Comments and References

Introduction: The Chasm to Be Crossed

Can renewables replace coal in a decade? Al Gore’s petition to repower America (see http://wecansolveit.org) identifies wind power, solar thermal power, solar photovoltaics (PV), and geothermal power as options capable of replacing all coal-fired power plants within a decade (Gore, 2008) That goal is unrealistic. Granted, U.S. production of renewables grew fast in the years before the financial crash of 2008, from 352 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2006 to about 500TWh in 2008, an eighth of the U.S. total. But 80 percent of that renewable energy produced now is hydroelectricity, which can’t grow (virtually all the possible sites are already in use); much of the rest comes from burning wood ...

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