alternative energy sources
In his State of the Union Address for 2007, President George W. Bush called for a 22% increase in federal grants for research and development of alternative energy. However, in a speech he gave soon after, he said to those assembled, I recognize that there has been some interesting mixed signals when it comes to funding.
Where the mixed signals were coming from concerned the fact that at the same time the President was calling on more government backing for alternative energy research and development, the NREL the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of Golden, Colorado was laying off workers and contractors left and right. Apparently, the Laboratory got the hint, because soon after the State of the Union Address, everyone was re-hired. The second speech of the President’s was actually given at the NREL. There is almost unanimous public support for the federal backing through research grants, tax breaks, and other financial incentives of research and development of alternative energy sources.
The NREL is the nation’s leading component of the National Bioenergy Center, a virtual center that has no central bricks and mortar office. The NREL’s raison d’etre is the advancing of the US Department of Energy’s and the United States’ alternative energy objectives. The laboratory’s field researchers and staff scientists, in the words of Laboratory Director Dan Arvizu, support critical market objectives to accelerate research from scientific innovations to market-viable alternative energy solutions. At the core of this strategic direction are NREL’s research and technology development areas. These areas span from understanding renewable resources for energy, to the conversion of these resources to renewable electricity and fuels, and ultimately to the use of renewable electricity and fuels in homes, commercial buildings, and vehicles. The federally-backed Laboratory directly helps along the United States’ objectives for discovering renewable alternative fuels for powering our economy and our lifestyles.
The NREL is set up to have several areas of expertise in alternative energy research and development. It spearheads research and development efforts into renewable sources of electricity these would include such things as solar power, wind power, biomass power, and geothermal power. It also spearheads research and development of renewable fuels for powering our vehicles such as biomass and biodiesel fuels and hydrogen fuel cells. Then, it seeks to develop plans for integrated system engineering this includes bringing alternative energy into play within buildings, electrical grids and delivery systems, and transportation infrastructures. The Laboratory is also set up for strategic development and analysis of alternative energy objectives through the forces of economics, market analysis and planning, and alternative energy investment portfolios structurings.
The NREL is additionally equipped with a Technology Transfer Office. This Office supports laboratory scientists and engineers in the practical application of and ability to make a living from their expertise and the technologies they develop. NREL’s research and development staff and its facilities are recognized for their remarkable prowess by private industry, which is reflected in the hundreds of collaborative projects and licensed technologies that the Laboratory now has with both public and private partners.
The US government must continue to back the expansion of the role of alternative energy research and development and its implementation by companies and homeowners. Although this writer believes in the reign of the free market and that that government is best which governs least, our current system has companies and people expecting federal backing of major initiative with direct investment, in the form of tax breaks, rebate incentives, and even direct central bank investment into the alternative energy industry.
The US and its citizenry need to invest all of the time and energy that they can spare to the conversion from a fossil fuel burning society to one that is green for several different reasons. The green economy will not harm the environment or the quality of our air like fossil fuel burning does. We can become the energy independent nation that we need to be by cutting away our need to import oil, especially oil that is produced by anti-American nations such as Iran. Ultimately, renewable energies and extremely efficient energies like atomic energy are far less expensive than the continuous mining and drilling for fossil fuels. If we do not invest in our future now, catastrophe awaits us. We are going to need to consume more energy than ever in our history as we sail into the 21st century and beyond our dependency on foreigners for meeting these energy needs only leaves us open to sabotage while draining our coffers in order to fill other nations’.
It can be argued that federal, state, and local governments should work in conjunction on the issue of alternative energy research and development and implement mandatory programs for new home construction and all home remodeling that stipulate the installation of alternative energy power sources eventually over a certain period of years transforming into 100% installation of alternative energy sources for any new home or corporate building as well as backing a similar program to have all new vehicles produced in the nation be hybrid vehicles or hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles by the year 2020. All levels of government could also impose mandatory compliance laws on construction and utilities companies. The utility companies in all 50 states should be required to invest in alternative energy research and development while also being required to buy back, at fair rates, excess energy produced by homeowners through their use of alternative energy power sources. Strong financial incentives need to be in place for new companies to invest in developing renewable energies. This would not only make the US energy independent at the fastest possible rate, but it would stimulate the growth of the economy and provide tens of thousands of new, good-paying jobs for people.
Alternative energy generation in the forms of solar, wind, hydroelectric, biofuel, geothermal, and atomic alternative energy storage systems such as more efficient batteries and hydrogen fuel cells and alternative energy-furthering infrastructures with superior energy efficiency all need to be brought into the affordable price range through development. Government investment into these matters would surely help us along.
Alternative energy stock portfolios are a great part of a modern investor’s financial plan, due to the fact that there is so much upward potential. These make excellent long term growth investment vehicles, and the money put into them by you, the investor, serves to further the cause of implementing the alternative energy power sources that we need as we sail into the 21st century and beyond.
Analysts predict that by 2013, the alternative energy industry will be a 13 billion dollar industry in today’s dollars. This figure bespeaks an enormous return on investment. Indeed, if you were to invest in a start-up alternative energy company, you might find yourself having invested in the next Microsoft in terms of return on investment. People are fed up with the rising costs of gasoline while this alone is not sufficient understanding of the need for developing alternative energy sources, it is a factor which can act as a market maker meaning for you that investments in alternative energy companies makes a lot of financial sense.
However, this does not mean that you don’t first want to do some careful research into alternative energy stocks, perhaps with the help of a financial planner. A few alternative-energy companies are going after the right markets but that doesn’t mean you should go buy every name in the sector. Investors need to be cautious about chasing the stocks, says Sanjay Shrestha, who is an analyst at First Albany Capital. And if you are an investor, then you know that the problem in this sector is that nearly every single one of the major players in the alternative energy for profit game are start-ups or in the very early stages of growth. This means for you that they have relatively minuscule (even if rapidly growing) sales, and no expected profitability in the near term or history of earnings for you to be able to research. This can lead to some bubbling, as with what happened to the dot-com industry at the turn of the 21st century. Bubbling in the stock market is not a good thing for investors.
Analysts and financial planners can play a crucial role in helping you get it right with alternative energy investing. We don’t play around in the tiny cap stocks that have technology and not much revenue the ‘hope’ stocks. We invest in companies with clear cash-generation plans in place, are the words of Ben walker, who is a senior portfolio manager at the Gartmore Global Utilities fund out of London.
Still, the outlook is very positive overall and healthy. It is good to see that the number of renewable energy funds and the amount of money flowing into these funds is increasing, according to chief executive of UK alternative electricity supplier Good Energy Juliet Davenport. The renewable generation market is at an important stage in its development it needs the continued support of the consumer, investor and government to ensure that it reaches its potential and really starts to make a difference to climate change.
The Irish are currently pursuing energy independence and the further development of their robust economy through the implementation of research and development into alternative energy sources. At the time of this writing, nearly 90% of Ireland’s energy needs are met through importation the highest level of foreign product dependence in the nation’s entire history. This is a very precarious situation to be in, and the need for developing alternative energy sources in Ireland is sharply perceived. Ireland also seeks to conserve and rejuvenate its naturally beautiful environment and to clean up its atmosphere through the implementation of alternative energy supplies. The European Union has mandated a reduction in sulphuric and nitric oxide emissions for all member nations. Green energy is needed to meet these objectives. Hydroelectric power has been utilized in Ireland in some areas since the 1930s and has been very effective however, more of it needs to be installed. Ireland also needs to harness the wave power of the Atlantic Ocean, which on its west coast is a potential energy supply that the nation has in great store.
Ireland actually has the potential to become an energy exporter, rather than a nation so heavily dependent on energy importation. This energy potential resides in Ireland’s substantial wind, ocean wave, and biomass-producing alternative energy potentials. Ireland could become a supplier of ocean wave-produced electricity and biomass-fueled energy to continental Europe and, as they say, make a killing. At the present time, Ireland is most closely focused on reaching the point where it can produce 15% of the nation’s electricity through wind farms, which the government has set as a national objective to be reached by 2010. But universities, research institutes, and government personnel in Ireland have been saying that the development of ocean wave energy technology would be a true driving force for the nation’s economy and one which would greatly help to make Ireland energy independent. A test site for developing wave ocean energy has been established in Ireland, less than two miles off the coast of An Spideal in County Galway Bay. This experimental ocean wave harnessing site is known as Wavebob. The most energetic waves in the world are located off the West coast of Ireland, says Ireland’s Marine Institute CEO Dr. Peter Heffernan. The technology to harness the power of the ocean is only just emerging and Ireland has the chance to become a market leader in this sector. David Taylor, CEO of the Sustainable Energy Initiative,or SEI, tells us that SEI is committed to innovation in the renewable energy sector. Wave energy is a promising new renewable energy resource which could one day make a significant contribution to Ireland’s electricity generation mix thereby further reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.
Padraig Walshe, the president of the Irish Farmers Association, tells us that with the closure of the sugar beet industry, an increasing amount of Irish land resources will become available for alternative uses, including bioenergy production. Today, renewable energy sources meet only 2% of Irelands total energy consumption. From a farming perspective, growing energy crops will only have a viable future if they provide an economic return on investment and labour, and if the prospect of this return is secure into the future. Currently the return from energy crops is marginal and is hampering the development of the industry. Biomass energies need to be further researched by Ireland.
The trend toward homes that are powered by alternative energy sources, ranging from wind turbines and solar collection cells to hydrogen fuel cells and biomass gases, is one that needs to continue into the 21st century and beyond. We have great need of becoming more energy independent, and not having to rely on the supplying of fossil fuels from unstable nations who are often hostile to us and our interests. But even beyond this factor, we as individuals need to get off the grid and also stop having to be so reliant on government-lobbying giant oil corporations who, while they are not really involved in any covert conspiracy, nevertheless have a stranglehold on people when it comes to heating their homes (and if not through oil, then heat usually supplied by grid-driven electricity, another stranglehold).
As Remi Wilkinson, Senior Analyst with Carbon Free, puts it, inevitably, the growth of distributed generation will lead to the restructuring of the retail electricity market and the generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure. The power providers may have to diversify their business to make up for revenues lost through household energy microgeneration. She is referring to the conclusions by a group of UK analysts, herself included among them, who call themselves Carbon Free. Carbon Free has been studying the ever-growing trend toward alternative energy-using homes in England and the West. This trend is being driven by ever-more government recommendation and sometimes backing of alternative energy research and development, the rising cost of oil and other fossil fuels, concern about environmental degradation, and desires to be energy independent. Carbon Free concludes that, assuming traditional energy prices remain at their current level or rise, microgeneration (meeting all of one’s home’s energy needs by installing alternative energy technology such as solar panels or wind turbines) will become to home energy supply what the Internet became to home communications and data gathering, and eventually this will have deep effects on the businesses of the existing energy supply companies.
Carbon Free’s analyses also show that energy companies themselves have jumped in on the game and seek to leverage microgeneration to their own advantage for opening up new markets for themselves. Carbon Free cites the example of electricity companies (in the UK) reporting that they are seriously researching and developing ideas for new geothermal energy facilities, as these companies see geothermal energy production as a highly profitable wave of the future. Another conclusion of Carbon Free is that solar energy hot water heating technology is an efficient technology for reducing home water heating costs in the long run, although it is initially quite expensive to install. However, solar power is not yet cost-effective for corporations, as they require too much in the way of specialized plumbing to implement solar energy hot water heating. Lastly, Carbon Free tells us that installing wind turbines is an efficient way of reducing home electricity costs, while also being more independent. However, again this is initially a very expensive thing to have installed, and companies would do well to begin slashing their prices on these devices or they could find themselves losing market share.
Record high prices at American gas pumps and continued trouble-brewing in the Middle East, Nigeria, and other areas of importance to the oil-driven economy have made it clear to Americans that we are in need of developing many new avenues of energy supply and production. In short, we need to reduce our dependency on oil, for it is ultimately finite and, frankly, the cheap sources of oil (not all oil just the stuff that is cheap to remove from the earth) are running out. Energy consultants and analysts are insistent that cheap oil has peaked or is very soon going to peak. What this means for us is an expensive future unless we can find new sources of powering our mechanized and electronic civilization, new sources which are alternatives to oil.
We must also switch to alternative forms of energy because our present forms are too damaging to the atmosphere. While this write does not believe that the global warming trend is much, if at all, sustained by the activities of mankind (in short, it’s a natural cycle and there’s nothing we can do about it except prepare for the effects of it), we certainly do contribute at present to the destruction of the environment and to things like air pollution with our energy sources as they are. Coal is another source of energy that we need to wean ourselves off ofagain, it is finite, and it is filthy, and the mining of it is dangerous and environmentally disruptive. We can also explore new, streamlined methods for producing electricity that we presently generate so much of via hydro-power so that we are less disruptive of the environment when we have need of constructing things such as large dams.
Developing nations which have turned industrialized in recent decades especially will need the benefits of alternative energy research and development, for they are presently doing much more environmental damage than the United States. The United States, Japan, and some European nations have been implementing studies into and programs for the development of alternative energy sources, and are therefore already leading the way in doing less environmental damage. The developing nations such as China and India need to look to Japan and the West as examples of what research and development to give government backing and private investment currency to. We could also add great robustness to our own economy by being at the forefront of such alternative energy sources development and then marketing the technologies and services to nations like India, China, Brazil, and so on and so forth.
Biofuels from things like supertrees and soybeans, refined hydroelectric technology, natural gas, hydrogen fuel cells, the further building of atomic energy plants, the continued development of solar energy photovoltaic cells, more research into wind-harnessed power all of these are viable energy sources that can act as alternatives to the mammoth amounts of oil and coal that we presently are so dependent on for our very lifestyles. The energy of the future is green.
What are some of the things you do to lead a more sustainable lifestyle?
Many years ago, Kate and I developed a Stewardship Model for Tom’s of Maine in order to codify all of the natural, sustainable practices we were already following—such as only using natural ingredients and never testing on animals. The Stewardship Model sets out very specific standards for natural, sustainable, and responsible practices, and guides all of us every day in our decision making.
Kate and I also feel that a commitment to sustainability should be incorporated into all areas of the company—not just the product formulations. Let me share just two examples: our packaging designer, Jack, purchases only post-consumer-waste recycled and recyclable materials and soy-based inks; and my Director of Product Supply, Mark, had some great ideas about using renewable energy sources, so in 2006, we began purchasing wind energy credits to offset 100% of our factory’s electricity needs.
I recycle, grow many of my own vegetables (without pesticides and herbicides), maintain my home so that it is as energy efficient as possible, purchased a new high efficiency washer and dryer pair (uses less gas to dry because washer spins clothes better), keep my tires on my car properly inflated (increases gas mileage), flush my hot water heater regularly (improves efficiency and increases lifespan of heater), use a thermos instead of bottled water (wastes the plastic), buy recycled materials when possible, reuse bags from grocery store, buy soy ink printed materials whenever possible, buy soy ink checks, buy recycled checks, cook from scratch often (less packaging), get regular oil changes/air filter changes (improves mileage), pickup after my dog, don’t smoke tobacco, installed new energy saving windows in our home, and last, but not least…
I write my State Legislators, Member of Congress, Senators, Mayor, Governor, and even the President to ask that they support legislation that will encourage the expansion of alternative energy sources like solar, wind, and geothermal. I also advocate for the use of gray-water systems and other “green” alternatives. Check out these websites:http://www.1000fom.org/
What kind of fuel alternative do you think would be best? Electric, hydrogen, ethanol, other?
There a few different options yet it seems that the switch is very slow. What do you think would be the best alternative and do you think it would be a possibility to offer them all to the public at once.
Thank you for the great answers so far everyone. Breath of Wind I agree with most of what you said. We might need to look into different energies for different situations.
Hydrogen takes too much energy to create, there isn’t enough spare land for biomass – electricity is probably the solution since it can be generated from many different sources which can become greener as technology advances. ‘Sustainable Energy without the hot air’ is a good read if UK centered
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Decades of tree and biomass research jointly conducted by Florida Statue University and Shell Energy have resulted in the planting of the largest single Energy Crop Plantation in the entire United States. This Plantation spans approximately 130 acres and is home to over 250,000 planted trees including cottonwoods (native to the area) and eucalyptus (which are non-invasive) along with various row crops such as soybeans. This organization of super trees was brought into being as a result of the University’s joint research with other agencies including Shell, the US Department of Energy, the Common Purpose Institute, and groups of various individuals who are working to develop alternative energy sources (those not dependent on fossil fuels) for the future. This research is focused on the planting and processing of biomass energy supplies from fast-growing crops known as closed loop biomass or simply energy crops. The project seeks to develop power plants such as wood-pulp or wood-fiber providing plants clean biogas to be used by industries plants such as surgarcane which can be used for ethanol development and crops such as soybeans for biodiesel fuel production.
University involvement in alternative energy research is also going on at Penn State University. At Penn State, special research is focused on the development of hydrogen power as a practical alternative energy source. The researchers involved are convinced that mankind is moving toward a hydrogen-fueled economy due to the needs for us to reduce air pollution and find other sources of energy besides petroleum to power up the United States. Hydrogen energy burns clean and can be endlessly renewed, as it can be drawn from water and crop plants. Hydrogen power would thus be a sustainable energy resource to be found within the US’ own infrastructure while the world’s supply of (affordable) oil peaks and begins to decline. The University seeks to help with the commercial development of hydrogen powered fuel cells, which would be usable in place of or in tandem with combustion engines for all of our motor vehicles.
When President Bush recently announced his alternative energy initiative, he determined that the government would develop five Sun Grant centers for concentrated research. Oregon State University has the honor of having been selected as one of these centers, and has been allocated government grants of 20 million for each of the next four years in order to carry out its mission. OSU will lead the way in researching alternative energy as it represents the interests of the Pacific Islands, the US’ Pacific Territories, and nine western states. OSU President Edward Ray says, the research being conducted through OSUs Sun Grant center will contribute directly to our meeting President Bushs challenge for energy independence. Specific research into alternative energy being conducted at OSU by varios teams of scientists right now include a project to figure out how to efficiently convert such products as straw into a source of renewable biomass fuel, and another one aimed at studying how to efficiently convert wood fibers into liquid fuel.