President Bush has called for a 22% increase in federal grants for research and development of alternative energy. Unfortunately, the world thirst for oil is growing, not reducing. One of the major problems of transition to alternative energy is that higher oil and gas prices stimulate the economy through increased employment of industry workers and service and supply companies who support the oil industry, and from oil company profits which keep stocks lucrative on Wall Street. So, as prices rise, companies and employees and contractors are not always inclined to look for alternatives. But if oil production starts declining as some scientist and oil executives predict, we may face major supply problems, especially when it comes to transportation–cars, aircraft, trains and boats for which we have no ready alternative to petroleum-based fuels.
Cambridge Energy Research Associates speculate that oil will peak sometime after 2020, but a number of oil geologists and executives predict it will happen much sooner. According to a controversial new model developed by a Swedish physicist, global oil production will peak sometime between next year and 2018 and then decline. While the amount of new technologies and infrastructures that need to be developed and built is staggering, corporation after corporation is springing up around the world, helped by various governments’ tax breaks and rebate incentives, to drive forward the alternative energy mission.
Alternative or “green” energy becoming more profitable to investors and would-be employers, and the continued trouble-brewing in the Middle East, Nigeria, and other areas of importance to the oil-driven economy have made it clear to Americans that we are in need of developing new avenues of energy supply and production. Further, allegations that petrochemical processing and usage contribute to global warming are creating a world-populace demand for a switch to alternative forms of energy to decrease damage to the atmosphere.
Viable energy sources currently being developed, that can act as alternatives to mammoth amounts of oil and coal, include biofuels from things like corn, sugar cane, and soybeans, refined hydroelectric technology, natural gas, hydrogen fuel cells, the further building of atomic energy plants, the continued development of solar energy photovoltaic cells, more research into wind-harnessed power.
The most recently developed wind-turbine technologies have brought wind-produced energy which is more cost efficient as well as, typically, more market competitive with conventional energy technologies. Solar cell, or photovoltaic cell, technologies are already implemented in pocket calculators, private property lights, US Coast Guard buoys, and other areas. Because costs are falling, solar cells are becoming more common on the roofs of housing and commercial buildings and building complexes. Their energy efficiency (the ratio of the amount of work needed to cause their energy production versus the actual energy production) is steadily on the rise.
Photovoltaic cells create absolute zero pollution while generating electrical power. However, photovoltaic cells are not presently as cost effective as “utility produced” electricity. “PV” cells are not capable at present of producing industrial-production amounts of electricity.
Alternative energies derived from currents, tidal movement, and temperature differentials are poised to become a new and predominant form of clean energy. Some concerns for such energies have centered around the problems with the deterioration of metals in salt water, marine growth such as barnacles, and violent storms which have been problems in the past. However, these problems, for the most part, have been resolved through the use of different, better materials. Ocean-produced energy has a huge advantage because the timing of ocean currents and waves are well understood and reliable.