NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Failure Of Alternative Energy

March 9, 1997

Renewable and alternative sources of power -- such as those from windmills, solar panels and geothermal wells -- were popular areas of research in the 1980s and many held out hope for them. But they have not been able to compete with power derived from fossil fuels to supply large amounts of energy, technologists admit.

  • At the peak in 1987, solar, wind and geothermal industries produced about 0.4 percent of total energy produced in the U. S.
  • Today that figure has fallen to an estimated 0.2 percent.
  • The decline may, in part, be due to electric utility deregulation as various states introduce competition into power marketing and consumers reap the benefits of lower electric bills -- making power from higher-cost alternative sources even less attractive.
  • California dedicates a little less than 1 percent of every electric bill to supporting alternative power research -- creating a fund which is expected to total $540 million by 2002.

In its fiscal 1997 budget, the Clinton administration has proposed a sizable increase in funds for alternative fuels research.

Source: Agis Salpukas, "Green Power Wanes, but Not at the Grass Roots," New York Times, March 9, 1997.


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