Datapages, Inc.Print this page

Clean Fossil and Renewable Energy - the Future Is Closer than You Think

Nummedal, Dag 1; Hiller, David 2
1 Colorado Energy Research Institute, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO.
2 Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, Denver, CO.

The world’s current energy consumption is 15 terawatts. Models for global economic growth expect that to grow to 45 TW by 2050. This requires developing twice as much new energy generation capacity over the next 40 years as exists today. This increase must be accommodated in a carbon-constrained world. Herein lies the greatest economic opportunity of our generation: the transformation from fossil fuel to one based on low-emission fossil energy augmented by renewable resources, including solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal. Previous transformations in primary energy led to major economic booms: coal ignited the industrial revolution, the switch from coal to oil augured in the transportation revolution and cheap electricity enabled internet search engines. Why should the pending transformation be any different?

Among ‘earth’ energy resources, by far the largest is geothermal, with EGS being the most promising. Among renewable resources the energy from the sun far outshines others. Among fossil energy resources, the unconventional ones far outstrip the conventional - and they are pretty evenly distributed across the planet - yet cheap conventional oil has long delayed serious pursuit of the earth’s unconventional endowment. This too is changing.

Natural gas (with 2 to 3 times more energy than coal per unit CO2 emitted) is replacing coal, solar and wind energy (with much lower emissions yet, but not zero) are becoming competitive with natural gas. Hybrid gas, wind and solar systems are on the drawing board. Solar PV is moving from about 6-10% energy conversion efficiency to 60%. Power plants with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) are on the drawing board across the world. The transformation of our energy technologies will also require a new generation of energy technicians and executives who think “energy” rather than, “oil”, “coal”, or “solar”. Like cars, our global energy systems must evolve into hybrids. This requires universities to educate students in “energy,” not just a specific energy discipline. Colorado is moving in this direction fast. Formalized collaborative research structures between the three Colorado research universities and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have already changed the state’s research culture, with very positive results.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90090©2009 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, Denver, Colorado, June 7-10, 2009