Biofuels are considered to be a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. However, they are generally more expensive than competing fossil fuels. Government subsidies, such as we have for ethanol in this country, have been necessary to make biofuels competitive in the marketplace.
Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles are just starting to enter the market but they have a long way to go before they can even catch up with their battery-powered counterparts. Powering cars with hydrogen has the advantage that fueling the vehicle is much like what we are used to: pull up to the pump, fill your tank for a few minutes, and drive off.
Batteries have never been more important. Not only do we all depend on cell phones, tablets and laptop computers that run on batteries, but two enormous industries are in major transitions that rely upon battery technology: personal transportation and the utility industry. The electricity grid is increasingly turning to solar and wind power for generation and both will require effective energy storage if they are to truly become the predominant sources of electricity.
Back in 2011, utility-scale solar power cost a little over $4 per watt on average. In February of that year, former Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the SunShot initiative, which had the goal of reducing the total cost of photovoltaic systems by 75% to the target value of $1 a watt by the year 2020.
Microalgae biofuels may provide a viable alternative to fossil fuels. Algae efficiently use CO2 and can produce biomass very quickly. Some species can double their mass in as little as 6 hours. Such single-celled organisms are amenable to high-throughput techniques to evolve new strains, unlike terrestrial biomass sources like corn which can take years to modify.
The new administration has promised to revitalize the coal industry in the U.S. A major part of this plan is to eliminate various regulations that hamper that industry. But the truth is that coal has lost ground for far more important reasons than regulation.
With the forthcoming administration change, it appears that the federal government is likely to start backing away from tackling climate change and may even be obstructive towards efforts to mitigate the growing problem of greenhouse gas emissions.
Some of the poorest countries in the world are unfortunately among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Malawi, for example, has 90% of its population in rural areas and 80% of its labor force is associated with agriculture.
Pretty much every discussion of electric cars, plug-in hybrids and ordinary hybrids starts and ends up with the question of whether they are worth the money. If the reason for buying such a vehicle is strictly economic, then this is the right question to ask. But the naysayers who say such a purchase is foolish may be barking up the wrong tree.
Very few people are against the use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind power in principle. It is hard to argue against generating power from resources that are free and plentiful. The main knock against renewable power sources has been that they cost too much compared with conventional, fossil-fuel technologies.
Europe has embraced offshore wind power as a major contributor to its electricity needs for a long time. As of June, there was a total of 3,344 offshore wind turbines with a combined capacity of over 11.5 gigawatts of power connected in European waters in 82 wind farms located in 11 different countries and providing power to millions of people.
Investment companies like to talk about the disruptive nature of technologies and how they change industries while simultaneously changing our lives. The growing emphasis on a low-carbon economy has spotlighted a number of technologies as being disruptive in their industry sectors. One hears this frequently when discussing wind and solar power. Clearly, these two technologies are changing the face of the utility industry, but at least at present, they still represent a fairly small fraction of the overall business.