posted on Apr, 26 2008 @ 04:00 PM
Hydro-power: cheap, clean, and fairly easy to engineer, but a limited supply depending on where you live. really only good for electrical
Nuclear power (fission): cheap, but expensive to build/maintain the plants. Requires an enriched radioactive material, and the waste is still highly
radioactive, leading to problems with storage. Can be built almost anywhere, but big and bulky, so only good for electricity.
Nuclear power (fusion): the same process that powers the sun, essentially turning hydrogen isotopes into helium. Clean, powerful, and plentiful
(hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe), but not practical. Research is underway to develop a process called 'cold fusion', where
the benefits of the reaction can be obtained at temperatures less than the sun's core temperature. If it works, we have found the holy grail of
energy production, but so far no real progress has been forthcoming.
Wind power: great alternative for electrical power generation in areas where winds are fairly constant. Only good for electricity.
Solar power: getting cheaper, and can be used anywhere there is sunlight. Produces electricity, but is so portable it can be used for mobile
applications. It has a low power output at this point in time, however.
Geothermal: A good alternative for heating/cooling of structures, but requires a decent ground area. Output is at approximately 60 degrees F, so any
adjustment requires additional energy. (Great cooling, poor heating)
Methane: A great fuel for most applications, but mobile apps will require a new infrastructure, since methane is a gas, not a liquid.
Hydrogen: similar pros and cons to methane, but is also very explosive and therefore highly dangerous. Will combine with most elements (not just
oxygen) so is still dangerous even when oxygen is not present.
Coal: plentiful in the USA, but difficult to mine and unless treated to remove impurities (an expensive process) produces many toxic gases when
Wood: Similar to coal, but with less power concentration. Renewable, but inadequate unless we turn every square inch of the country into timberland.
Also not clean burning, although typically cleaner than coal.
Alcohol: Is being used as an additive for gasoline now, but requires organic mash to produce. Organic mash can also be eaten, so overuse threatens our
food supply. It also requires a great deal of energy to produce the organics used, in the form of diesel fuel for farm equipment and transportation
from field to plant, giving a very poor energy benefit. With the exception of the newer 'flex-fuel' engines, alcohol does not burn as efficiently as
gasoline and can damage engines after repeated use. Also ineffective when mixed with diesel fuel.
Bio-diesel: The diesel engine was originally designed to run on peanut oil, so it's no surprise that bio-diesel is easily used in a diesel engine. It
has the same drawback as alcohol, however, in that it threatens our food supply and requires much energy to produce. It also does not eliminate the
need for diesel fuel, as bio-diesel is blended with traditional diesel fuel.
In summary, nothing adequate for our needs that won't take time to develop and time to market. We're hooked on oil for the short term at least.