OF REDLANDS, CALIFORNIA  - Founded 24 January 1895

4:00 P.M.

NOVEMBER 29, 1973

The Energy Situation

by Edward F. Dibble

Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library


The United States has a variety of energy problems. The first is the immediate problem of meeting the present energy needs. The most feasible way to meet these needs is to accelerate oil and gas exploration to develop additional supplies rapidly, even though it is recognized that from the longer range viewpoint these supplies are very limited.

In point of time the next step would be to accelerate the production of coal and use it for the generation of energy under conditions that have a minimal adverse environmental impact.

Also, development work should proceed to develop gas from coal to replace natural gas as it becomes depleted.

In the longer range, the energy needs of the United States should be met by the development of breeder reactors to provide heat energy to generate electricity. Also, an area of great potential is to also use the heat to dissociate the ions of water to obtain hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can be used then as a substitute for natural gas and can be distributed in the vast pipeline networks which already exist. Another major advantage of using hydrogen as a fuel is that it would not cause the smog which present combustion processes do, particularly from the oxides of nitrogen which cause the brown murk experienced in California.

The United States is at the point in time where we are going to begin to make the transition from the energy base of fossil fuels to a future energy base of nuclear energy. The sooner this can come about, the sooner will we be self-sufficient as to energy sources.

Biography of the Author

Edward Fitzgerald "Jerry'' Dibble

Editor's note - Because they are unusually interesting in themselves, I  have included details of Jerry's exemplary military career as well as of his engineering career..

b. 30 May 1915, at home, Minidoka Dam (near Walcott Park), Idaho; d. 4 Dec. 1985, near Elkhorn, Yolo Co., Calif.; bur. Hillside Cemetery, Redlands, San Bernardino Co., Calif.

m. 10 Jan. 1948, at Redlands, San Bernardino Co., Calif., Florence June White Hall, as her 2nd husband, daughter of Clarence Greenleaf White and Florence Rumley Fisk, b. 21 Sept. 1911, Haiku, Maui, Hawaii, d. 3 Sept. 1970, Augusta, Kennebec Co., Maine, bur. 8 Sept., Hillside Cemetery, Redlands; 2 children.

Born on the Snake River in Idaho in 1915, Edward Fitzgerald Dibble was called Gerald by his family and Jerry by his friends. As a child, he watched the operation of the dam, powerhouse and all the big irrigation works of the Minidoka and American Falls Projects in Idaho. His father, an engineer with the Bureau of Reclamation before entering private practice, also worked on the Grand Coulee Project in Washington and on the Coolidge and Parker Dam projects in Arizona and did many of the studies for the building of Hoover Dam. The construction of Hoover Dam made a big impression on Jerry. The biggest and highest dam ever built at that time, it was constructed in a very isolated location under adverse desert conditions. Man's ability to visualize and to build something like that inspired him; nothing like it had been done on that large scale before.

Graduating from Redlands High School in 1932, Jerry studied engineering at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, for four and one half years. He graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1938. Though he liked hydraulics, he could not decide whether to work in industrial or water engineering. Acting on the suggestion he would get more experience working from start to finish on a big engineering project, he applied for a job with Holway and Neuffer, Consulting Engineers, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They were managing a $20 million project just getting under way to construct the Pensacola Dam on the Grand River in northeast Oklahoma. Starting as assistant engineer and inspector in August 1938 on the project's construction, he became the chief operator after the plant was put into operation in 1940.

Seeing this project through its planning, construction, testing and operation phases was exciting to Jerry. His experience on the job now made all the pieces of his difficult electrical and mechanical studies in college fall into place and make sense.

At Cornell Jerry had also taken ROTC as required for the first two undergraduate years. Seeing that the United States had been to war about every twenty years and on the chance that this nation would soon enter another war, he decided to stick with the ROTC program all the way through college. He felt he would rather fight as a lieutenant than doing K.P. as a ``buck private.'' He was ordered to active duty as a first lieutenant in August 1941; as he had foreseen, the United States did go to war, entering World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December that same year.

Jerry's first assignment was in a horse cavalry signal troop, but he was later assigned as executive officer to the new Sixteenth Signal Operations Battalion. It was his responsibility to organize and train these soldiers to handle all the communications for the Sixth Army headquarters in its combat operations in the Southwest Pacific, the Philippines, and ultimately Japan.

Before leaving the United States, Jerry was promoted to major and shipped out from San Francisco in September of 1943, in a big transport with about 6,000 troops. They arrived in Australia thirteen days later. From there he flew to New Guinea, where his battalion joined the Sixth Army headquarters on a little island off the coast called Goodenough Island. Under direct command of Gen. MacArthur, the Sixth Army was to participate in the Asian Pacific Theater offensive, designed to eliminate Japan's defenses barring Allied advance toward the Philippines. Alamo Force, composed of units assigned or attached to the Sixth Army, was assigned the Admiralty Islands operation. Control of the Admiralty Islands was strategic to cutting Japanese communications and supply lines to Rabaul, New Britain Island, and to protecting Allied advance into the open waters leading to the Philippines. The Alamo Force was commanded by Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger.

Jerry accompanied the First Cavalry Division to help them land in the Admiralty Islands. Gen. MacArthur moved up a landing scheduled for April 1, 1944, to February 29 on Negros Island, at the eastern end of the Admiralty Islands, believing that the island was lightly held. Upon landing, the troops discovered that in fact thousands of Japanese manned the island. But the attack took the Japanese by surprise, and they were unable to organize an effective resistance. Two days later Gen. MacArthur upgraded the reconnaissance to a complete occupation.

Jerry's next scheduled landing was at Aitape, a considerable distance up the coast of New Guinea, beyond the big Japanese forces at Wewak. Because of his bad experience getting equipment distributed at the previous landing, Jerry requested two amphibious trucks, called ``Ducks,'' to be set up as a floating communications center in which they could have all of their equipment. This way, he argued, the communications equipment would not have to be unloaded and set up by hand; they could go straight into shore, landing right along with the waves of troops, and be in operation as soon as they landed. The plan was approved, and the two Ducks provided. They installed a sort of house inside the Ducks with all the radio gear. Under each front deck, they placed a little field telephone switchboard; under the back decks, they mounted a power unit. The amphibious trucks became complete communications centers, executing their test run without capsizing.

Unknown to Jerry, many of Gen. MacArthur's signal officers observed the outcome of this landing from the Sixth Army headquarters. These officers and the Sixth Army people had put together a betting pool as to the time communications would be opened with headquarters during the landings. Communications traffic from the Ducks began twenty minutes earlier than the earliest time wagered. The next landing up the coast at Hollandia came in twenty-four hours later than expected. From then on, the Signal Corps was provided with this same kind of equipment for landings throughout the Southwest Pacific.

Promoted to task force signal officer for a large task force, Jerry participated in several large assault landings in New Guinea and the Philippines over the next year. He was responsible for task force communications and for coordination of Army-Navy-Air Force communications for their joint operations in New Guinea and Dutch East Indies. Jerry was one of fewer than 100 men present when Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita laid his sword on the table at Baguio, Luzon, surrendering all the remaining Japanese troops in the Philippines to Gen. Wainright and Gen. Sir Robert Percival. Before Japan's surrender, Jerry participated in planning for the big landings at the southern end of Japan, which was to be in the fall of 1945. He was now assistant army signal officer for the Sixth Army under Gen. Kreuger in the Philippines and Japan, having been promoted to lieutenant colonel in this position. Fortunately, the landing never took place.

Part of the occupation forces into Japan, Jerry was appalled at the destruction of their cities. The installation of a communications system in Japan took him throughout the south half of Japan to places such as Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Jerry did not stay long in Japan. He returned to the United States December 20, 1945, having been oversees almost two years and three months.

Jerry was decorated three times for exceptional planning, preparation and direction of the communications of the Sixth Army operation, receiving the Bronze Star Medal, the Oak Leaf Cluster and the Legion of Merit. His citation for this last medal reads,

For exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services in the Southwest Pacific Area and Japan, from 10 April to 1 December 1945. As Executive Officer, 16th Signal Operation Battalion, Colonel Dibble exhibited outstanding ingenuity and a broad knowledge of all phases of signal communications in solving many complex problems incident to the efficient maintenance of vital communication networks within the Sixth Army. He most capably devised urgently needed, packaged, power equipment, and, through painstaking research, provided for the necessary modification of very high frequency transmitters to insure noise-free operation. Exercising unusual foresight and sound judgment, he most efficiently directed the installation of eight vitally needed Diesel powered electric generators to replace twenty-four lower capacity units in order to insure the successful operation of the Army Communications Center and, in addition, resourcefully modified salvaged two and one-half ton truck chassis into trailers which enabled the mobile operation of power units. Subsequently as Assistant Signal Officer, Sixth Army, Colonel Dibble supervised the initial installation and operation of all types of signal communications during the landing and movement of the Army to occupational objectives in Japan. In order to augment inadequate Japanese wire communications, he most capably installed the Radio Relay Link System, undertaking personal air reconnaissance to assist in the accurate determination of terrain features and roads. Through his exceptional professional skill, and unremitting devotion to duty, Colonel Dibble made a conspicuous contribution to the success of the Sixth Army in combat and during the occupation of Japan.

After the war, Jerry became a Reserve Commissioned Officer, Officers' Reserve Corps, December 22, 1952. He held a mobilization assignment in the Strategic Communications Command, which is involved in both specialized and worldwide communications. Jerry was promoted to full colonel, June 3, 1957, and continued to serve in the Reserves until May 7, 1974.

When he was released from the Army, Jerry returned to his home in Redlands, California (December 29, 1945), to reacquaint himself with his family, whom he had not seen for almost three years. In 1946 he accepted a job as engineer for the San Bernardino Valley Conservation District, which has its office in Redlands, California.

Prior to serving in World War II, his experience on the design, construction and operation of the Pensacola Dam involved the mechanical and electrical aspects of engineering. His new job with the San Bernardino Valley Conservation District involved hydrology, studying the water supply of an area. Initially much of his work was in the field, measuring water levels in wells in the San Bernardino Valley to determine the water supply stored in the ground water basin underlying the valley. He eventually would testify as an expert in many major water-rights litigations. He held this job until 1972.

As a consulting engineer, Jerry had his office in Redlands. His activities centered primarily in the field of water and power, including water supply, pumping, power, irrigation, basin hydrology, water rights investigations, contract negotiations, engineering economics, studies and reports for regulatory agencies, appraisals and evaluations of water facilities and water rights. From 1946 to 1955, his clients grew to include six water districts, forty water companies, as well as numerous municipalities, all in the Southern California area.

In 1961, Jerry became secretary-manager of the San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency, the month the agency was created following authorization by the Legislature. He performed studies of available water supplies and future water requirements and financing thereof. He participated in the negotiation with the State of California for a water-supply contract from the State Water Project. He held this position for eight years.

By 1965 his clients ranged from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (U.S. Department of Interior) to the Bank of America, many cities, ranches, water districts and water companies within southern California, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation, Oregon, and the Hualapai Indian Tribal Council, Arizona. This lengthy list grew to include many others outside California.

Jerry's first work in the Pacific Northwest was in 1959 for The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, performing studies related to lease of power sites on the Deschutes River to Portland General Electric Company. At that time only a small portion of the reservation was served with either electricity or telephone service. In subsequent years, he worked to provide electric and telephone service to tribal members throughout the reservation.

Jerry continued as consulting engineer with The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation. Of the many projects on which he worked with the Tribes, there were two special ones which he was pleased to see completed. He investigated the dismantling of a steam generating power plant at Fairbanks, Alaska, in order to transport their four turbines down to Warm Springs to re-erect and use at the Warm Springs Forest Products, Inc. mill. In addition, he had been actively involved in the lease negotiation for the Round Butte and Pelton Projects. In 1977 he instituted studies of the feasibility of a hydroelectric project to be built by the Tribes themselves on the Deschutes River. Subsequently the tribal members in a referendum approved construction of the $30 million project. Jerry served as the project manager; the project (dam and powerhouse) was completed on schedule in June of 1982. At the opening ceremony, The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation made Jerry an honorary member of the Tribes and presented him with an authentic chief's war bonnet. The bonnet of bald eagle feathers was returned to the Tribes in 1986 and is now in a museum on the reservation.

With Jerry's awareness of water's vast importance in California, he became increasingly involved on the state level in issues relating to water supply. Some of these areas included: Engineering Advisory Committee to the State Department of Water Resources on Investigation of the Feather River Project and Alternative Aqueduct Systems to Southern California; President and Director, California Water Resources Association (first known as the Feather River Project Association); Vice Chairman, Water Problems Department of the California Farm Bureau Federation.

By 1985, Jerry was registered with the State of California as a mechanical, electrical, civil and agricultural engineer; in addition, he was registered in the State of Oregon as an electrical engineer.

In 1967 he was appointed by Governor Reagan to the new California Water Resources Control Board. This entity is responsible for the supervision and control of water rights and water pollution control in California. Jerry served as vice chairman until 1972. In 1972 he served as chairman of an ad hoc committee representing the governors and/or water quality administrators of about thirty states to negotiate with Congress on the Clean Water legislation of 1972. He resigned in April of 1973.

Jerry married June White Hall in January of 1948. She brought into their marriage two daughters and with Jerry's help added a son and another daughter. June had moved to Redlands with her family as a very young child. After her graduation from Redlands High School a year too young for college, she traveled to Europe in 1927 with her mother and attended the Garland School of Homemaking in Boston, Massachusetts, before enrolling at Scripps College in Claremont, California. She received a bachelor's degree in 1932 and was president of her graduating class. She had a deep concern for children and served for many years with the Redlands Day Nursery, where a children's sculpture and fountain was erected in her honor after her death. She was also active in the Trinity Episcopal Church, P.E.O., the Community Music Association, Community Chest and Delphian Society, all in Redlands. She also had a love for sailing since childhood.

Jerry also found himself involved in many community issues ranging from civil defense to the Air Pollution Control Rules and Regulations Committee, the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club, and as senior warden of the Trinity Episcopal Church.

In addition to being a consulting engineer, Jerry considered himself a farmer. He inherited the citrus grove originally held by his grandfather and father, adding to it adjacent parcels of land, until he owned 26 acres of grapefruit and oranges. In 1977 he sold to a housing developer all but 0.86 acres on which his house on Fern Avenue was situated. He enjoyed flying and considered sailing and photography his hobbies. Family vacations in the 1950s and 1960s were taken at Newport Beach or Balboa Island.

On December 4, 1985, while flying his own plane enroute to Warm Springs, Oregon, he died when the plane crashed in a walnut orchard, after clipping the top of a cottonwood tree along the Sacramento River. He was attempting an instrument landing at the Sacramento Metropolitan Airport at 10:30 p.m. in dense fog and rain, something he had performed numerous times. A thorough investigation of the remains of his single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza did not reveal any mechanical malfunction. He had held a pilot's license since 1943.

The Energy Situation

The history of the development of the United States is a fascinating story. The standard of living and the gross national product have outdistanced that of other countries. One of the primary ways this has been accomplished was by the intensive use of energy to do for man far more than he could otherwise do just with his own human energy. This has progressed to the point that the United States, which has about six percent of the world's population, uses about 35 percent of the world's annual energy consumption.

Being a large country, these energy demands have grown to a point where they are enormous. Also, the growth in demand which has been about three or four percent per year has been accelerating somewhat.

In the early years of mankind, he used wood and then later coal for his source of heat and energy. The development of hydroelectric power during the last century provided an excellent source of additional energy.

The development of the fossil fuels, oil, gas and coal, have, however, provided the bulk of the energy being used in the United States in more recent years, now being about 95 percent. ~

At the time I decided to prepare this paper for Fortnightly Club there still seemed to be very little public appreciation of the magnitude of the approaching problem.

Within California the power companies retained the Stanford Research Institute to make a study and a report on how to meet California's energy requirements for the next 25 years. When their report was issued six months ago setting forth the magnitude of the problem and showing the need for early action, the newspapers gave it only brief coverage. But worse, the newspapers gave the report almost the back-of-the-hand treatment, implying that this was merely a report intentionally biased to justify more nuclear power plants. This also was the reaction of some of the ardent eco-freaks.

The various utility companies, in my opinion, were careful in their statements not to misrepresent the situation, but they continually made the point, wherever and whenever possible, that further delays in building power plants and obtaining additional energy would cause shortages within a very few years.

Soon after that some of the oil companies announced the likelihood of being unable to deliver sufficient gasoline and oil to meet the growing demands. They therefore instituted a program of slightly reduced allocation to customers.

I was amazed at the cynical reaction of many people who jumped to the conclusion that this was merely a purposely contrived and manipulated situation to force out the independent service stations, or to raise prices, or to scare the public and government into approving other actions. People did not seem to understand how marginal was the balance of supply and the need for early corrective actions.

However, since then, the latest war in the Mideast erupted between the Arabian countries and Israel. This time the Arabian countries, as a pressure move against allies of Israel, announced and rapidly implemented a cutoff of deliveries of oil to the United States and some other countries and a reduction of deliveries to others. This act served to clearly widen the deficit between supply and demands.

Also, it served to finally bring home to the public that a problem of major proportions exists. It probably also serves to make it possible to get public acceptance, and to over-ride the opposition to some things which need to be done, such as building the Alaska pipeline to bring oil from the North Slope and to resume drilling off the California coast, such as near Santa Barbara, to begin exploratory drilling off the Atlantic Coast, to allow building of additional refineries and power plants.

Nuclear power, which is the late comer in development, now only provides about one percent of the energy demand in the United States. However, its use is expanding rapidly.

Some people and organizations well-informed on this subject have, for several years, been pointing out that we were rapidly approaching the time when the balance between the supply and demand would get out of balance, for several reasons.

In 1968--now five years ago--the United States passed that point with oil, when the demand within the country exceeded the amount of oil produced. So from that time on the country, on balance, has had to become an importer of oil rather than an exporter. But there was almost no public awareness of this change.

The amount of oil which the United States was getting from the Arabian States at the time of the cutoff was about six to ten percent of our present oil consumption. There is no source which can provide an immediate offset to the loss of Arabian oil. However, the shortage is a small enough percentage that inevitable disruption can probably be kept to a manageable minimum by immediate measures to conserve fuel and energy.

It has been estimated that by 1980 the United States would have been getting as much as 30 to 35 percent of its oil from the Arabian countries. If the cutoff had come at that time, the disruption to our economy would have been extremely severe. So in that sense it is probably better that their cutoff came now so that remedial actions will be instituted rapidly which otherwise probably would have lagged.

An now, what about the future. Let's first look at the question of energy sources. These include:

1. Fossil fuels

2. Hydroelectric

      a. Oil

3. Nuclear - uranium

      b. Natural gas

4. Geothermal

      c. Coal

5. Solar

      d. Oil shale and tar sands

6. Wind

7. Tide

Considering just the United States and comparing the present usage rates with the available supply, the disparities are quite clear.

Natural gas accounts for 32 percent of our use but only 1-1/2 percent of the United States supply. Similarly, oil accounts for 44 percent of the use, but only a little over two percent of our supply. On the other hand, coal usage is 22 percent whereas it represents 63 percent of the supply. Similar disparities exist in the world figures. The figures clearly indicate that both gas and oil are in serious trouble.

Natural Gas

There are different opinions, but the consensus seems to be that the United States peaked out in natural gas production in 1972 and that production will continue to decline, unless the price of natural gas is allowed to more than double. If the price rose sufficiently, considerable additional deep drilling might occur which would develop some added supplies.

The Federal Power Commission studies indicate that from 1973 on the supply of natural gas, even including imports, will be essentially flat, even though demand continues to grow. This means no new customers and no increases in present uses can be assumed for the gas industry, with a growing deficit between supply and demand.

Not counting the Alaskan North Slope area, the new findings of gas have for several years been less than production, and at present usage levels it is indicated we have less than a 12-year supply of natural gas in the United States knot counting Alaska).

To import gas from overseas will require refrigerated tankers, which will cost almost $100 million each, to carry liquefied natural gas, at a greatly increased cost. Some of these are presently being constructed.


Proven reserves of oil in the world today are between 400 and 500 billions of barrels, and the annual production is about 15 billion barrels. The life of the reserves, based on current production rates, is therefore about 30 years, which is down from 40 years in 1960.

If prices of oil continue to escalate, then additional exploration drilling will occur and additional reserves will be developed, in all likelihood. However, the availability of these to the United States will depend on the attitude of the producing countries.

The supply of oil in the United States is, of course, more limited. Based on the growth rate of four percent, if the United States were forced to supply all its needs internally, it would be out of oil by 1995--only 22 years.


The reserves of coal available in the United States are sufficient to meet our energy needs for several hundred years. However, considerable additional technological development is needed to overcome the adverse environmental impacts of air and water pollution, and the despoiling of large land areas which result from present types of coal use.

It is anticipated that pilot plants will be constructed in the near future to attempt to convert the coal to gas. The gas can then be used to replace natural gas and can be transported through the present vast pipeline system which already exists to user areas.

The gasification of coal will increase the cost substantially, but it is expected that the cost of other fuels will have also been rising.

Another major problem in connection with the burning of coal is the discharge of sulfur dioxide and other compounds to the atmosphere, causing air pollution. Many different entities are working on this type of problem to find ways to minimize the adverse environmental effects. When these have been resolved, the use of coal can be expected to increase substantially. However, it will take considerable time to make the build-up of production output so this is not considered to be a solution to the immediate energy shortages.

Geothermal Energy

Development of geothermal energy is already occurring in California in two areas. An area northeast of Santa Rosa in Northern California has been under development for many years. There deep wells are drilled to a depth of several thousand feet into an area of high temperature. The high temperature body turns the water in that area into steam which is then discharged by pipeline to a steam power plant to generate electricity.

Another area which is being explored is in the Imperial Valley in Southern California. Discharge from wells there is in the form of a large amount of water accompanied with some steam. Also, the water is high-saline, causing severe corrosion problems. Exploration work is still underway together with experiments as to the feasibility of developing that area to obtain electricity from the geothermal energy.

Development of geothermal energy takes time and is costly, therefore it too is not considered as a solution to the immediate energy shortage problems. However, in the longer range periods, it can add a minor percentage of energy to help meet the longer range needs, but it does not have the potential to meet the massive needs of the future.

Solar Energy

Solar energy can be utilized, such as for heating of homes. However, provision must be made for an alternate energy source to provide heat during periods of long overcast. As a result, this type of energy will probably turn out to be expensive because of providing alternate sources. Much work needs to be done to develop workable systems.

There is also some consideration being given to the use of solar batteries, such as are used to collect energy in some of the earth satellites and to convert it into electricity. These have the same short-coming of needing an alternate source of energy during periods of overcast.


Nuclear energy is a source which should be considered as having the greatest potential to meet the long-range needs of the United States. The known reserves of uranium are comparatively limited and would only last to about the end of this century if used for the present types of nuclear power plants.

However, the breeder reactor is presently under development. The breeder reactor is, as its name implies, a manufacturer of additional nuclear fuel. If this type of process can be developed so that it can become a practical operating process, it will then be possible for the United States to become self-sufficient in energy sources to meet its long-range needs. Some of the scientists working in this field feel that such a development can be made at costs which will compare favorably with the higher costs of fuel that are already beginning to be experienced. It seems evident that the United States should push their development work in this field as rapidly as practicable.

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