Energy problems are now being largely ignored, despite their continuing importance. The near-disappearance of energy from the U.S. public agenda is apparent in the scant attention given to energy topics by the media and by public figures. Some suggestions for governmental action were stimulated by the rise in gasoline prices in the Spring of 1996, but the matter was treated as a short-term anomaly -- not as a harbinger of more severe difficulties to come. This lack of long term concern is perhaps natural, because fuel supplies are generally ample and prices are still relatively low, with the real cost of gasoline in 1994 only one half the cost in 1981. However, we believe that neglect of potential future difficulties is highly imprudent. We summarize below the considerations that lead us to this conclusion. (This Background Paper was prepared by members of the Panel on Public Affairs of the American Physical Society. It is meant to reflect the considerations that underlie the Statement on "Energy: the Forgotten Crisis" issued by the American Physical Society. This paper has not been reviewed by the Society.)



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