August 25, 2011

Headlines You'll Never Read About Renewables...

The New York Times reported today that geologists have “sharply cut” their estimate of how much natural gas exists in the rock formation called the Marcellus Shale. They now guess it holds 84 trillion cubic feet, down 80% from the Energy Information Agency’s estimate just this year.

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Seeing this headline got me thinking about some of the benefits of renewables, and what we’re unlikely to see reported in the future…

Kidding aside, it seems clear that our days of relying on fossil fuels are numbered. That’s not a political or moral statement – it’s a scientific one. The 84 trillion cubic feet is still a lot, but getting to it is fairly difficult. Easy oil and easy gas are almost oxymoronic at this point. Getting our traditional energy will be expensive and dangerous – think digging a mile under the ocean – from now on.

I’m sure the snarky will point out that renewables have their problems – intermittency being the big one. But the challenge of how to store energy that comes and goes is solvable – more and better battery technology, for example. Or millions of electric vehicles acting as a massive, mobile power storage unit…one that is parked and plugged in at night when the wind blows on the grid.

But more importantly, I can guarantee that we’ll never run out of the heat of the earth, the sun beating down on the planet (ok, in 5 billion years we will), or the wind driven by the sun’s heat. These sources will not be harder to get to tomorrow than today. They will only get cheaper in comparison to the buried kind of energy, with a variable cost of about zero.

Those seem like some pretty solid business reasons to invest and switch our economy quickly.

Comments

On August 26, 2011 9:40 AM, Eric McNulty said:

Wise words, Andrew. Unfortunately the extractive industries are powerful lobbies for the present and consumers are comfortable with the energy system status quo -- note the calls for President Obama to "make gas cheaper" earlier this summer. In fact what we need is for the full costs of fossil fuels to be loaded into the price (OMG, he's talking about a price on carbon -- must be a Socialist -- no, market mechanisms work best when there is maximum transparency on costs and benefits). If the true costs of fossil fuels were reflected in a $5, $6, or $7 per gallon price, people would be clamoring for more renewables.

On September 28, 2011 1:13 PM, Dani said:

Great blog. Loved the headlines. We have these tremendous resources in solar and wind and yet we keep working to use resources that harm the earth instead of finding ways to best use resources that can benefit us without such a great cost to the environment.

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