What Energy Levels Can the Earth Sustain?

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Finance Case Studies

Patrick Moriarty and Damon Honnery’s article “What energy levels can the Earth sustain?” address future global energy production and suggests that high energy growth rates in the 20th century will not continue into the future.

In the last 20 years the clean energy industry has endured staggering growth. Public subsidies that have propelled the space to 25 percent annual growth rates in recent years have now become politically unsustainable. Last year, the number of new wind turbine installations dropped for the first time; in the United States, the figure fell by as much as half. The revolution in clean energy was supposed to help fix these problems while also creating green jobs that would power the economic recovery. Some niches in clean energy will still be profitable, such as residential rooftop solar installations and biofuel made from Brazilian sugar cane, which is already competitive with oil. While emphasizing the declining role of renewable energy going forward, the authors focus on vital energy sources, notably hydrocarbon fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

According to the authors, there will be available energy to meet demand given the theory that energy consumption going forward will be significantly lower than the present level. In the author’s opinion, climate change will continue to force the issue of renewable energy sources. Despite this theory, he believes that the fossil fuel % of overall energy use will remain consistent with today’s rates and even does as far as to say that renewable sources are not the answer to meet our energy needs

While the article mainly focused on energy sources, the conclusion focused on policy implications. Notably, the fact that we will need to avoid the possible use of non-conventional fossil fuels, since these have higher than average primary/secondary energy ratios, and thus higher environmental damages, including CO2 emissions per unit of secondary energy. Secondly, the...
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