In the United States, like much of the world, the primary sources used to meet energy demand has shifted over time. In a historical context, petroleum has only been king of the energy sphere for a short period of time. Nuclear power is the youngest of today’s top 5 energy resources, only making its appearance on stage within the last few decades. And, while wood no longer provides the vast majority of the country’s primary energy, it still plays a significant role in meeting energy demand.
In 1978, George Newall and Jack Sheldon paired up to create and perform the 32nd episode of School House Rock. With a total length of just 2 minutes and 55 seconds, “The Energy Blues” steps viewers through the historic shifts in primary energy consumption trends. The episode also communicates a theme of conservation, with a planet earth character singing about how society should save energy in order to stretch out the lifespan of its energy resources.
Sometimes I think I’m runnin’ out of energy
Seems like we use an awful lot for
Heatin’ and lightin’ and drivin’
Readin’ and writin’ and jivin’
Energy … You’d think we’d be savin’ it up.
Energy … You can get it by dammin’ up a river
Energy … A windmill can make the breeze deliver
But even with millin’ and dammin’
Our needs are so much more demanding
For energy … We have to use some kind of fuel.
Chop, chop, chop, the cavemen used wood to start their fires.
Chop, chop, chop, they made all the tools that they required.
Chop, chop, chop, inventions got more and more inspired.
The fires got higher and higher,
And clearings got wider and wider.
Energy … They were burnin’ ’bout all their wood up.
Then one day men discovered that coal would do it better
Miners dug, and it looked like it might just last forever.
It seemed like the final solution.
It started the Industrial Revolution.
Energy … We could just keep on diggin’ it up.
Now in 1859 – way out in western Pennsylvania -
A man had built a rig that got some laughs from folks who came there
But suddenly, a mighty roar came up from under the ground.
And soon a gusher, gushin’ oil, soaked all who stood around.
Now no-one knew, when that gusher blew,
The petroleum years were on us,
Or that so many cars and trucks would come to cause a crisis.
Energy … We’re looking to try and find some new kinds.
Energy … Exploring to try and make a new find.
Nuclear and thermal and solar,
If we miss we’ll get colder and colder.
Energy … We’ve gotta stop usin’ you up.
So don’t be cross when momma says turn that extra light out.
Just turn it off till we find us a fuel that never runs out.
If everyone tries a bit harder,
Our fuel will go farther and farther.
Energy … We’re gonna be stretchin’ you out.
Photo Credit: Graph of U.S. Primary Energy Sources over time from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.