NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 4, 2005

With world oil demand pushing against production limits, the United States needs to invest in alternative energy sources for the future, says the New York Times. However, most present alternatives to oil are costly and will not meet current energy demands.

For example:

  • For nuclear energy, the United States would require 1,200 nuclear power plants in addition to the current 104 in existence -- which would involve building 2 per week until 2050.
  • Using solar panels would require 10 billion square meters of photovoltaic panels, at a cost of $5 trillion -- half of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
  • Replacing all of America's gasoline-powered cars and trucks with hydrogen fuel cells would require 230,000 tons of hydrogen gas every day -- enough to fill 13,000 Hindenburg dirigibles.

The answer, says the Times, is a "bridge fuel" that will provide energy until advanced technology makes other alternatives more feasible.

One solution is gasified coal plants with carbon sequestration, which captures carbon dioxide emissions produced by coal and stores them underground. The U.S. Department of Energy is currently pursuing plans to build a zero-emission power plant.

The technology involved in gasified coal plants is still emerging, but as petroleum production wanes, the combination of gasified coal plants and carbon sequestration can bridge the gap to clean energy, says the Times.

Source: Thomas Homer-Dixon (Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Toronto) and S. Julio Friedmann (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), "Coal in a Nice Shade of Green," New York Times, March 25, 2005.

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