Some of the people who could shape the energy future have a maddening aversion to playing favorites.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the U.S. presidential race, where President Barack Obama endorses “all of the above” energy strategy, the same approach, word-for-word, touted by the opposition Republican party. The GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, is a tad more specific, placing greater emphasis on the U.S. “cornucopia of carbon-based resources.”
Here are just a few examples of proposed next energy directions, as expressed by their strong advocates. How do you rate these ideas, and why? We will follow up with a look at your feedback and what the experts say about setting priorities on energy.
What’s the best next energy solution? Give your rating for the answers below and share your thoughts in the comments.
Solar Resources (Including Wind and Biofuel)
“Prices for renewable energy are decreasing constantly…Since installations producing renewable energy (in particular wind and photovoltaics) can be directly set up in those regions that need it, a widespread transmission infrastructure will be superfluous. What is more, wind and solar… do not need water for cooling and produce no emissions. The conclusion is inescapable: investments in renewable energy today are the only chance to reach a cost-effective energy supply for everyone everywhere.” —the late Hermann Scheer, member of German parliament, who spearheaded that nation’s feed-in tariff for renewable energy
Heat-Mining the Earth for Geothermal Energy
“[Enhanced Geothermal Systems are] one of the few renewable energy resources that can provide continuous base-load power with minimal visual and other environmental impacts. Geothermal systems have a small footprint and virtually no emissions, including carbon dioxide. Geothermal energy… requires no storage, and, thus, it complements other renewables…in a lower-carbon energy future. In the shorter term, having a significant portion of our base load supplied by geothermal sources would provide a buffer against the instabilities of gas price fluctuations and supply disruptions, as well as nuclear plant retirements.” —Massachusetts Institute of Technology interdisciplinary panel
Natural Gas for Transportation
“Oil monopolizes about 95 percent of the world’s transportation, and OPEC…controls nearly 80 percent of the world’s conventional oil reserves. We cannot change anything fundamental if we continue to permit oil and OPEC… to maintain their dominance…
The only realistic way to [provide competition for OPEC] is to enable vehicles, in short order and with relatively little investment in new infrastructure, to operate on alternatives to petroleum products… Cheap natural gas, which is key to ending our vehicles’ oil addiction affordably and promptly, can destroy oil’s monopoly and OPEC’s cartel.” –T. Boone Pickens, Texas oil and gas executive and investor, and R. James Woolsey, former U.S. Director of Central Intelligence
“For the next few decades, energy efficiency is one of the lowest cost options for reducing U.S. carbon emissions. When efficiency improvements [are] both properly chosen and properly executed, the projected savings of energy and money [are] indeed achieved. Too often… savings [go] unrealized, due to… poor efficiency investment decisions and shoddy workmanship… Market failures include inertia, inconvenience, ignorance, lack of financing…Regardless of what the skeptics may think, there are indeed 20-dollar bills lying on the ground all around us. We only need the will—and the ways—to pick them up.”—U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu
Research to Spur an As-Yet-Unknown “Breakthrough”
“Any proposal to fix environmental problems by turning away from technology risks worsening them, by attempting to deny the ongoing coevolution of humans and nature…The Y2K computer bug was fixed by better computer programming, not by going back to typewriters. The ozone-hole crisis was averted not by an end to air conditioning but rather by more advanced, less environmentally harmful technologies….We already have many nascent, promising technologies to overcome ecological problems. Stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions will require a new generation of nuclear power plants to cheaply replace coal plants as well as, perhaps, to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and power desalination plants to irrigate and grow forests in today’s deserts.” —Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, cofounders of the Breakthrough Institute
Photo credits, from top to bottom: Rim Rock wind farm, courtesy NatureEner; geothermal plant in Iceland, Shira Golding/Flickr; natural gas-powered UPS truck, biofriendly/Flickr; LED light bulbs, greenplasticamy/Flickr; hydrogen energy storage research, Brookhaven National Laboratory/Flickr