A new national debate now appears virtually certain in the wake of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)- and reformulation-driven U.S. gasoline prices and the jump in natural gas to $4.70/million Btu, twice last year's price.

And with energy analyst expectations that heating oil prices will be high this coming winter, reflecting low supplies and other factors, energy policy debate is expected to intensify and to be enormously complicated.

Unlike the OPEC cut-off of oil supplies to the U.S in the '70s — accompanied by predictions that world reserves of oil would be drained in 20 years, this time it's not a matter of how much energy is available but rather the type, cost and many other factors.

Renewables, gas, oil, nuclear, wind, hydro, solar and all manner of innovative energy sources will be on the table for dissection by sociologists, economists, environmentalists, conservationists, isolationists, internationalists and an army of industry, government, academic and social groups seeking attention to their agendas.

The central question, of course, will be how all the pieces can be put together in the public's best interest for the long term — regardless of which groups can muster the most lobbying horsepower.

When this monumental question was put to a number of WEVTU contacts, the most meaningful answer pointed to the organization that has served the nation since 1863, above the level of politics, lobbying, purchased influence and special interests: The National Academy of Sciences, whose terms of incorporation are to “advise the government without compensation beyond actual expenses.”

The wisdom of scientifically pure, neutral advisors will be needed to penetrate the core issues such as conservation versus development of more energy of what type in what order of priority. Such a task could well test the national resolve to do what is best rather than what can be “sold” by the best-organized and funded interest groups.