It should come as no surprise that in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, there has been a renewed push by environmental activists to embrace renewable energy options.
In a recent blog post, Richard Heinberg, senior fellow-in-residence at the Post Carbon Institute, discusses the root of the problem: America’s addiction to oil. Heinberg argues that without access to cheap oil, “our industrial food system – from tractor to supermarket – shifts from feast to famine mode; our entire transportation system sputters to a halt. We even depend on oil to fuel the trains, ships, and trucks that haul the coal that supplies half our electricity. We make our computers from oil-derived plastics. Without oil, our whole societal ball of yarn begins to unravel.”
Indeed, a recent post on Renewableenergy.com notes that although initial reactions to the spill included shock and disgust, for many the proposed way forward is to make oil drilling itself less risky, not to look for fuel alternatives as real replacements.
One new site discusses the potential of solar power as a renewable energy source that should be given more attention. Created in response to the gulf disaster, this site plays off the “spill” issue, calling itself solarspill.com. The site encourages the uptake of solar power as a viable energy resource, offering a plethora of energy facts, including this one: “The sun ‘spills’ enough energy onto the Earth every 4 minutes to provide enough electricity to meet the needs of the world’s current population.” With stats like that, one must question why solar power doesn’t have a more leading role in the world’s energy supply.
According to a recent LiveScience article, global wind power has experienced a 41.5 percent increase between 2008 and 2009, in the midst of the global recession. While those numbers are heartening, unfortunately the general clean energy trends are less so. As a whole, annual investments in clean energy dropped 6.5 percent during that same time period.
Clearly, renewable energy still has a long way to go. According to the same LiveScience article, renewable energy sources like solar power currently meet approximately 13 percent of the world’s primary energy demand. But, analysts believe that wind power, solar power and fuels derived from biological matter, such as ethanol and biodiesel, have the potential to help support 80 percent of the world’s energy demand by 2050. That’s a drastic difference!
In the wake of the gulf spill, with opinions on offshore drilling dropping and support of alternative forms of energy growing, it seems that now is the time to act and invest more heavily in clean energy research, expansion and job creation. And yet, the question remains: Is America ready, willing and able to reassess our energy sources and take a step back from oil?
What do you think?