Renewable Energy

Introduction

Millions upon millions of years ago, when algae and plankton and other microorganisms in the ocean died and sank to the bottom of the sea, they became covered with sand and sediment. As they lay there, undergoing a process of decay, they turned into what today we call “fossil fuels,” including natural gas and oil. This is what we are retrieving from deep in the Earth and pumping into our vehicles at the gas station.

How long can we do this before we run out? No one knows for sure, but as early as the mid-1800s people were already realizing we were tapping into a finite resource. In 1873 Professor Augustin Mouchot wrote: “The time will arrive when the industry of Europe will cease to find those natural resources, … Petroleum springs and coal mines are not inexhaustible but are rapidly diminishing…. Will man, then, return to the power of water and wind? Or will he emigrate where the most powerful source of heat sends its rays to all? History will show what will come.”

In addition to their finite availability, the burning of fossil fuels is the principal source of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. The increase in the average temperature of the Earth has proceeded since the industrialization of the mid-20th century and is unprecedented in rate and scale, a result of heat trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere by excessive levels of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. Finding clean, renewable sources of energy is the greatest challenge of our time.

The renewable energy systems under development today are better for the environment and produce less harmful emissions than their fossil fuel counterparts, but there are still many challenges to be faced before they can be successfully implemented. However, techonology is moving forward, and production costs are coming down. Renewable energy systems are becoming more efficient, and their total energy share is increasing. The most promising examples include wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower.

Learn More:

EPA Clean Energy Site

EPA site to supply information on clean energy programs. Home of Power Profiler and eGRID.

Tata Energy Research Institute

A non-profit, scientific and policy research organization, working in India and globally in the fields of energy, environment and a whole range of sustainable development issues.

Union of Concerned Scientists: Clean Energy

The energy choices that we make today could make or break our ability to fight climate change. Examines benefits and costs of energy use, and promotes energy technologies that are renewable, safe, and cost-effective.

American Methanol Institute

A non-profit educational and scientific organization dedicated to supporting the greater use of methanol as a clean energy resource.

British Association for Bio Fuels and Oils (BABFO)

An organization dedicated to the promotion of transport fuels and oils from renewable sources, namely biodiesel and ethanol. Offers a biodiesel handbook, news items, facts, and newsletters.

Renewable Industries Canada

Renewable Industries Canada represents leaders and innovators in Biofuels and Clean Renewable Technology.

U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Advancing a Thriving and Sustainable Bioeconomy Fueled by Innovative Technologies. Learn about the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) mission, vision, accomplishments, and strategic goals.