THE NEXT 10 YEARS
This dark period for alternative energy could last for years. With government debt soaring and no more worries about running out of oil, many renewable subsidies are being scaled back.
“The world is completely different now,” MIT’s Greenstone says.
But there are still hundreds of companies, including fossil fuel giants, working on new renewable-energy projects. ExxonMobil is investing in Synthetic Genomics, a company started by the geneticist J. Craig Venter to try to create strains of algae that will produce fuels. BP and Shell continue to work on ways to turn plant waste into fuels.
California, meanwhile, set the nation’s most ambitious renewable energy goals and is on track to meet them.
One-fifth of the power delivered by the state’s three biggest utilities now comes from renewables, not including large hydroelectric dams. By 2020, that portion will rise to one-third.
President Barack Obama in March proposed using $2 billion in federal oil and gas royalties to invest in clean energy technology research. Obama is also expected to promote renewables through pollution regulations, if not with new laws.
And for all the world’s newfound oil, prices are still high because developing nations are consuming more.
“It’s not time to write the epitaph yet,” Aldous says. Eventually the global economy will fully recover, he says, and demand for energy of all kinds will increase.
“New sources of energy are going to be in vogue again,” he says.
Experts didn’t see the oil and gas boom coming five years ago. It’s certainly possible the world will change direction again in the next five years.
But EOG’s Papa says oil and gas companies will just invest in even more sophisticated technology. He estimates that current techniques pull only 6 percent of the oil trapped in source rock to the surface. Learning to double that would yield yet another enormous trove of hydrocarbons.<< previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11