Life after Oil and Gas: Wind Water and Sun Could Power the US

May 9, 2015

Thirteen countries got more than 30 percent of their electricity from renewable energy in 2011, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency, and many are aiming still higher. A National Research Council report released last week concluded that the United States could halve by 2030 the oil used in cars and trucks compared with 2005 levels by improving the efficiency of gasoline-powered vehicles and by relying more on cars that use alternative power sources, like electric batteries and biofuels. Just days earlier a team of Stanford engineers published a proposal showing how New York State — not windy like the Great Plains, nor sunny like Arizona — could easily produce the power it needs from wind, solar and water power by 2030. In fact there was so much potential power, the researchers found, that renewable power could also fuel our cars. even with President Obama’s automotive fuel standards, European vehicles were on average more than 30 percent more fuel efficient than American ones. But Dr. Birol predicted that the price of wind power would continue to drop, while the price of natural gas would rise in coming years, with the two potentially reaching parity by 2020. He noted, too, that countries could often get 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar without much modification to their grids. A few states, like Iowa and South Dakota, get nearly that much of their electricity from renewable power (in both states, wind), while others use little at all. Portugal now gets 40 percent of its electricity from renewable power, Dr. Jacobson said that careful grid design and coordination of power sources would ensure a stable power supply, although a smidgen of natural gas would be needed for the 0.2 percent of the time that renewables failed to generate sufficient electricity. The report claims that the plan would create 58,000 jobs in New York State (which now imports much of its power), create energy security and ultimately stabilize electricity prices. The authors say the substantial costs of enacting the scheme could be recouped in under two decades, particularly if the societal cost of pollution and carbon emissions were factored in. Graph: How Much Electricity Comes from Renewable Sources -Germany- 21 percent Multiple Resources: Of its renewable electricity, Germany generates 37 percent from wind, 19 percent from hydroelectric and 15 percent from solar. -Spain- 30% -Denmark- 40 percent Committed to Wind: Twenty eight percent of Denmark's electricity comes from wind. The government plans to increase this to 50 percent by 2020

 

Elizabeth Rosenthal, "Life after Oil and Gas," The New York Times, March, 23 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/sunday-review/life-after-oil-and-gas.h... [verified 4/17/14]

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