If you’ve been paying attention to the news over the last few years, you’ve no doubt seen all the coverage of solar and wind energy. Both hold promise, from new investment to new jobs to new industries around the country, in depressed economies like Michigan.
But are solar and wind really viable options to replace the backbone of our current energy system, based mostly on dirty coal and potentially dangerous nuclear generation? Walter Kohn, a Ph.D. who shared the 1998 Nobel Prize in chemistry, says yes.
Now Kohn’s viewpoint may not be the final answer on this issue, but it’s worth considering, especially against the backdrop of plans for more coal and nuclear power generation in the United States. Kohn made the statements at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Kohn says total oil and natural gas production, which today accounts for the majority of global energy consumption, is expected to peak in as little as 10 years from now, followed by a rapid decline.
“These trends have created two unprecedented global challenges,” Kohn says. “One is the threatened global shortage of acceptable energy. The other is the unacceptable, imminent danger of global warming and its consequences.”
He believes these factors will drive science and technology toward more innovation in coming decades until SOL/WIND arrives, a new era in human history in which solar and wind have become the Earth’s dominant energy sources.
Besides innovation, however, the world’s dominant energy users in developed countries will have to find ways to reduce their per-capita energy consumption, Kohn believes.
Do you believe it? Just this month, it was revealed that the U.S. coal industry is in the midst of its largest expansion in 20 years. More than 30 old-style coal plants have been built since 2008 or are under construction.
And plans for a climate bill in the U.S. Senate didn’t go anywhere this year.
— Photo Credit: Takver