The Alternatives

Renewable energy comes from resources which are constantly and sustainably replenished. They will always be available and are clean, cheap and abundant. In 2012, renewable energy in the U.S. accounted for 13.2% of domestically produced electricity, as compared to Germany and China which each generate about 30% of their energy from renewables.

Types of Renewable Energy Sources

Wind energy: It costs about the same as electricity from new coal and gas-fired power plants and is pollution free.

Solar energy: It is inexhaustible and cheaper than ever. It now powers a wide variety of things from homes to gadgets. It can go on roof tops or be part of a centralized power facility.

Biomass and cellulosic ethanol: Plant materials, wood, corn and soy account for nearly half the renewable energy in the U.S., but it is not always sustainable and energy costs may exceed energy input.

Biogas energy: Farmers can reduce pollution and generate their own heat and electricity by converting animal waste into a clean-burning gas. Municipalities can capture biogas from landfills to generate power instead of pollution.

Geothermal energy: Reservoirs of steam and hot water beneath the earth’s surface hold enormous potential as a renewable energy resource. Ground source heat pumps can be much more efficient than air-to-air heat exchangers.

Hydropower energy: Energy from moving water is the largest source of renewable electricity in the U.S., although damning of rivers is detrimental to both the up and downstream ecosystems.

Offshore wind, wave and tidal energy: Offshore renewable energy holds great promise and can be developed in a way that protects our ocean resources.

Benefits to Renewable Energy
There are multiple benefits to our economy, our health, the environment and to our climate if we switch to renewable energy.

  1. There are little to no carbon emissions.
  2. We experience improved health and environmental quality.
  3. Renewables are a vast and inexhaustible source of energy.
  4. The development and production of renewables will provide jobs and other economic benefits.
  5. Energy prices should be stable and not fluctuate like oil prices currently do. The costs are going down.
  6. Our energy system will be more reliable and resilient.

There is a Viable Renewable Energy Plan for the U.S.
Here is the really good news about renewables. A report released in 2013, entitled “The Solutions Project” prepared by Mark Jacobson at Stanford University and others indicates that we can generate enough renewable energy along with improved efficiencies to meet 100% of our energy needs starting today. In other words, we can switch to renewables NOW, using current technology as well as create millions of jobs. Their plans contemplate all new energy powered with wind, water or solar by 2020, about 80-85% of existing energy replaced by 2030, and 100% replaced by 2050.

We Need Leadership
There are two things The Solutions Project can’t supply – the “will” and leadership to implement the plan. One would think figuring out how to transition quickly to 100% renewable energy would be the difficult problem, but the hardest problem is convincing leadership that we have a way forward that is better than the past. This isn’t easy because the fossil fuel industry has no intention to drop its lucrative business plan and is fighting movement towards renewables. But we can help make this happen, if we -- churches, universities, foundations and cities unite; divest our fossil fuel holdings; and demand that our leaders lead us to a safe, clean and sustainable future with renewables.