About Us

The Time Is Now: A Vision for U.S. Renewable Energy

Report finds America poised for a major energy shift.

September 20, 2006

Photo: Worldwatch Institute

 

American Energy: The Renewable Path to Energy Security, a report just released by the Worldwatch Institute and the Center for American Progress, details how the emerging renewable energy industries can address U.S. energy demands, national security, and the environment, as well as similar concerns around the globe.

"A new and better energy future is possible if the country can forge a compelling vision of where it wants to be."

--American Energy: The Renewable Path to Energy Security

The following is excerpted from the report's Introduction, titled "21st Century Energy."

If there was ever a time when a major shift in the U.S. energy economy was possible, it is now. Three decades of pioneering research and development by both the government and the private sector have yielded a host of promising new technologies that turn abundant domestic energy sources -- including solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, biomass, and ocean energy -- into transportation fuels, electricity, and heat.

Today, renewable resources provide just over 6 percent of total U.S. energy, but that figure could increase rapidly in the years ahead. Many of the new technologies that harness renewables are, or soon will be, economically competitive with the fossil fuels that meet 85 percent of U.S. energy needs. With oil prices soaring, the security risks of petroleum dependence growing, and the environmental costs of today's fuels becoming more apparent, the country faces compelling reasons to put these technologies to use on a large scale.

Energy transitions take time, and no single technology will solve our energy problems. But renewable energy technologies, combined with substantial improvements in energy efficiency, have the potential to gradually transform the U.S. energy system in ways that will benefit all Americans. The transition is easier to envision if you look at the way the oil age emerged rapidly and unexpectedly in the first two decades of the 20th century, propelled by technologies such as refineries and internal combustion engines and driven by the efforts of entrepreneurs such as John D. Rockefeller.

Americans today are no less clever or ambitious than their great-grandparents were. A new and better energy future is possible if the country can forge a compelling vision of where it wants to be. Recent developments in the global marketplace show the potential:

-- Global wind energy generation has more than tripled since 2000, providing enough electricity to power the homes of about 30 million Americans. The United States led the world in wind energy installations in 2005.

-- Production of electricity-generating solar cells is one of the world's fastest growing industries, up 45 percent in 2005 to six times the level in 2000.

-- Production of fuel ethanol from crops more than doubled between 2000 and 2005, and biodiesel from vegetable oil and waste expanded nearly four-fold over this period.

Global investment in renewable energy (excluding large hydropower) in 2005 is estimated at $38 billion -- equivalent to nearly 20 percent of total annual investment in the electric power sector. Renewable energy investments have nearly doubled over the past three years, and have increased six-fold since 1995. Next to the Internet, new energy technology has become one of the hottest investment fields for venture capitalists.

These dynamic growth rates are driving down costs and spurring rapid advances in technologies. They are also creating new economic opportunities for people around the globe. Today, renewable energy manufacturing, operations, and maintenance provide approximately two million jobs worldwide.

The United States will need a much stronger commitment to renewable energy if it is to take advantage of these opportunities.

This vision will become reality only if Americans come together to achieve it, mobilized behind the goal of increasing our national self-reliance and leaving a healthy environment for the next generation. The time is now.


The Worldwatch Institute, one of the partners for this report, is an independent research organization that focuses on innovative solutions to global environmental, resource, and economic issues. The other partner is the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all.

Comments

Author:
Roger Plafkin
Date Posted:
September 22, 2006
If the "Time is Now", I believe that we all are in agreement. Please view "Plafkin Farms, Ada, Michigan" on Webshots.com. We are more than willing to have wind and solar installations implemented on this property.
Roger Plafkin--1-616-676-0590--plafkin@juno.com
Author:
Yann Tanguy
Date Posted:
September 27, 2006
"The United States led the world in wind energy installations in 2005.":
Installations in US in 2005: 2.4GW
Installations in Europe in 2005: 6.1GW
Sources: EUREC website.
Comparing country by country sure it is true, but slightly misleading.
Author:
Glenn Andersen
Date Posted:
September 27, 2006
The sentiment is good. The U.S. may be poised for improvement, but there are a lot of people with vested interests in older, dirtier technologies who will fight the development of new renewable energy sources tooth and nail. The battle is just started, and the consequences of losing the war are unbelievably grim. Public education, on the way to mobilising public action, should continue. Will the forces controlling big oil, coal, and nuclear join the effort to improve the planet? Reading web sites from those industries, I think the answer, at least in the English speaking countries, is no.
Author:
Ronald Corso
Date Posted:
September 27, 2006
Why does the report make the statement "excluding large hydropower" as if it is somehow not a renewable? Large hydropower does come with enevironmental impacts, but the other benefits of dams cannot be overlooked, such as world food production, flood control, domestic and industrial water supply, etc. Without dams, there would be mass starvation in the world, yet large hydropower is treated somehow as something other than a renewable energy resource. Hopefully, the report does include hydropower in some form since it is still the most efficient renewable energy resource.
Author:
John Pfeifer
Date Posted:
September 27, 2006
Everyone should be grateful for publications like this because the majority of Americans are not up to speed on the total scope of benefits provided by renewable energy. The oil industry has enormous momentum coupled with current PR and hidden subsidities that it is going to take a major effort to turn it around. It should be made known that it now takes more energy to get oil out of the ground and to the place where it is used than the oil creates when it is burned. This is the inconvenient truth of the matter. Everyone should see the Al Gore film. And don't forget that Renewable Energy IS Homeland Security.
John Pfeifer, CEO
Apollo Solar, Inc.
Author:
E.F. (Gene) Lucas
Date Posted:
September 27, 2006
I doubt it! Alternative energy is only "hot" because oil is over $60/barrel. If Iraqi oil reserves had reached the market (and they will someday) the world would be awash in oil, and the collapse in oil prices, predicted by the experts, would be on. With oil under $30/barrel and gas at $1.25/gallon, interest in alternative energy would probably vanish - like it did in the 70's. The only way alternative energy will ever succeed is for it to be cheaper than oil and coal. Wind is already, and direct solar-thermal trough (using the hot liquid to produce heating and cooling - no grid) may soon be. Alternative energy needs to get down to $1/watt, and then it will start to take off - without taxes, rebates (taxes), incentives
(taxes), etc.
Author:
Jeff Birkby
Date Posted:
September 27, 2006
I for one am glad the report does not include large hydro as a feasible renewable resource.

A recent report from the World Commission on Dams (WCD) details the greenhouse gas emission implications of large hydro. "These are far more severe than previously thought. Basically, all reservoirs that have flooded forests are sources of greenhouse gases, often methane from rotting vegetation. Methane, however, has a global warming potential more than 20 times that of carbon dioxide by weight. The Balbina Dam in Brazil is estimated to produce about eight times the GHG emissions per year as a fossil fuel plant generating an equivalent amount of electricity. So, the "conventional wisdom" that large-scale hydro is a clean technology from a climate perspective is clearly wrong."
Author:
Sean K. Barry
Date Posted:
September 27, 2006
Hi Jeff Birkby,

I accept your analysis that rotting vegetation under the water in large resevoirs produces substantial greenhouse gas emissions (CH4 and CO2, etc.)

There is a solution to this problem. If the vegetation on "to-be-flooded" land is denuded by burning and burying the charcoal, then it will stay. The half-life of charcoal in the soil is measured in thousands of years! (See Terra Preta De Indio soils). If the biomass were gasified rather than burned (a co-product of gasification is charcoal), then the off-gas (synthesis gas) could be used as a fuel and the charcoal (~30% of the carbon in the original biomass) could still be buried. The best solution of all would be to harvest all of the biomass from the "to-be-flooded" land, convert it to gaseous fuel (or liquid fuels, like methanol) and charcoal, then use the charcoal as a soil amendment in the land surrounding the resevoir. Charcoal is a tremendous soil amendment (again, see Terra Preta De Indio soils).
Author:
Sean K. Barry
Date Posted:
September 27, 2006
Hi E.F.Lucas

Oil, coal, and nuclear power currently receive much larger subsidies than any of the alternative energy sources. On a level playing field (i.e. no subsidies for anyone, taxes on the public, incentives for corporation, tax relief for corporations, etc.) and a true costing of things like pollution, national security, carbon emissions, land remdiation, etc, then 21st century Alternative Energy sources could easily compete against oil, coal, and nuclear energy.

The big footprints of the 20th century energy industry will cost us dearly in the 21st century.
Alternative Energy in the 21st century is THE ONLY WAY to reduce those costs. The 20th century energy industry has to be made to play fair and be accountable for the mess they put us into, also.
Author:
Brian Ballek
Date Posted:
September 29, 2006
In response to E.F. (Gene) Lukas' comment about Iraqui oil reserves someday reaching the market and dramatically reducing the price of oil and gasoline: don't forget the law of supply and demand. Iraq's oil reserves *will* reach the market someday. But in the meantime, the demand from countries like India and China will increase exponentially. They will easily absorb what Iraq can produce and come back for more. This is why the experts today are NOT predicting a reduction in oil prices, but rather just the opposite.

 


Copyright 1999-2006 RenewableEnergyAccess.com - All rights reserved.