The Road to 100% Renewable

By YUUKI REAL, age 13

Photo: Windwärts Energie GmbH
Photo: Windwärts Energie GmbH

With man-made environmental problems mounting across the globe, many high-profile environmentalists are calling for an end to our reliance on fossil fuels. Fossil fuels such as coal, oil, gas and uranium release greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, when they are mined or burned. This contributes to climate change. Sustainable and renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, water and geothermal can be produced continually and have fewer harmful effects on the environment.

Germany and Iceland already used large amounts of renewable power sources: at 40 percent and 75 percent respectively. In the United States, which consumes 25 percent of the world’s energy, 8 percent of energy sources are renewable.

Willett Kempton, a renewable energy expert at the University of Delaware, concluded in his recent study that the U.S. has the potential to switch to 100 percent  renewable energy by the year 2030. Kempton isn’t alone; Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi at Stanford University also argue that the world’s energy could be 100 percent renewable by 2030.

If Germany and Iceland can convert so much of their energy to renewable sources, why can’t the U.S.? During the Jimmy Carter administration in the late 1970s, the U.S. government made efforts to switch to renewable energy. This was the inspiration that led to Germany’s current green energy revolution. However, in the U.S., politics and lobbying have often diminished the prospect for renewable energy. Massive subsidies have been given to the fossil fuel industry for years to help them grow. Since the beginning of the decade, energy companies have spent more than $2.5 billion to lobby members of Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Without the resources and financial support, the industries developing around renewable energy sources will not be able to grow enough to replace fossil fuels. “This really involves a large scale transformation,” Mark Jacobson said of the goal of switching to 100 percent renewables. “It would require an effort comparable to the Apollo moon project or constructing the interstate highway system.”

For more about renewable energy sources: ‘Power in Our Hands: Renewable Energy & Fossil Fuels in the United States’

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