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Headlines you will never read about renewables

August 26th, 2011

Andrew Winston

The New York Times reported today that geologists have “sharply cut” their estimate of how much natural gas exists in the rock formation called the Marcellus Shale. They now guess it holds 84 trillion cubic feet, down 80% from the Energy Information Agency’s estimate just this year.

Seeing this headline got me thinking about some of the benefits of renewables, and what we’re unlikely to see reported in the future…

  • Meteorologists Sharply Cut Estimate of Amount of Sun Hitting Earth
  • Off-shore Wind Farm Explodes, Massive Wind Spill Coats Coast of Gulf
  • Algae Mine Collapses Burying 33 Chilean BioFuel Farmers
  • Heat Source for Geothermal Plants Drying Up
  • Tides Seem to be Slowing Down
  • Troop Deployment Begins to Defend Vast Sun Fields Abroad
  • Scientists Concerned That We’ve Reached Peak Sun and Peak Wind

Kidding aside, it seems clear that our days of relying on fossil fuels are numbered. That’s not a political or moral statement – it’s a scientific one. The 84 trillion cubic feet is still a lot, but getting to it is fairly difficult. Easy oil and easy gas are almost oxymoronic at this point. Getting our traditional energy will be expensive and dangerous – think digging a mile under the ocean – from now on.

I’m sure the snarky will point out that renewables have their problems – intermittency being the big one. But the challenge of how to store energy that comes and goes is solvable – more and better battery technology, for example. Or millions of electric vehicles acting as a massive, mobile power storage unit…one that is parked and plugged in at night when the wind blows on the grid.

But more importantly, I can guarantee that we’ll never run out of the heat of the earth, the sun beating down on the planet (ok, in 5 billion years we will), or the wind driven by the sun’s heat. These sources will not be harder to get to tomorrow than today. They will only get cheaper in comparison to the buried kind of energy, with a variable cost of about zero.

Those seem like some pretty solid business reasons to invest and switch our economy quickly.

(Andrew Winston is the author of Green Recovery and a business consultant who advocates for sustainability. See more about him at his website.)



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