Our energy transformation

Most forecasters see energy as one area where we will see dramatic change. N.C. State University economist Mike Walden outlines the kind of alterations they think we are likely to see.

“Well, I think we’re probably still going to be largely dependent down the road on fossil fuel, but we’re probably going to see a movement away from those fossil fuels that perhaps more adversely affect the environment — like fuel from coal and fuel from oil — to natural gas-based fossil fuels. And I think the big game changer here could be if we were able to shift the major fuel for our vehicles away from gasoline, which is oil-based, to natural gas, which is much less polluting. So, I think that’s one area.

“We’ve already seen big jumps in the amount of energy we get from renewables, things like solar wind, biomass. But it’s been a relatively slight jump in terms of the total amount of energy supplied. The big challenge there is first of all variability of production. Obviously you don’t get solar power unless the sun’s out, and then storage of that power – in other words, we get solar power from the sun when the sun’s out, if we can store it, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a cloudy day. So, that’s a big challenge there.

“Then the last area of transformation I think is going to be increased efficiency – that is, reducing, in a sense, our energy footprint in terms of building not only more efficient vehicles, but homes, office buildings, and even our computing facilities.”


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