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US Fails in Using Renewable Energy to its Full Potential

The Pacific Ocean is warming at a rate faster than anything seen in the last 10,000 years and we may have the warmest Arctic in the last 120,000 years. Our burning of fossil fuels is the big thing pushing us toward the brink. Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, claims that we have enough wind and solar to power the world. The question is why aren’t we using it? This isn’t a matter of changing how we get energy, it means shifting the power dynamic in this country—and across the world for that matter—and literally putting power in the hands of individual people and communities. Not only will renewable resources cut down global warming but also, as fossil fuel costs rise, the cost for wind and solar power is actually decreasing.

Jacobson’s solution leans more on wind power, while Vasilis Fthenakis, senior research scientist and adjunct professor at Columbia University, puts more stock in solar.  However, both wind and solar power generators require raw materials to build, which could be a problem.  Nonetheless, investment in renewable infrastructure is preferable to fossil fuels because renewable energy infrastructure will last for decades. Although the overall goal of 100 percent renewable by 2030 or 2050 looks out of reach, if we aimed for 50 percent and focused our economy on resilience instead of endless growth, it could be a possibility. The right wing might not support it but if we keep burning fossil fuels, the future might look a little bleak.

Source: Tara Lohan, “We Have the Renewable Energy We Need to Power the World—So What’s Stopping Us?” AlterNet, November 8 2013 http://www.alternet.org/environment/are-you-ready-100-percent-renewable-energy?page=0%2C3.

Student Researcher: Ali Palermo (Sonoma State University)

Community Evaluator: Dennis Jones (Greenpeace, Berkeley, CA)

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