In spite of great advances in renewable energy utilization, will we ever break free from our addiction to fossil fuels?
For example, in the last couple of years, solar power generation in the United States has actually started to surpass fossil fuel power, at least in terms of new generating capacity. Wind power in Spain generates some 20% of national energy needs, about half of the total 42% renewable energy that powers the country. We can go online to blogs and news outlets and read about renewable energy and its many benefits, but perhaps we fail to notice where these advances are taking place. Specifically, established first-world economies.
On the other hand, rapidly-growing economies, such as China and India, are falling into place with the rest of the world, except their revolutions are starting where the US and EU started 200 years ago. Powered by easy-to-access and low-tech fossil fuels, the result is some of the world’s worst air pollution on record. About 2/3 of the power in China, for example, comes from coal. Even optimistic outlooks do not predict that number dropping below 1/3 in the next twenty years. Other developing economies are similar, and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie predicts that coal will actually surpass oil as the most-abundant fossil fuel energy source.
Finally, there are still plenty of underdeveloped countries, which will likely follow the same path, lacking the financing and technology to develop massive renewable energy programs. There are only two ways to come up with that kind of development capital. One, they could get the way the rest of the world did, but exploiting low-cost low-tech fossil fuels, an economic step forward, yet environmentally catastrophic. On the other hand, developing countries could pour everything they have into renewable energy, and the rest of the developed world could pitch in to get them going. Yeah, right, like that will ever happen.