Last updated on: 9/23/2020 | Author: ProCon.org

Can Alternative Energy Effectively Replace Fossil Fuels?

PRO (yes)

Pro

Mark Moody-Stuart, PhD, Chairman of the United Nations Global Compact Foundation, in an Oct. 7, 2019 article, “”Climate and Energy Experts Debate How to Respond to a Warming World,” available at nytimes.com, stated:

“Undoubtedly yes, the world must accelerate its transition to renewable energy…

Cost is no longer a major barrier for renewables; intermittency is. So we need to develop technologies to store energy for periods of little or no wind or sunshine. Batteries are one answer, but they face scale, resource availability and environmental challenges. An alternative is to use spare capacity at times of high renewable availability to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen can then generate electricity or drive heavy transport, aircraft or processes not easy to electrify.”

Oct. 7, 2019

Pro

Erich Pica, President of Friends of the Earth, in an Oct. 7, 2019 article, “Climate and Energy Experts Debate How to Respond to a Warming World,” available at nytimes.com, stated:

“Transitioning to renewable energy is not only necessary to fight the climate crisis, it is also the only way we can quickly and effectively meet rising energy demands. It is foolish to think, however, that the fossil fuel industry will eagerly embrace this transition. We must push governments to enact an ambitious climate strategy that phases out all fossil fuels and transitions to a sustainable economy.

Over a billion people around the world lack access to electricity, and increasing fossil fuel-based generation will not fix this. Coal and nuclear power plants are expensive boondoggles. Communities living in energy poverty are continuously left in the dark without access to the grid as corporations sell power to industrial users and for export to recoup the costs.

Renewables, particularly small-scale renewables, are cheaper and faster to install. Small-scale renewables also tend to generate and keep power locally. This becomes a more effective way to fight energy poverty. Renewables are cheaper than nuclear, can compete with gas, and their price continues to fall. Rapidly phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewables is the only choice for the climate and the economy.”

Oct. 7, 2019

Pro

Bjarne Pedersen, Executive Director of Clean Air Asia, in an Oct. 7, 2019 article, “Climate and Energy Experts Debate How to Respond to a Warming World,” available at nytimes.com, stated:

“The science on how human activities — predominantly the use of fossil fuels — have caused and continuously aggravate the impacts of climate change is indisputable. An accelerated shift to renewable energy is necessary not only to mitigate the impacts of the global climate crisis, but also to provide safe and clean air, particularly in Asia, which bears the highest health burden from air pollution…

The role of the private sector is critical to the needed shift to renewable energy. Divesting from coal-powered energy generation and investing in renewable energy is imperative, particularly in Asia, where energy demand is increasing.

With millions of people in Southeast Asia still without access to electricity, and with the rapidly declining costs of renewable energy technologies, there is huge potential for its use on remote islands and in areas not easily accessible to the national grid. Equally important is investing in, and placing emphasis on, sustainable transport and clean energy solutions for buildings and consumers.”

Oct. 7, 2019

Pro

May Boeve, Executive Director of 350.org, in an Oct. 7, 2019 article, “”Climate and Energy Experts Debate How to Respond to a Warming World,” available at nytimes.com, stated:

“Rapidly phasing out fossil fuels is critical to address the climate crisis because fossil fuels are the biggest driver of the climate crisis. Reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change based on the work of thousands of scientists have confirmed there are no scenarios in which we both keep digging out fossil fuels and keep the world from a climate disaster. We must act now, and decisively, to switch to alternative sources of energy…

We can do it because people want it and are increasingly demanding it. Technology is an important part of the coming transition, and so is finance. But what is going to make it happen is public outrage, public imagination, and public inspiration.”

Oct. 7, 2019

Pro

Richard Heinberg, MA, Senior Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, stated the following in his Feb. 22, 2016 article titled “100% Renewable Energy: What We Can Do in 10 Years,” published by Yes! Magazine:

“It will take at least three decades to completely leave behind fossil fuels. But we can do it…

But the transition will entail costs—not just money and regulation, but also changes in our behavior and expectations. It will probably take at least three or four decades, and will fundamentally change the way we live…

Nearly everyone agrees that the easiest way to kick-start the transition would be to replace coal with solar and wind power for electricity generation…

The collective weight of these challenges and opportunities suggests that a truly all-renewable economy may be very different from the American economy we know today. The renewable economy will likely be slower and more local; it will probably be a conserver economy rather than a consumer economy. It will also likely feature far less economic inequality.”

Feb. 22, 2016 - Richard Heinberg, MA

Pro

Michael Klare, PhD, Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College, stated the following in his Apr. 22, 2015 article titled “The Age of Wind and Solar Is Closer Than You Think” available at the Scientific American website:

“That day will come: the life-changing moment when renewable energy—wind, solar, geothermal and others still in development—replace fossil fuels as the principal source of world energy…

The transition to renewables will be hastened by dramatic improvements in the pricing and performance of such systems. Due to steady increases in the efficiency of wind and solar systems, coupled with the savings achieved through large-scale manufacture, the price of renewables is falling globally…

The transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy will not occur overnight, and it will not escape recurring setbacks. Nevertheless, renewables are likely to replace fossil fuels as the dominant source of electrical power well before mid-century as well as make giant strides in other areas such as transportation.”

Apr. 22, 2015 - Michael Klare, PhD

Pro

Richard Schiffman, environmental journalist, stated the following in his June 26, 2014 article “Why the Shift to Alternate Energies Continues, Despite Shale Boom,” available at reuters.com:

“However difficult and expensive it may be at the outset to green the U.S. power system, it won’t take long before our initial investment begins to pay off in lower electric bills — which are no longer a hostage to global oil prices — and a cleaner environment…

It does cost more to build wind farms and install solar arrays. But once these plants are set up and running, they have lower operation and maintenance costs than conventional power on a yearly basis. No more regular fuel bills and only minimal expenses for upkeep of solar, for example, which has no movable parts that wear out and need to be replaced.

The price argument is also fallacious because we have never paid the real price for the power we use, which includes the cost to the environment and human health of the carbon pollution that fossil-fuel mining and burning generates… We should be supporting technologies that help us to put the brake on destructive climate change, rather than feeding the unsustainable fossil-fuel habit that is driving it.”

June 26, 2014 - Richard Schiffman

Pro

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

Pro

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.”

Feb. 18, 2009 - Patrick Moore, PhD

Pro

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

CON (no)

Con

Sean Comey, Senior Advisor for Chevron, in an Oct. 7, 2019 article, “Climate and Energy Experts Debate How to Respond to a Warming World,” available at nytimes.com, stated:

“[T]he International Energy Agency (I.E.A.) projects global energy demand will rise more than 25 percent by 2040, driven by population growth and rising incomes. Even in the I.E.A.’s most aggressive low-carbon scenario, oil and natural gas will meet approximately half of that demand. Chevron has responded by establishing targets for emissions intensity — the amount of pollution created per unit of energy produced — and tying these goals to employees’ pay. Chevron also is lowering its carbon intensity at the lowest cost, increasing its use of renewable energy to support its business and investing in promising technologies.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue that requires global action. We support a price on carbon as a possible way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the end user, but governments must decide which pricing system is best for their citizens. We work with governments to address potential climate change risks while continuing to produce affordable, reliable and ever cleaner energy.”

Oct. 7, 2019

Con

Mark Little, President and Chief Executive for Suncor, in an Oct. 7, 2019 article, “Climate and Energy Experts Debate How to Respond to a Warming World,” available at nytimes.com, stated:

“Reliable and affordable energy is critical to our quality of life, and we will need to responsibly harness all forms of energy if we are to meet growing global demand and simultaneously tackle the challenge of climate change.

The choice is not between fossil fuels and renewable energy, but rather, how do we accelerate the growth of renewables while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the use of fossil fuels…

Last year, for example, we invested 635 million Canadian dollars to develop and deploy technology in this field, including innovations that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from operations by up to 80 percent. Our Fort Hills oil sands mine uses paraffinic froth treatment technology to cut the greenhouse gas emissions intensity of each barrel of oil produced there to be on par with the average refined barrel in North America.

We also are investing in energy-efficient cogeneration technology to reduce emissions from burning petroleum coke and export low-carbon power to Alberta’s grid so the province can transition from coal-based power generation. This will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.5 million tons per year, equivalent to removing 550,000 vehicles from the road.”

Oct. 7, 2019

Con

Mark Anthony Gvetvay, CFO of Novatek, in an Oct. 7, 2019 article, “Climate and Energy Experts Debate How to Respond to a Warming World,” available at nytimes.com, stated:

“Although climate science is calling for the reduction in fossil fuels, I believe the imminent demise of fossil fuels is overstated and the rapid transition to renewable sources of fuels will not solve this existential question. Natural gas is a clean-burning fuel and will be an important part of this energy transition. We will do our part to facilitate this energy transition by promoting natural gas as part of the climate change dialogue and solution.”

Oct. 7, 2019

Con

Bob Dudley, Group Chief Executive for BP, in an Oct. 7, 2019 article, “Climate and Energy Experts Debate How to Respond to a Warming World,” available at nytimes.com, stated:

“The world is on an unsustainable path. We need a faster transition to a low-carbon energy system and a net-zero-emissions world. The last thing I want is a delay today that results in an abrupt, precipitous course-correction tomorrow. What’s good for the world is good for BP…

But a growing, more prosperous world needs growing quantities of energy, and that includes oil and gas. Today, one billion people lack the energy they need, and renewables alone can’t meet those needs. In fact, the International Energy Agency projects the world could still need nearly 70 million barrels of oil a day in 2040 — and that’s in a scenario consistent with the Paris Agreement goal of keeping any rise in global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius. Of course, how we use that oil and gas will change. Electric cars don’t burn petroleum, but they do use plastic in their construction and oil in their lubrication. And gas can be decarbonized.”

Oct. 7, 2019

Con

Robert Lyman, Principal at ENTRANS Policy Research Group, Inc., stated the following in his May 2016 report titled “Why Renewable Energy Cannot Replace Fossil Fuels by 2050,” published by Friends of Science:

“Oil provides 95% of the fuel demands of the transportation sector… Every transport mode – cars, trucks, trains, buses, marine vessels, and aircraft – relies almost entirely on petroleum fuels. Only natural gas liquids and, in recent years as the result of regulated fuel mandates, ethanol – have made small inroads in the dominant share held by oil. Further, on the basis of the projections by all major agencies that analyze energy supply and demand trends to 2035 and 2040, this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future…

Proponents of the all-renewable future seem to be stuck in a time warp. For them, it is still 2014, oil prices are still close to $130 per barrel, and natural gas and coal prices are surging. In such a world, it may be easier to make the case that renewables will become far more competitive sooner. The reality, of course, is that the decline of international oil prices to the range of $40 per barrel and the dramatic slumps in natural gas and coal prices in many areas (especially North America), has meant that these hydrocarbons are far better placed to compete with alternative energy sources.”

May 2016 - Robert Lyman

Con

Gary Wolfram, PhD, William E. Simon Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Hillsdale College, stated the following in his May 11, 2016 article “Can We Replace Fossil Fuels by 2030?,” available at the Detroit News website:

“Today in the U.S. 33 percent of electricity generation is from coal, 33 percent from natural gas and 20 percent nuclear. While rising steadily, only 13 percent is from renewable energy. The decline in the price of renewable energy is indeed worth noting… However, the price of oil and natural gas has also fallen steeply with the use of horizontal drilling and other new technologies which make it difficult for other fuel sources to compete economically, much less totally capture the market…

There has certainly been improvements in renewable energy sources over the last decade. However, the idea that there will be no need for coal or oil in 15 years is simply not believable.”

May 11, 2016 - Gary Wolfram, PhD

Con

Christopher Helman, MS, MA, Senior Editor for Forbes Magazine, stated the following in his Apr. 24, 2014 article “Solar Power Is Booming, but Will Never Replace Coal. Here’s Why,” available at forbes.com:

“So is the solar revolution finally here? Not quite. Even after a decade of rampant growth solar energy still barely moves the needle in the U.S. energy mix. In fact, solar merely equals the amount of electricity that the nation generates by burning natural gas captured from landfills…

The biggest sources are the old standbys. Oil still reigns supreme at 36 quadrillion Btu, natural gas at 26 quads, nuclear 8. Hydropower and biomass bring up the rear at 2.6 and 2.7 quads. Wind is just 1.5 quads. And coal — the great carbon-belching demon of the global energy mix — its contribution is 19 quads. That’s nearly 8 times all the nation’s wind and solar generation combined…

For all the talk of ‘grid parity’ the simple reality is that even combined with far more power generation from natural gas, renewable alternatives will need decades to push out coal. And the irony will be that as demand for coal lessens, it will become cheaper and cheaper, making it even more attractive for the coal-burning power plants that survive the coming cull…

Coal has gotten immensely cleaner over the past generation. And new and better ways will be found to extract energy from coal without sending its dangerous byproducts into the environment. It’s scalable and reliable in ways that renewable energy sources simply aren’t. In short, unless we’re willing to put up with blackouts that freeze grandma in the winter and melt her in the summer, coal will remain a mainstay of U.S. power generation for decades to come.”

Apr. 24, 2014 - Christopher Helman, MS, MA

Con

Clive Best, PhD, a former physicist, stated the following on his website in a May 4, 2016 post titled “The Logical Fallacy of Renewable Energy”:

“Modern society depends on always available power. If power goes down then society stops. There are no phones, no internet, no ATMs, no refrigeration, no sewage pumps – nothing, and if a large city like London is without power for more than 12 hours rioting and looting would quickly take hold. It is therefore inconceivable not to ensure that we have reliable energy at all times. So an energy plan for the UK must be able to meet demand even on the coldest evening of the year in winter with no wind and no solar. For this reason Renewable energy can never under any realistic scenario meet that target. To imagine that battery prices could fall enough to make wind and solar backup such enormous power demands is simply a delusion.”

May 4, 2016 - Clive Best, PhD

Con

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

Con

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:

“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