Josh Bolinger: Is Alternative Energy Ready?
Is alternative energy ready? Probably not. Not by a long shot.
Let’s face it, for now, fossil fuels are the majority of the energy production in the world, and they will continue to be a part of the equation for the foreseeable future.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be working on the problem. In fact, we should be working on the problem like crazy. For one thing, whatever your opinion on climate change and whether it exists or whether it is man-made, fossil fuels present all kinds of problems that we often don’t even talk about in the larger climate debate. The mining, drilling, and processing of oil and coal produce all kinds of pollution all on their own that has nothing to do with whether or not the world is getting warmer or colder or just crazier.
In all the debates on energy’s impact on the world we live in, I hardly ever hear anyone say a word about all of the water pollution that fossil fuels generate, or the mess they make on land, either. So, okay, let’s just agree that maybe fossil fuels are not ideal, and it would be a good idea to find a better way of doing things.
Sunlight is endless free energy. The sun is not going to go out for several billion years, and 500,000 times as much solar energy comes to the earth as we need to power every single electrical grid on the planet.
What are the barriers?
First, manufacturing solar cells is expensive, and they have durability issues. Second, solar energy is weather dependent (especially if we use the military habit of defining darkness as a weather condition).
So, our biggest technological hurdles are, innovating cheaper manufacturing techniques, improving long-term quality of the product, and delivery. Delivery can be addressed two ways – either global transmission, so places that have sun can power places that don’t, or a revolution in power storage technology; particularly a battery that can be manufactured without creating all kinds of toxic waste in the process, and that isn’t toxic to dispose of when used up.
So, we know where we need to invest, and where we need to direct research and innovation. All we need is the will to take action.