Unconventional Energy Sources: The Future?
The combination of global warming and peak oil has made finding alternative sources of energy more important than ever. There are a number of promising options available however there has only been a limited amount of work done to develop them. The main reason for this is that right now there is little financial incentive to do so. That may change in the future but for now it looks like alternative energy sources are a long way in the future.
There are quite a few sources of unconventional energy that potentially could replace fossil fuels as our primary energy source. Some of these are more likely than others to become major sources of energy in the future. Things like solar power, biofuels, and hydrogen all have potential but they also have issues that are going to have to be overcome if they are actually going to replace oil as our primary source of energy. Even if alternative energy sources are used it will likely still be necessary to continue to use oil for at least some of our needs. This is because all of the potential replacements have issues associated with them that make it unlikely that they could meet all of our needs.
The biggest issues with most unconventional energy sources is that with current technology it requires more energy to produce them than we can get out of them, the resourced needed to create green cars were . The most extreme example of this is biofuels where it takes ten times as much energy to produce the fuel as the amount of energy you actually get out of it. This is also true of hydrogen to a lesser degree. Other issues are supply problems, there simply isn't enough biomass to actually replace fossil fuels as our primary source of power. Other alternative energy sources like solar and wind power have issues with producing enough power to meet our needs.
The likelihood that any of these alternative energy sources will replace oil in the near future is slim for one main reason and that is money. It is going to take a major investment in order to develop these technologies but there are few investors willing to take the risk. The problem is that it will take so long before an investor would see a return on his investment that few people would be willing to put their money into alternative fuels. There are also regulatory issues, since nobody knows what the rules on the use of something like hydrogen are going to be in the future it is hard to justify putting money into developing the technology. Currently we are in a situation in which the government expects private industry to invest in developing the technology while industry think the risk and time frames are unacceptable and expect the government to do it. The result is that nobody is doing it, so it is unlikely that these unconventional sources of energy are going to be available any time soon.