Renewable energy

Renewable energy - CLEAN POWER The Riseof OVERVIEW e newa...

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OVERVIEW ?,: fhanks to advanc · es in technology. renewable sou r ces cou ld soon become large .contributors to global energy . . :* ro hasten t he tran · si ti on . the U.S. must significantly boos t its R8cD spend ing on energy .: :: The U.S . should also levy a fee on carbol1 to reward clean energy sources over those that harm the environment. The Riseof enewa- Solar celis, wind turbines and biofuels are poised to become major energ~ sources. New policies could dramaticall~ accelerate that evolution BY DANIEL M. KAMMEN CLEAN POWER
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No plan to substantia"~ reduce greenhouse gas emissions can succeed through increases in energy efficiency a lone. Because economic growth contin- ues to boost the demand for energy- more coal for powering new factories, more oil for fueling new cars, more natu- ral gas for heating new homes-carbon emissions will keep climbing despite the introduction of more energy-efficient ve- hicles, buildings and appliances. To counter the alarming trend of global w arm ing, the U.S. and other countries must make a major commitment to de- veloping renewable energy sources that generate little or no carbon. Renewable energy technologies were suddenly and briefly fashionable three decades ago in response to th e oil em- bargoes of the 1970 s, but the interest and support were not sus tained. In re- cent years, however, dramatic improve- ments in the performance and afford- ability of solar cells, wind turbines and biofuels-ethanol and other fuels de- rived from plants-have paved the way for mass commercialization. In addition to their environmental benefits, renew- able sources promise to enhance Amer- ica's energy security by reducing the country's reliance on fossil fuels from other nations. What is more, high and wildly fluctuating prices for oil and nat- ural gas have made renewable alterna- tives more appealing. We are now in an era where the op- ,. Aworld of clean energy could rely on wind turbines and solar cells to generate its electricity and biofuels derived from switchgrass and other plants to power its vehicles.
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portunities for renewable energy are unprecedented, making th is the ideal time to advance clean power for decades to come. But the endeavo r will require a long-term investment of scientific, economic and political resources. Policymakers and ordinary citizens must demand action and challenge one anot her to hasten th e transition. Let the Sun Shine SOLAR CELLS, also known as photovoJraics, use semicon- duct or materials to convert sunl ight into electric current. They now provid e just a tiny slice of the world's electricit y: their global generating capacity of 5,000 megawatts (M W) is only 0.15 percent of the total generating capacity from all sources. Yet sunl ight could potentially supply 5,000 times as much energy as the world currently consumes. And thanks to technology improvements, cost declines and favorable poli- cies in many states and nations, the annual production of photovoltaics has increased by more than 25 percent a year for the past decade and by a remarkable 45 percent in 2005.
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