There's a lot of buzz these days about "The Hydrogen Fuel Cell Future," including thoughts about how we'll get the energy needed to create the hydrogen fuel that millions of us will pump into our hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles.
We can't exactly build a pipeline to the sun to use the ample stores of hydrogen there, so we'll have to develop our hydrogen supplies the hard way, and that means having other energy sources to create our hydrogen fuel source. Additionally, overall electricity use is projected to rise, which suggests the need for increased generating capacity---i.e. we'll need more power plants. The current focus of some energy planners is on reviving the building program for nuclear power plants.
It's been a couple of decades since anyone seriously tried to get a new nuclear power plant approved. Incidents like those at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl have made the public wary of building more nuclear power plants in the United States. The problems of nuclear waste disposal and the threat of terrorists targeting nuclear power plants adds to the hesitancy.
The political debate may seem a little abstract right now, but there is a practical question that can be asked: "Would I rather see energy
efficiency and conservation increase over the next 20 years, or would I rather have a new nuclear power plant built in my town?" Except for the clinically insane and that X-Files guy who fed off radiation, the votes come in strongly against the Backyard Nuclear Program. Granted, nuclear power plants rarely leak radiation, but the nuclear waste problem and the threat of terrorist attacks seem like reason enough to leave fission-based nuclear energy on the road to elimination.
No one really wants a coal-fired power plant in their neighborhood either because of coal's pollution problems. "Clean coal" technologies exist and hold some promise for the future, but they are currently too expensive to be implemented widely. Natural gas is cleaner than coal but still causes some level of pollution and global-warming gases, and natural-gas price fluctuations have been a problem recently. And we all know about that dependence-on-foreign-oil thing, so building more oil-fired power plants isn't a good solution either
These facts make the argument for increasing energy efficiency and conservation even stronger, and also make obvious the need for more investment in renewable energy technologies like wind, solar, and wave/tidal power.