1) Carbon capture and sequestration.
This is the "Clean Coal" myth. I call it a myth because coal companies like to flaunt it like we have the technology, and we don't. (This Is Reality.org
does a great job of explaining the myth of clean coal.) We have no way right now of capturing carbon, and if we did develop a way, we wouldn't know where to put the captured carbon. An article in Science Daily
tells of MIT students that are working on developing a way to do capture the carbon, but the solution is injecting the captured carbon into geological formations. We have yet to test this method, and some scientists (at least Lewis) have serious doubts if this will work without CO2 leaking into the atmosphere.
Besides all this, we would still have to mine for the coal. Mining coal is a toxic process that usually involves mountaintop removal
. It is destroying the oldest mountains in the world, polluting our environment and oppressing communities like Appalachia.
2) Nuclear produces a lot of power and it doesn't emit CO2. But to power the entire planet we would need about 10,000 reactors. We'd have to build one every day for the next 50 years. And let's not forget that uranium is a nonrenewable resource, mining for it is destructive and transportation is very costly (in terms of energy use). Nuclear produces a massive amount of waste, and no one wants that deadly waste in their backyard.
3) Renewable energy.
Most of these (wind, geothermal, etc.) won't work by themselves. They won't produce enough consistent energy. Our best best is solar
. To power the entire United States forever
, you would only need to cover a small county in Kansas in solar panels. That's a crazy thought. Why not do that now? One, solar is way too expensive. We'd have to put up a million solar roofs a day (starting today) for the next 50 years. And two, we'd need a way to store the solar power (like a battery), so that when the sun was not shining on the panels, we would still have energy.
Nate Lewis chooses nuclear as our best bet because it produces the most power and we have the technology right now. The only problem is waste, and that's a big problem. I don't want nuclear waste buried under my house, or the homes of my future children. I predict this to be a big, dangerous, scary problem if we move towards nuclear. I don't want future generations to deal with this problem if we can avoid it now.
My solution is "solar like paint." Lewis uses the analogy of paint, or carpet, to describe how we need to think about solar energy. It needs to roll on our rooftops like paint. We need to make it cheap, fast and efficient. But I don't think we should stop there. A real solution to this problem will incorporate multiple forms of energy. It will involve "solar paint," windmills, hydropower ... even algae
. And we're constantly developing new technologies. If we pair these solutions with strong climate legislation from our decision-makers, we may be on our way to solving the energy problem and preserving the world for future generations.
As Nate Lewis says, "If we don't cure cancer in twenty years, tragic as it is, the world will be the same. If we don't build the next computer, faster, better, cheaper, the world will be the same. But if we don't cure, fix or somehow deal with the energy and climate problem, then the world simply won't ever be the same."