Where’s The Shift?

Renewable energy has made more and more of an appearance in the world, although it is still not quite able to make it as our only energy source

Global temperatures have been rising more and more each year and glaciers continue to melt for one reason or another. Usually we attributes these occurrences to something called global warming or climate change. This is mainly caused by burning coal and fossil fuels. Coal power came about in the late 19th century and has only gained popularity throughout the years. Before this shift to coal, wood had a large role in the production of energy for the typical American family. Now we are reaching the phase of renewable energy. Although renewable energy has made more and more of an appearance in the world, it is still not quite able to make it as our only energy source.

In 2015, renewable energy in the United states accounted for 13% of our electricity generation and only 7% in 2014 (EIA). That‘s a big increase in electricity consumption for just one year difference. But still, only 13% of the electricity is being derived from this superb source that is truly unlimited in supply, whereas 66% is coming from burning fossil fuels and coal that aren’t exactly appreciated by the environment. The cost of wind power has also dropped to make it more cheap to produce than conventional fossil fuels. So why haven’t we switched to the seemingly superior source of power?

With regards to this, most renewable energy sources are not 100% reliable. This means that some of theses sources can be inconsistent. “Another disadvantage of renewable energy sources is the reliability of supply. Renewable energy often relies on the weather for its source of power” (solarschool.net). Solar power for example, it is not always sunny outside so if it isn’t sunny we will have limited electricity. In addition to solar is wind power. If there is no wind, there is no power unless, of course, we have multiple different sources of energy. This is an important factor to take into account but most other sources of renewable energy do not run into trouble like this so we can’t put them all in this category. For example, hydroelectricity does not run into this problem because as long as water flows, we will produce electricity. As a matter of fact, this is the case for many other renewables such as geothermal energy, biomass and nuclear power.

In addition to this are the political and economic views. Many Republicans think that the shift to renewable energy is a bad idea whereas most Democrats believe that the shift to renewables must occur and is crucial to having a bright future. One of the main reasons for Republicans not wanting to switch is that some are involved in major companies involving fossil fuels and other non-renewable sources. These are obviously large money-makers and it is evident that it would be a great sacrifice for them economically. As Ronald Brownstein put it, “That’s partly for ideological reasons and also because many of them are either major fossil-fuel producers or rely on low-cost (but high-carbon) coal.” (The Atlantic). Many Democrats obviously think otherwise. “Almost all of those states have also indicated they will continue planning to implement the EPA rule despite the court stay.” (The Atlantic). This excerpt from the article The Winds Are Changing For Renewable Energy depicts how most blue states are implementing the shift towards renewables even though the government isn’t enforcing those regulations.

Renewables also do not yield as much energy output as coal and fossil fuels. For example, to get the same amount of power out of solar panels than a coal plant, you may need 2-times the amount of area to produce the same amount of energy. “Another disadvantage of renewable energy is that it is difficult to generate large amount of energy as those produced by coal powered plants” (Advantages and Disadvantages). This is an important factor to take into account because we only have so much land. Most people would chose to be more efficient with the land rather than try to preserve the environment which is a choice that most environmentalists don’t exactly agree with. This is a major factor that is holding back the shift to renewable energy, in fact probably the most sizeable factor. TEDx speaker David MacKay gave a very comprehensible speech about this problem. He painted a very clear picture for the audience on how renewables take up much more space than most people think relative to the amount of power they produce. This may bring up an alternative solution; to at least shift to as much renewable power as possible while having some support from coal power. With time this will fix itself. New technologies will come out leading to more effective solutions.

Considering where we are at this point we want not only to reduce carbon emissions but to “bring the coal back home” and create a “drawdown” as Paul Hawken states it (Project Drawdown). He believes that we must, of course, reduce carbon emissions but we must also take the coal from the atmosphere and try to transfer it back into the earth. To do this we must use more plant sources and forms of agriculture as our renewable energy sources which will essentially “bring the coal back home” (Project Drawdown) and replant it into the Earth’s crust which is done by stomata. This part of a plant breathes in CO2 and breathes out oxygen which is basically bringing the CO2 down and freshening the air. With this process we will be able to lower the total parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere from 400 which is where we currently sit, to 350 which is a sustainable level.

We must weigh the options. Yes, renewable energy has some factors that are slowing down its growth as an energy source, but in the end it’s worth it. It will be the passageway to a decent living environment for the generations that are to come. No matter what happens, the shift to renewables is inevitable. Coal will run out and until then, it won’t be much of a benefit to our environment. It isn’t about saving the money because this shift will cost us, it’s about our future. If we continue living like this, who knows how much worse it could get.

Works Cited

“Advantages and Disadvantages of Renewable Energy.” Conserve Energy Future. N.p., 20 May 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

A Reality Check on Renewables. Perf. David MacKay. TEDx. N.p., Mar. 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

Fox, Will. “Scientists Reprogram Plants for Drought Tolerance.” Future Timeline. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.

“How Is Today’s Warming Different from the Past?” NASA. NASA, n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2016.

“How Much U.S. Electricity Is Generated from Renewable Energy?” EIA. N.p., n.d. Web. 30

“How Is Today’s Warming Different from the Past?” NASA. NASA, n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2016.

Labrador, David. “Why Corporate Power Purchasing Is Poised to Be the Next Big Thing in

Renewable Energy.” RMIOUTLET. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

McLamb, Eric. “Fossils Fuels vs. Renewable Energy | Ecology Global Network.” Ecology

Global Network. N.p., 18 May 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

“Mission and Vision.” Project Drawdown. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2016.

“The Advantages and Disadvantages of Renewable Energy.” Solarschools.net. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

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