In 1973, Americans woke up to find Saudi Arabia embargoed oil exports to the U.S. There were gas lines under smog-streaked skies in Los Angeles. The embargo came after conventional U.S. oil production peaked in 1970, making the nation increasingly dependent upon oil imports. Later that decade, natural gas shortages developed. Gas deliveries were curtailed to keep heat on during winter. The Iranian revolution in 1979 brought another oil embargo. It all led President Jimmy Carter to deliver his ill-fated \u201csweater\u201d speech--in an appeal for energy conservation--before being defeated at the polls. Last week, an International Energy Agency report signaled the U.S. was on the cusp of an oil and gas boom. It begs the question of whether history will repeat itself. Will we use the new fossil fuel wisely, or squander it as we\u2019ve did decades ago? Throughout the 1970s, energy shortages whipsawed the economy. They contributed to sluggish stagflation that ended in deep recession in the early 1980s when the national unemployment rate peaked at almost 11 percent. It all played out against the backdrop of scientists warning about the limits to growth and resource depletion. Leaders responded--especially in California. Here, lawmakers formed the California Energy Commission to plan the state\u2019s energy future. Gov. Jerry Brown--the first time around--used the commission and policy levers to promote energy efficiency, solar energy to make electricity and heat water, and alternative fuels for transportation. At the federal level, Congress passed the Energy Policy & Conservation Act in 1975 calling for the first automotive mileage standards. The federal government formed the Department of Energy in 1977. Later in 1978, lawmakers passed the Natural Gas Policy Act, under which the wellhead price of natural gas was deregulated to provide producers an incentive for more gas development. It all seemed to work. By the mid-1980s oil and gas production had picked up in the U.S. At the same time fuel efficiency, conservation, and alternative energy cut marginal demand. The economy improved dramatically. America\u2019s decade of stagnation and angst over resource shortages faded in the rearview mirror. Interest in renewable energy faded too, even in California where a nascent solar energy industry went into decline. Instead of using the newfound energy to build toward a sustainable economy based on more renewable energy, motorists turned to gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles, shunning the small cars built in the 1980s. Big, luxurious vehicles to drive from new air conditioned homes that sprawled across hot inland areas far from employment centers were in demand. Rather than fueling a transition to renewable energy, cheaper oil and gas simply fueled McMansions and Hummers. Then in the first decade of this new millennium it went awry again. California experienced the 2000-01 energy crisis, with its brownouts during heat waves. While it did not necessarily stem from a physical shortage of energy, it hurt the state\u2019s economy. Later natural gas prices spiked, as did oil prices. In the background was a murmur about peak oil and resource depletion. Eventually, the economy fell into deep recession. California responded again, as did other states and the federal government. Policy makers pressed renewable energy, efficiency, alternative fuels, and better mileage in vehicles. Meanwhile, at higher prices, the oil and gas industry put to work new technologies to begin tapping previously unrecoverable oil and natural gas in shale, deep water, and tar sands. Now, the International Energy Agency predicts that technology will turn the U.S. over the decade ahead into an oil and natural gas exporter. Some of the fossil fuel is being produced right here in California as drillers use the new technology to squeeze more out of oil and gas fields previously thought to be depleted. They\u2019re even exploring how to tap new areas, like the Monterey Shale in Kern & Monterey Counties. The flood of fossil energy casts doubt. Will state policy makers and utilities stay the course in transitioning to renewable energy, net zero energy buildings, and electric cars? As domestic oil and gas become more abundant and the economy recovers--as in the 1980s--consumers are likely to become less concerned about energy. This stands to dramatically change the playing field of public opinion for policy makers even in California. It\u2019s clear that policy makers will face pressure to back off from higher cost renewable energy and energy efficiency measures in the face of more abundant fossil fuel. It\u2019s also clear that oil and gas could experience volatile downswings in price from time to time--as already has been the case with natural gas--making it all the more tempting to delay the transition to renewable energy. Over the next decade it\u2019s going to take backbone for state leaders to complete the job they\u2019ve set out to do. They\u2019ll have to marshal the new fossil fuel supplies to advance the transition to renewable energy, rather than allowing them to be siphoned off for a resumption of energy consuming sprawl and big vehicles. If they do, California will become the world\u2019s first sustainable economy, ready for the difficult-to-predict, but inevitable, boom-and-bust of fossil fuel. Fossil fuel is a finite resource. If we wait until it runs out, it\u2019ll be impossible to transition to renewable energy on the mass scale needed to sustain even the semblance or our lifestyle.