas-fired power plant may not be welcomed next to a new upscale neighborhood in a metropolitan neighborhood, but it could be a boon to a region where most of the population cooks its daily meal over a wood fire.

All types of energy come with trade-offs, he said. Batteries require lithium mining, solar panels break down either through age or bad weather and unrecyclable wind turbine props end up in landfills.

All the while, the world’s demand for electricity continues to grow. New sectors such as electric vehicles and data centers are springing up and will require a massive amount of new electricity. Tinker noted that power generation in the U.S. has remained largely steady for the last decade, but businesses and politicians are coming around to the idea that more is needed.

“We have been able to grow our economy without increasing electricity output, but that's going to change,” Tinker said. “Now, we're not going to electrify everything. We have to have molecules. We have to have both.”