In the Future...Energy

At some point, people will finally get it and finally decide that it's time to look for new sources of energy.  Our primary energy source, petroleum, is costly and dirty and keeps us dependent on foreign governments which can compromise our security.  A new source of energy won't replace oil immediately and it won't be only one source.  Multiple sources of energy depending on its purpose would be the smartest way to go because it won't put all of our eggs in one basket.

Wind power, while it seems like one of the most ideal sources, could have some unintended consequences.  Large-scale wind farms in a concentrated area could result in wind pattern disruptions, but the scale of these farms would have to be immense.  Wind farms are also a point of controversy because of asthetic concerns (yes, people think wind farms are ugly).  In a small scale, wind can be used to ease the burden on an already overstressed power grid some parts of the country.  Wind is but one solution to the energy problem, there also another force of nature that can be used.

Solar power technology has come a long way in recent years and it is realistic in most of the continental US for most of the year.  There was a time when solar panels were big, expensive, inefficient and, frankly, ugly.  Today, thin film solar panels are more efficient and can be integrated into roofing shingles for a seamless look.  Used in conjunction with wind, a household could save lots of money (I admit, I'm too lazy to do the math).  These are pretty reasonable ideas for household and building electricity, but not useful for cars.

Cars are a different story.  Currently, we are essentially using the same technology as was used when the automobile was first manufactured.  There have been improvements that help efficiency, but not by much.  According to fueleconomy.gov, only 15% of the energy from gasoline is used to propel the car down the road.  This is pretty bad, even if the car gets 30 mpg.  It seems that there is a push to find a new fuel for current engines such as biofuels.  There are also hybrid cars, but they still use petroleum-based fuel.  I could see a new engine design in the future possibly using ethanol from renewable or waste sources.  Electricity is possible, but not practical in current terms because recharging would take a while.  This is not to say that battery technology will not improve in coming years to provide a longer lasting charge or faster charging times.  Hydrogen is not practical since the processes of extracting it from methane gas requires more fuel than we use now and getting it from water is even more expensive and time-consuming.

I found that speculating on the energy of the future is probably the most difficult post I will do this week.  There are currently a few possibilities for new sources, but many more could pop up in the future.  The car is even more difficult because new technologies could come up in the near future.  Electricity for homes and buildings is a little easier to see since they are already being used in construction.  As I stated in a past post or two, we don't need to "go green" or be a tree hugger to want to see new forms of energy.  We proclaim to be technologically advanced in this country, let's prove it.