There has been a lot of speculation and debate about the so-called energy independence of the United States. While that continues, many still support and lobby for a great shift away from fossil fuel dependence and towards a sustainable energy model that will provide affordable, clean energy for people across the country indefinitely.
Figures published in August 2019 by the University of Michigan reveal that about 80 percent of the nation’s energy is still produced by fossil fuels, along with 8.3 percent from nuclear, and just 11 percent from renewables. They cite the fastest-growing renewable sector as wind energy, but even now it only contributes about 2.4 percent of the energy used in the US.
What are the barriers preventing the US from transitioning to a sustainable energy model?
First, the cost is a serious issue. In a market-driven economy, it’s hardly surprising that people can’t see a future for renewables when they can cost as much as four times that of fossil fuels per kilowatt (kW) of energy produced. A solar system can cost as much as $3,700/kW, and a wind system up to $1,700/kW. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, come in as cheap as $1,000/kW. Under the scrutiny of the public eye that so desires frugality from its public sector, it’s hard for any government to justify such costs in creating any nationwide shift to renewables like wind and solar.
Second, there are limitations on where such energy systems can be placed. Just as tidal/wave energy options won’t work in Nevada, solar isn’t much good in many parts of the Northeast. You also can’t build hydroelectric dams all over the place, nor can you install enough wind turbines in enough windy locations. The renewable network would have to be more unified and working in tandem to achieve its goal, but that too is an elusive goal.
Third, there is divided public opinion on the renewable ideal. While there is a significant and growing base of support, there are still countless millions who are opposed to renewables for various reasons. Some dislike their appearance, especially wind turbines. Others claim that they are inefficient and unsteady. Still, others are worried about losing their jobs within the fossil fuel sectors, especially in coal mining, oil drilling, and fossil-based power plants.
Fourth, the fossil-fuel lobby holds great influence at the government level. Though renewables enjoy significant support among the general public and in powerful cultural and educational centers, government centers remain dominated by the fossil-fuel lobby. Members of this lobby are determined to either the progress of renewables to developing into competitors, at least until they can get enough skin in the game themselves.
So, what does the future hold?
It seems that what the renewable sector needs most of all is experienced professional supporters from the legal and political sectors. Such advocates would form a powerful new voice that the government would find hard to resist, and finally, the renewable industry can fight on the same terms as those currently dominating energy in the US. People like Douglas Healy, for instance, who are strong supporters in the legal sector who stand resolutely in support of a sustainable energy future for the US.