> Well, maybe not as suddenly. I don't expect that one day all the oil
> out and people will stop their cars on the Beltway and walk home.
Not unless governments intervene in the market to hold prices down as
supplies run out.
> something like the 1974 crisis could easily occur again.
Not so easily. OPEC has essentially collapsed. The MidEast (and other) oil
countries anticipated that prices would remain strong and overspent. They
will have to keep the oil (and cash) flowing just to pay their bills. This
situation will continue for the foreseeable future. Again, the most likely
cause for a catastrophic situation would be government interventions to try
to avoid them.
> But currently, the
> amount of installed solar/wind power is miniscule. I assume it's all
> economics, not idealism or environmentalism.
As well it should be. There are many, however, that would prefer to make
money by developing an economically viable and environmentally superior
technology. There's nothing at all wrong with that.
> Back to nuclear power: is anybody out there seriously advocating a
> return to this option? If so, why?
Hardly anyone. The public now has a paranoid hysteria rather than a healthy
respect of danger about anything nuclear (note that we have Magnetic
Resonance Imaging -- not Nuclear MRI -- entirely due to this; people would
think that they would become radioactive if it were called NMRI).
> What has fundamentally changed in the
> technology, or in the honesty of construction contractors?
Little and nothing. Why would you have expected any change in the latter,
at least until the Millenium? Note that even relatively safe research
reactors can no longer be built for any reasonable price these days. The
Advanced Neutron Source project is not at all in good health, boding ill
for the future materials research in the US.
>And what about waste
There is the new reactor technology being developed at Argonne. They claim
the reactor would reprocess its own waste (and waste from other reactors,
too, I think) to short-lived isotopes and be passively stable against
meltdown. However, since it is also a breeder reactor it has its own
particular political problems (having to do with weapons proliferation) in
addition to the ones that all reactors have.
Scatterer at Large