I don't know if we're the last to figure it out or if those who squeak the loudest insist there are no alternatives.
Wind is plentiful and, though the pay-off time for turbines is still measured in years (but not decades), they're producing electricity that can be sold profitably at $0.03 [three CENTS] per kilowatt hour. I'm paying 12 cents, now (approx).
Ethanol was given a bad rap because we used CORN as a feedstock. The up-side there is that the ethanol production infrastructure has begun to be built. Down-side: CORN has better uses and is mediocre (at best) as an ethanol feedstock. Switchgrass is much better, grows on land where high-profit, high-cost crops like corn will NOT grow and can yield the necessary sugars by standard malting and mashing prior to fermentation.
A recent article discussed exploitation of a gawd-awfully HUGE power-source in the Atlantic (name escapes me but it's basically a constant current of water - kind of like the sub-oceanic equivalent of the jet-stream).
Algae is always making new in-roads as a fuel feedstock, particularly for SVO (straight veggie oil) and/or biodiesel. It produces hundreds times more oil per acre than corn.
The U.S. leads the world in "tri-gen" technology - one system generates 3 sources of power: heat, electricity and cold.
In the end, I believe geo-thermal offers the best hope, and the U.S. is disproportionately gifted there, as well, with huge areas of shallow-crust regions where thermal vents are venting as we speak, ready for exploitation. But, of course, the "slightly out there" prospects such as digging a geothermal well affordably using solar-powered lasers is gaining credibility.
Look for a combination of solutions as opposed to a single, catch-all cure for all our energy needs.
I think we're doin' alright if we just stay upbeat and charm the nay-sayers who insist we remain enslaved to the only thing we know.
· 1 decade ago