Eavesdrop on our energy future

Timothy b. demoss, associate editor

Renewable/alternative generation

Eavesdrop on our energy future

There is clearly a limit to fossil fuel. Those words seem somewhat out of place in a magazine that devotes most of its pages to advances in fossil fuel technology. However, it was not a Power Engineering editor who made this bold statement. Chris Fay, Shell UK Ltd. CEO, said this last year. Royal Dutch/Shell anticipated the boom/bust cycle in oil prices during the `70s and `80s to become the most profitable corporation in the world. Because of that success, when Royal Dutch/Shell talks, people listen.

In this vein, it seemed appropriate in this time of elections, industry restructuring and Power Engineering`s 100-year anniversary to put our ear to the wall and listen to a variety of opinions regarding the future of renewables. At the risk of oversimplifying, I find that every renewables debate rends its participants into two camps–those blaming the economy and those blaming the environment–with renewables advocates and opponents claiming they represent both sides.

Neither side holds a clear edge in the immediate future. However, Power Engineering readers will make many of the decisions that will affect the outcome. So, I offer a non-exhaustive collection of thought-provoking statements to ponder as you peer into the future with us.

“But what about the growing gap between demand and fossil fuel supplies? Some will obviously be filled by hydroelectric and nuclear power. Far more important will be the contribution of alternative renewable energy supplies.”

–Chris Fay, Shell UK Ltd.

“Despite government incentives and private sector subsidies, renewable resources cannot replace fossil fuels in the nation`s generation mix.” “With open and direct competition in electricity, generation from renewable energy could shrink to just 1 percent of U.S. electricity in 2010.” “All electric generation technologies, including renewables, present adverse environmental impacts.”

–Center for Energy andEconomic Development

The critical problem with response time is that it impairs theoretical modeling of the environment … That is the strongest argument for taking action now to curb greenhouse emissions. I don`t want to be around if we find out 40 years from now that the historical averages are only showing a locally stable position and that we have provided a forcing function that has driven us away from this equilibrium such that the new local stability point is something like Venus.

–From a post to thealt.gifnergy.renewableInternet newsgroup

“There is reason, based on sound scientific work, to express doubt that we are in immediate danger from either global warming or depletion of the ozone layer. There is ample time to carry out much more thorough research, particularly experimental research, on these topics so that we can feel far more confident than at present of any action that should be taken, if they are indeed necessary. The cost of hasty action … could be enormously high and destructive to the fabric of our society.”

–Dr. Frederick Seitz,Former President, NationalAcademy of Sciences

DOE recognizes the need to establish the hydrogen option as an important part of a long-term national energy strategy.

–National RenewableEnergy Laboratory

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