In his column, "Overconfidence Could Revive the Energy Crunch" (Jan. 19), John F. Lawrence is correct in his assertion that the gains from energy conservation and efficiency, both of which played a key role in softening the demand for oil, are often fragile and temporary.
But he overlooks another major factor in creating the current oil glut, one whose effects are longer lasting and more dependable--the displacement of oil by other fuels, chiefly coal-fired and nuclear-generated electricity both here and abroad.
Unfortunately, however, there is a continued decline in planned construction of coal plants in the United States, and the only nuclear plants under construction are those so far along that they cannot be cancelled. This industry has been declared dead, even by many of its supporters.
Absent new construction of non-oil capacity, unexpected increases in electricity demands are apt to be met with oil-fired generation--the large oil burners that make up most of the current electric reserve margin, co-generation (often oil-fired), and small combustion oil--or gas-fired turbines that can be built quickly with little capital outlay.