Alternative Energy Pros and Cons
Video exploring critical thinking and how it leads to great citizen involvement
Last updated on: 10/26/2009 3:03:00 PM PST

Can Alternative Energy Effectively Replace Fossil Fuels?

PRO (yes) CON (no)
Arjun Makhijani, PhD, President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, stated the following in his Aug. 2007 article "Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free," in Science for Democratic Action:

“[A] zero-CO2 U.S. economy can be achieved within the next thirty to fifty years without the use of nuclear power...

The U.S. renewable energy resource base is vast and practically untapped. Available wind energy resources in 12 Midwestern and Rocky Mountain states equal about 2.5 times the entire electricity production of the United States... Solar energy resources on just one percent of the area of the United States are about three times as large as wind energy, if production is focused in the high insolation areas [strong sunlight] in the Southwest and West…

With the right combination of technologies, it is likely that even the use of coal can be phased out, along with nuclear electricity.

Complete elimination of CO2 could occur as early as 2040. Elimination of nuclear power could also occur in that time frame.”


Aug. 2007 - Arjun Makhijani, PhD 

Ulf Bossel, PhD, freelance fuel cell consultant, stated the following in his Apr. 7, 2005 article "Does a Hydrogen Economy Make Sense?," available at www.efcf.com:

"[H]ydro power, solar energy, wind power, ocean energy or geothermal installations harvest renewable energy in a sustainable way. Add energy obtained from sustainably managed biomass and organic waste to complete the list of renewable energy. After depletion of fossil and uranium deposits energy must come from these sources. There are no other sustainable energy sources that could possibly contribute substantially to the energy needs of mankind…

Without any question, the energy demand of mankind can be satisfied from renewable sources."


Apr. 7, 2005 - Ulf Bossel, PhD 

Alfred W. Crosby, PhD, Professor Emeritus of History, Geography, and American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, stated the following in a June 19, 2009 email to ProCon.org:
"Alternative sources of energy can become a satisfactory substitute for fossil fuels if we put as much effort and genius in the effort as we did in producing the first atomic bomb. The most satisfactory single alternative would be hydrogen fusion but that quasi-miracle may be beyond our capability. We may discover that wind, solar, biomass, etc., all piled on top of each other, may have to do, but their success may turn out to require an effort that started a generation ago. Essential to any and all success is the realization on our part that we may be able to do anything, which includes fail."

June 19, 2009 - Alfred W. Crosby, PhD 

Helen Caldicott, MBBS, President of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, stated the following in her July 25, 2006 article "Fuel Plan Beset by Fossilised Thinking,” published in The Australian:

"Anyone who has seen Al Gore's extraordinary film An Inconvenient Truth will realise that the world must, urgently, stop burning fossil fuel...

We need politicians with knowledge, energy and courage who will move beyond the fossil fuel and nuclear eras. Is it possible to make that leap with available technology? Yes...

Tidal power, geothermal energy, cogeneration and biomass combined with conservation are some of the resources yet to be explored...

[F]or the first time in human history, all electricity can be generated by a combination of renewable carbon-free and nuclear-free technologies."


July 25, 2006 - Helen Caldicott, MBBS 

Greenpeace International stated the following in a Feb. 23, 2009 email to ProCon.org:

"Our position on the question 'Can alternative energy effectively replace fossil fuels?' is clear.

Renewable energy, can and indeed must replace both fossil fuel and nuclear power as quickly as possible if the world is to avoid the catastrophic effects of runaway climate change. Page 12 of the summary report of the 2nd edition of the Energy Revolution contains this statement: 'The amount of energy that can be accessed with current technologies supplies a total of 5.9 times the global demand for energy.' The remainder of the report spells out how we believe the world can set off down the path to a clean energy future, within the current political and economic constraints."


Feb. 23, 2009 - Greenpeace International 

Joseph Romm, PhD, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP), stated the following in his May 17, 2008 article "Winds of Change," published in Salon:

"[W]ind power is coming of age. In 2007, some 20,000 megawatts of wind were installed globally, enough to power 6 million homes. Sadly, most wind power manufacturers are no longer American, thanks to decades of funding cuts by conservatives. Still, new wind is poised to be a bigger contributor to U.S. (and global) electricity generation than new nuclear power in the coming decades. As I have written earlier, concentrated solar power could be an even bigger power source, and it can even share power lines with wind.

That means we can realistically envision an electric grid built around renewables: electricity with no greenhouse gas emissions, no fuel cost (and no future price volatility) and no radioactive waste."


May 17, 2008 - Joseph Romm, PhD 

Patrick Moore, PhD, Chair and Chief Scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. and former International Director of Greenpeace International, stated the following in a Feb. 18, 2009 email to ProCon.org:

"It all depends on what you mean by 'alternative energy'. Alternative to what? Specifically if nuclear energy is considered 'alternative' (to fossil fuels) then I am in the Pro camp. If nuclear is not considered alternative I am decidedly in the Con camp because I do not believe it is remotely possible to replace fossil fuels with wind, solar, geothermal etc. by themselves. Then there is the question of whether hydroelectricity is 'alternative'. If both hydro and nuclear are not considered alternative then it is doubly impossible to replace fossil fuels with alternatives.

The terms 'renewable', 'sustainable', 'clean', 'green', and 'alternative' tend to be tossed about as if they all mean the same thing when they each have distinct meanings, some of which are less than objective. 'Green', for example, can be a shameless marketing term. 'Clean' is relatively straightforward, meaning there is no pollution involved. Hydroelectric energy is renewable. Nuclear energy is not renewable but it is sustainable."

[Editors Note: The term "alternative energy" has numerous definitions.  On this website "alternative energy" refers to any form of energy that is not derived from fossil fuels (oil, coal, or natural gas).  Under this definition nuclear energy is an alternative energy even though it is not considered a renewable energy like solar or wind energy.  To learn more about the terms alternative energy and renewable energy, please visit our webpage titled What are alternative energies?]


Feb. 18, 2009 - Patrick Moore, PhD 

Al Gore, Jr., Chairman of the Alliance for Climate Protection and former Vice President of the United States, stated the following in his Nov. 9, 2008 article "The Climate for Change," in the New York Times:

"Here’s what we can do — now: we can make an immediate and large strategic investment to put people to work replacing 19th-century energy technologies that depend on dangerous and expensive carbon-based fuels with 21st-century technologies that use fuel that is free forever: the sun, the wind and the natural heat of the earth...

What follows is a five-part plan to repower America with a commitment to producing 100 percent of our electricity from carbon-free sources within 10 years."


Nov. 9, 2008 - Al Gore, Jr. 

Ralph Nader, LLB, former US Presidential Candidate and Founder of Public Citizen, stated the following in his election fact sheet "Energy Policy," available at www.votenader.org (accessed Sep. 14, 2009):
"We urge a new clean energy policy that no longer subsidizes entrenched oil, nuclear, electric and coal mining interests — an energy policy that is efficient, sustainable and environmentally friendly. We need to invest in a diversified energy policy including renewable energy like wind and other forms of solar power, more efficient automobiles, homes and businesses one that breaks our addiction to oil, coal and atomic power. A new clean energy paradigm means more jobs, more efficiency, greater security, environmental protection and increased health."

Sep. 14, 2009 - Ralph Nader, LLB 

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., LLM, Chief Prosecuting Attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper and Chairman of the Water Keeper Alliance, stated the following in his Aug. 25, 2008 article "Obama's Energy Plan Would Create Green Gold Rush," published in the Los Angeles Times:

"The United States has far greater domestic energy resources than Iceland or Sweden. We sit atop the second-largest geothermal resources in the world. The American Midwest is the Saudi Arabia of wind. Solar installations across just 19 percent of the most barren desert land in the Southwest could supply nearly all of our nation's electricity needs even if every American owned an electric car...

For a tiny fraction of the projected cost of the Iraq war, we could completely wean the country from carbon."


Aug. 25, 2008 - Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., LLM 

AlternateEnergySources.com, an informational website about alternative energy, stated the following in a Feb. 19, 2009 email to ProCon.org:

"Alternative energy can effectively replace fossil fuels. Moreover, there is no choice. It must as fossil fuel resources are finite, environmentally prohibitively costly, and there are no immediate technological answers to low-emission use of remaining fossil fuel reserves.

Taking into account the cost to our Earth of burning fossil fuels and to future generations of human- and all life, renewable energy will be effective, and increasingly so as it develops.

However, no technology alone will 'deliver' a sustainable world, one where humans truly employ care, and live well within natural limits and let go of 'uber-control' of the Earth's processes and resources.

For people to live, or even flourish, in a world where global warming wreaks huge physical changes, a change of belief, of thinking, is the essential and greatest source of 'alternative energy.' The fading age of industry must be superseded by a new age of 'Being', about living with ourselves as if the Earth were part of us, as it is... Without such changes in thinking the best alternative energy technology will only create greater problems."


Feb. 19, 2009 - AlternateEnergySources.com 

David Morris, PhD, Vice President of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, stated the following in his Aug. 2, 2008 article "Electric Cars Are the Key to Energy Independence," available at www.alternet.org:

“Oil generates only 3 percent of our electricity. Therefore a 100 percent renewable electricity system does little to reduce our oil dependency -- unless that electricity is used to substitute for oil in our transportation system…

Converting our electric system fully to renewables would require us to shut down about 80 percent of our current electricity-generating capacity, much of it low-cost, already paid off and capable of generating electricity for another 25 years or more. Moreover, to reach very high penetration rates of renewable electricity would require that we overcome the principal shortcoming of wind and sunlight: intermittency.

Powering 100 percent of our transportation system would require about 30 percent of the electricity generated in 2006. With a massive effort, using a combination of solar and wind power, we could generate about that much electricity by 2020.”


Aug. 2, 2008 - David Morris, PhD 

Jeremy Rifkin, President of the Foundation on Economic Trends, stated the following in a Jan. - Feb. 2003 article "The Hydrogen Economy: After Oil, Clean Energy From a Fuel-Cell-Driven Global Hydrogen Web," published in E magazine:

"Can a combination of technological innovation, global cooperation and strategic thinking take oil off the international chessboard of power politics and replace it with the ultimate energy carrier, lighter-than-air, and potentially non-polluting hydrogen?...

While the fossil-fuel era is entering its sunset years, a new energy regime is being born that has the potential to remake civilization along radical new lines...

The hydrogen economy makes possible a vast redistribution of electricity, with far-reaching consequences for society. Today’s centralized, top-down flow of energy, controlled by global oil companies and utilities, can become obsolete. In the new era, every human being with access to renewable energy sources could become a producer as well as a consumer—using so-called 'distributed generation.' When millions of end-users connect their fuel cells powered by renewables into local, regional and national publicly owned hydrogen energy webs (HEWs), they can begin to share energy—peer-to-peer—creating a new decentralized form of energy generation and use…

The hydrogen economy is within sight. How fast we get there will depend on how committed we are to weaning ourselves off of oil and the other fossil fuels."


Jan. - Feb. 2003 - Jeremy Rifkin 

Hosein Shapouri, PhD, Economist at the Office of Energy Policy and New Uses at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), stated the following in a Nov. 25, 2008 email to ProCon.org:
"In response to your question, I believe alternative energy could effectively replace fossil fuels."

Nov. 25, 2008 - Hosein Shapouri, PhD 

Christopher Paine, Director of the Nuclear Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), stated the following during a July 15-17, 2008 online debate titled, “Is Nuclear Power Essential to Addressing Climate Change and Energy Independence?,” available at www.newtalk.org:
"The US has enough potentially recoverable efficiency savings and renewable energy resources - direct solar radiation, indirect solar radiation, wind, geothermal, biomass, small hydro, and wave-tidal energy, to eventually power the entire US economy, essentially indefinitely, without nuclear or coal."

July 15-17, 2008 - Christopher Paine 

Martha Young, Principal of Nova Amber, LLC, stated the following in a Feb. 19, 2009 email to ProCon.org:

"Yes, a portfolio of alternative energy solutions can and must replace the use of fossil fuels around the globe. Each country has its own collection of assets such as geothermal, wind, hydro and solar to support its energy needs. Being energy independent allows each country to grow its economic base in a sustainable manner without impacting any other country in a race to consume finite resources."


Feb. 19, 2009 - Martha Young 

Green America (formerly Co-op America), a non-profit environmental organization, stated the following in its Summer 2005 article "The Promise of the Solar Future," available at www.coopamerica.org:

"Gradually shifting toward more efficient technologies and renewable energy sources won’t be enough—we must catalyze a massive shift in our energy use within the next decade to stabilize our climate while meeting the world’s growing power needs. Since our country accounts for more than 20 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions, it is particularly important that we in the US lead the way.

The good news is that we have the knowledge, technology, and capacity to make the shift to a renewable energy path—it all hinges on growing solar power.

Solar energy is essential to a renewable energy future. Even after we achieve all possible energy-efficiency gains and take full advantage of other renewable energy sources, such as wind and geothermal, we’ll still need some other way to generate at least 30 percent of our power. (This gap between energy demand and renewable energy supply for all energy, not only electricity, could be as much as 70 percent without aggressive energy efficiency.) That remaining energy must come from solar."


Summer 2005 - Green America (formerly Co-op America) 

Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) stated the following in their Dec. 23, 2008 article "Green Energy Notes," available at www.psr.org:

"[E]xisting renewable energy technologies are capable of meeting the entire U.S. need for electricity by the year 2020. Solar energy could produce 100 percent of electricity demanded in the U.S. on .3 percent of the nation’s land, while wind power could create 2.6 times the amount of electricity used in the U.S. with turbines in just twelve states.

A change in fuels would also have benefits in the area of transportation. According to the Department of Agriculture, biofuels could make up 37 percent of transportation fuels in the U.S. by 2025. If combined with the use of fuel-efficient vehicles, this percentage could rise to 75 percent. Further advances in technology, such as the use of hydrogen fuel cells, and an increase in the use of hybrid vehicles would create further benefits." 


Dec. 23, 2008 - Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) 

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) stated the following in its Apr. 2003 article "The Path to Carbon Dioxide-Free Power: Switching to Clean Energy in the Utility Sector," available at www.worldwildlife.org:
"The ultimate goal is stabilizing concentrations of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere at levels that avert dangerous climate change. One key strategy to meet that goal is achieving zero-carbon electricity in the United States by mid-century. The policies described in this paper set the nation on the path to achieve that goal. The United States can achieve this and experience economic growth if we support the diverse portfolio of existing technologies and industries that produce energy efficiency and renewable energy."

Apr. 2003 - World Wildlife Fund (WWF) 

The Nuclear Information and Resource Service, a non-profit anti-nuclear organization, stated the following in its May 2008 article "False Promises: Debunking the Nuclear Industry Propaganda," available at www.nirs.org:

"What we need to do is get rid of both of our addictions: carbon and uranium...

There are numerous renewable energy technologies available which could be expanded and many more that have great potential and should be pursued and funded more aggressively...

It has been estimated that the solar energy available in a 100-square-mile area of Nevada could supply the United States with all its electricity needs...

It has been estimated that wind energy has the potential to satisfy the world’s electricity needs 40 times over, and could meet all global energy demand five times over."


May 2008 - Nuclear Information and Resource Service 

Peter Montague, PhD, Executive Director of the Environmental Research Foundation, stated the following in his Dec. 1, 2008 article "Carbon Sequestration: What's the Point?," available at www.blogs.discovery.com:
"The ideal solution [to global climate change] would be to stop making waste CO2 by phasing out fossil fuels and getting our energy from solar power in all its forms (direct sunlight, wind, and hydro dams). We know how to do this today..."

Dec. 1, 2008 - Peter Montague, PhD 

Tad W. Patzek, PhD, Chairman of the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department at the University of Texas at Austin, and David Pimentel, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University stated the following in their Mar. 14, 2005 article “Thermodynamics of Energy Production from Biomass,” published in Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences:

"We want to be very clear: solar cells, wind turbines, and biomass-for-energy plantations can never replace even a small fraction of the highly reliable, 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year, nuclear, fossil, and hydroelectric power stations. Claims to the contrary are popular, but irresponsible...

We live in a hydrocarbon-limited world, generate too much CO2, and major hydropower opportunities have been exhausted worldwide..."


Mar. 14, 2005 - David Pimentel, PhD 
Tad W. Patzek, PhD 

Robert L. Hirsch, PhD, Senior Energy Advisor, Management Information Systems Inc. (MISI), stated the following in a Feb. 18, 2009 email to ProCon.org:
"In the next few decades world economies will require hydrocarbon liquids from oil, coal, natural gas, heavy oil, oil sands, and enhanced oil recovery. Sugar cane ethanol is also practical, but volumes will be limited. Other biomass liquids are uncertain. Corn-ethanol is an energy & environmental loser, and cellulosic liquids are not yet practical."

Feb. 18, 2009 - Robert L. Hirsch, PhD 

Richard Heinberg, MA, Senior Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, stated the following in the 2006 "Afterward to the Revised Edition," in his book The Party's Over:

"I have received hundreds of messages in response to The Party's Over, scores of them suggesting that I have overlooked or underestimated various alternative energy sources...

However, the subtext of many of these messages was that alternative energy sources will be capable of sustaining industrial civilization in more or less its present configuration far into the future. With this I disagree."


2006 - Richard Heinberg, MA 

Walter Youngquist, PhD, Emeritus Chair of the Department of Geology at the University of Oregon at Portland, stated the following in his Spring 2005 article "Spending Our Great Inheritance; Then What," in The Social Contract:

"Ethanol is a net energy loss - it takes 70 percent more energy to produce than is obtained from the product itself. Other biomass resources show, at best, very low net energy recovery...

The two most popularly suggested energy alternatives, wind and solar, suffer because they're undependable, intermittent sources of energy, and the end product is electricity. We have no way to store large amounts of electricity for use when wind and sunshine are not with us. Geothermal and tidal energy are insignificant energy sources in total but can be locally important. Nuclear energy can be a large power source if the safety aspects can be guaranteed (and this may be possible) -- but again, the end product is electricity. There is no battery pack even remotely in sight that would supply the energy needed to effectively power bulldozers, heavy agricultural equipment such as tractors and combines, or 18-wheelers hauling freight cross-country.

Can electricity be used to obtain hydrogen as a fuel from water? It can, but hydrogen is difficult to store and dangerous to handle. And there is no energy system now visualized to replace kerosene jet fuel, which propels a Boeing 747 about 600 miles an hour nonstop on the 14-hour trip from New York to Capetown (currently the longest plane flight). We continue to seek the holy grail of energy - fusion - but containing the heat of the sun at 10 million degrees Centigrade is still only a far-off hope."


Spring 2005 - Walter Youngquist, PhD 

ExxonMobil, an international energy corporation, stated the following in its Feb. 2006 study “Tomorrow’s Energy: A Perspective on Energy Trends, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Future Energy Options,” available at www.exxonmobil.com:

"Although wind, solar, biofuels and nuclear all compete with fossil fuels as sources of primary energy, their contribution to the world’s total energy demand is limited because they are more expensive than fossil fuels – and in the case of nuclear, limited by waste and disposal concerns…

While we recognize the risks of climate change we also conclude that the world will continue to demand oil and gas for a majority of its primary energy supplies for many decades to come."


Feb. 2006 - ExxonMobil 

David B. Barber, MS, Nuclear Engineer at the Idaho National Laboratory, stated the following in his Mar. 24, 2005 article "Nuclear Energy and the Future: The Hydrogen Economy or the Electricity Economy?," available at www.iags.org:
"The wind doesn’t always blow and sunlight isn’t always striking every solar panel. Renewable energy desperately needs a very big battery, a load leveler. Without some form of energy storage, renewables are physically limited to less than a twenty percent share of the grid. At twenty percent, renewables are more of a headache than a resource for a grid manager. Electricity storage tools are expensive. Very expensive. Too expensive to justify on their own or at societal scale."

Mar. 24, 2005 - David B. Barber, MS 

Samuel Bodman, ScD, former US Secretary of Energy, stated the following in his Apr. 22, 2008 article "Developing a Cleaner, Sustainable, and More Energy Secure Future," published in the Washington Times:

"[S]ince the start of 2007, the Energy Department has announced over $1 billion of investments to spur the growth of a sustainable biofuels industry, with a particular focus on cellulosic biofuels derived from waste streams rather than edible fuel sources. Other areas of emphasis include solar and wind power, geothermal energy, hydrogen fuel cells, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles...

Any comprehensive strategy must recognize that our energy challenges have been decades in the making and certainly won’t be resolved overnight. So even as we rightly place a great deal of emphasis on renewable energy and alternative fuels, it is clear that our economy is – and will remain for some time – dependent on fossil energy. We must diversify the available supply of conventional fuels and expand production around the world and here at home– including within a small area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and portions of America’s Outer Continental Shelf – in an environmentally sensitive and efficient manner. Also, we must maintain an adequate liquefied natural gas infrastructure and promote the development of nontraditional fossil fuels like oil shale and oil sands."


Apr. 22, 2008 - Samuel Bodman, ScD 

Colin J. Campbell, PhD, Founder and Honorary Chairman of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO), stated the following in a Feb. 18, 2009 email to ProCon.org:
"The First Half of the Age of Oil comes to an end, being partly responsible for the current financial and economic crisis facing the world. Oil and gas are set to decline during the Second Half of the Age of Oil to near exhaustion by the end of this Century due to natural depletion. Today, renewable energy, including hydro, accounts for no more than about 12% of the world's energy consumption. It is evident that the demand for it will grow greatly in the years ahead, but it is doubted that it can replace fossil fuels as such. Improved efficiency and changed lifestyles are called for to meet the challenges imposed by Nature. The tensions and challenges of the transition threaten to be serious."

Feb. 18, 2009 - Colin J. Campbell, PhD 

Jack Santa-Barbara, PhD, Director of the Sustainable Scale Project, stated in his Sep. 2007 article "The False Promise of Biofuels," available at www.ifg.org:

"There are no alternative energy sources that have the high net energy return of oil, gas and coal, and when these non-renewable resources reach their peak production and start to decline, everything will change...

We will all be forced to consume less energy; of this there is little doubt. The big question is whether this will be forced on us by the inexorable economic chaos from depletion of our primary non-renewable resources, oil, natural gas and coal, or by our adapting to this inevitability in a thoughtful and organized manner."


Sep. 2007 - Jack Santa-Barbara, PhD 

Robert L. Bradley, Jr., PhD, Founder and Chairman of the Institute for Energy Research, stated the following in his Apr. 22, 1999 article "The Increasing Sustainability of Conventional Energy," available at www.cato.org:

"Environmentalists support a major phase-down of fossil fuels (with the near-term exception of natural gas) and substitution of favored 'nonpolluting' energies to conserve depletable resources and protect the environment. Yet energy megatrends contradict those concerns. Fossil-fuel resources are becoming more abundant, not scarcer, and promise to continue expanding as technology improves, world markets liberalize, and investment capital expands...

Artificial reliance on unconventional energies is problematic outside niche applications. Politically favored renewable energies for generating electricity are expensive and supply constrained and introduce their own environmental issues. Alternative vehicular technologies are, at best, decades away from mass commercialization. Meanwhile, natural gas and reformulated gasoline are setting a torrid competitive pace in the electricity and transportation markets, respectively."


Apr. 22, 1999 - Robert L. Bradley, Jr., PhD 

Jerry Taylor, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, stated the following in his 2007 article "Energy," published in The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics:

"In a free market, cost dictates energy choices. Fossil fuels, for example, are economically attractive for many applications because the energy available from fossil fuels is highly concentrated, easily transportable, and cheaply extracted. Renewable energies such as wind and solar power, on the other hand, are relatively dispersed, difficult to transport, and costly to harness given the capital costs of facility construction.

Many people recommend accelerated federal subsidies and preferences for renewable energy in order to reduce America's dependence on imported oil. But such recommendations fail to appreciate the fact that energy sources are often difficult to substitute for one another. Until we see major technological advances in electric-powered vehicles and related battery systems, for example, technological breakthroughs in solar or wind power will have little, if any, impact on oil imports. That's because renewable energy is used primarily to generate electricity and cannot be used directly in transportation to replace oil: in 2002, only 2.5 percent of America's total electricity was generated from oil combustion."


2007 - Jerry Taylor 

Nolan E. Hertel, PhD, Professor of Nuclear and Radiological Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, stated the following in his Nov. 19, 2004 article "Hitch Our Future to Nuclear Power," published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

"[R]enewable energy sources are essentially a cottage industry. They can help provide some of the clean energy that's needed, but their role is severely limited by the vast amounts of land that they require for large-scale deployment, and their lack of reliability.

Solar and wind account for only 2 percent of the nation's electricity. Their roles should increase — but as they grow, we will have to build conventional power plants to back them up."


Nov. 19, 2004 - Nolan E. Hertel, PhD 

Abdullah S. Jum'ah, MBA, President and Chief Executive Officer of Saudi Aramco, stated the following during his Nov. 2007 remarks, "Global Oil Resources and the World’s Energy Future: A Holistic View," presented at the 20th Congress of the World Energy Council:

"[A]lternative energy sources have some way to go before they can make substantial contributions to the world’s future energy mix, given the current state of their development and the various hurdles they still face. We must also remember that many of these alternatives, such as nuclear or renewables, or even conventional sources such as coal, may be able to meet additional demand in power generation and possibly industry but not in transportation, which of course is a key sector of oil utilization.

Alternatives and their contributions to meeting steadily rising energy demand are needed and welcome, and eventually these fuel sources will become a more important component of global energy supplies. But we must be realistic about the pace of their future development, and understand that for the foreseeable future, their significance in the energy supply mix will continue to be limited."


Nov. 2007 - Abdallah S. Jum'ah 

Clifford J. Wirth, PhD, retired Professor of Energy Policy at the University of New Hampshire, wrote in his July 5, 2008 paper, “Peak Oil: Alternatives, Renewables, and Impacts,” published on www.peakoilassociates.com:

“The studies reviewed in this report indicate that alternatives cannot provide significant amounts of liquid fuels. Thus it is not feasible to ramp up alternatives to replace oil, even if there are decades to prepare for the occurrence of Peak Oil. There are no significant mitigation options on the supply side regarding the Peak Oil crisis…

Solar power, nuclear energy, and coal are primarily useful for generating electric power, but these energies do not provide liquid fuels needed for transportation or mechanized agriculture, nor do they provide raw materials for manufacturing of 300,000 products, including fertilizer. Electric power from solar, coal, nuclear fission, or nuclear fusion will therefore not solve the nation’s energy problems…

Because leaders lack a basic understanding of energy sources, the nation will continue to direct attention toward the hydrogen economy, corn ethanol, wind power, and solar energy – even though the most authoritative sources conclude that these are not solutions for the liquid fuels problems facing the nation.”


July 5, 2008 - Clifford J. Wirth, PhD 

J. Robinson West, JD, Chairman and Founder of PFC Energy, stated the following in his July 10, 2008 article "Two Takes: Energy Independence Is Neither Practical nor Attainable," published in US News & World Report:

"Many politicians want to substitute other domestically produced liquid fuels for oil and assure the public that they are around the corner. They are not.

There is now no liquid fuel that can largely replace oil for transportation. We are stuck because of the scale of the industry and - despite criticism - oil's efficiency...

Politicians pose with gimmicks like hydrogen cars, but they will have little near-term impact. Breakthrough technologies, such as cellulosic ethanol, are theoretically attractive - but don't exist."


July 10, 2008 - J. Robinson West, JD 

The Institute for Energy Research (IER), an energy research organization that promotes free-market solutions to energy problems, stated the following in its article "Energy Overview," available at www.instituteforenergyresearch.com (accessed Jan. 28, 2009):
"America’s insatiable appetite for the good things energy delivers could not be satisfied by fossil fuels alone. Hydroelectric power, a renewable source of energy created by the damming of rapidly-flowing rivers, was introduced in the 1890s, as was nuclear power in the late 1950s. In recent years, other renewable sources of energy – wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal – have entered the fray. However, while the use of renewable fuels is expected to increase in the years to come, their overall contribution to America’s energy pool is forecast by the EIA [US Energy Information Agency] to remain very modest, far behind fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Nuclear power, by contrast, which currently supplies about 20 percent of US electricity, is expected to become a more prominent player as a new generation of power plants go into service in the decades to come."

Jan. 28, 2009 - Institute for Energy Research 

The World Nuclear Association stated the following in its Nov. 25, 2008 article "World Energy Needs and Nuclear Power," available at www.world-nuclear.org:

"The renewable energy sources for electricity constitute a diverse group, from wind, solar, tidal and wave energy to hydro, geothermal and biomass-based power generation. Apart from hydro power in the few places where it is very plentiful, none of these is suitable, intrinsically or economically, for large-scale power generation where continuous, reliable supply is needed…

Without nuclear power the world would have to rely almost entirely on fossil fuels, especially coal, to meet electricity demands for base-load electricity production."


Nov. 25, 2008 - World Nuclear Association 

The United States Carbon Sequestration Council, a non-profit coalition of scientists, environmentalists, and businessmen supporting the development of CCS technology, stated in its Apr. 2009 publication "Is Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) Needed? How Can We Make It Happen Sooner?," available at www.uscsc.org:

"The renewable energy sources for electricity constitute a diverse group, from wind, solar, tidal and wave energy to hydro, geothermal and biomass-based power generation. Apart from hydro power in the few places where it is very plentiful, none of these is suitable, intrinsically or economically, for large-scale power generation where continuous, reliable supply is needed…

Without nuclear power the world would have to rely almost entirely on fossil fuels, especially coal, to meet electricity demands for base-load electricity production."


Apr. 2009 - United States Carbon Sequestration Council 

EnergyBulletin.net, an informational website regarding the peak in global energy supply, stated the following in their article "Peak Oil Primer," available at www.energybulletin.net (accessed Oct. 20, 2008):

"To evaluate other energy sources it helps to understand the concepts of Net Energy, or the Energy Returned On Energy Invested ratio (EROEI). One of the reasons our economies have grown so abundant so quickly over the last few generations is precisely because oil has had an unprecedentedly high EROEI ratio. In the early days of oil, for every barrel of oil used for exploration and drilling, up to 100 barrels of oil were found. More recently, as oil recovery becomes more difficult, the ratio has become significantly lower. Certain alternative energy 'sources' may actually have EROEI ratios of less than one, such as many methods of industrially producing biodiesel and ethanol, or extracting oil from shale. That is, when all factors are considered, you probably need to invest more energy into the process than you get back.

Hydrogen, touted by many as a seamless solution, is actually an energy carrier, but not an energy source. Hydrogen must be produced using an energy source such as natural gas or nuclear power. Because of energy losses in transformation, the hydrogen will always contain less energy than was invested in it.

Some alternatives such as wind and hydro-power may have much better EROEI, however their potential expansion may be limited by various physical factors. Even in combination it may not be possible to gather from renewable sources of energy anything like the rate and quality of energy that industrial society is accustomed to...

For certain tasks, such as air travel, no other energy source can readily be substituted for oil."


Oct. 20, 2008 - EnergyBulletin.net 

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