Green Insider: What’s Slowing Our Transition to Alternative Energy?

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America's transition to alternative energy is progressing slowly.

For quite a while now, we have been watching and waiting for a new green economy to instigate massive changes to the way we produce and consume energy.  We’ve seen the enormous wind turbines across deserts and rooftops lined with solar panels, but has this movement actually penetrated mainstream America?  In 2009, wind power accounted for only 8% of our nation’s total consumption and solar power was a mere 1%, according to the Energy Information Administration.  And while many public or commercial transportation fleets have chosen to make the move to natural gas, most individuals still own conventional gas-powered vehicles.  Despite the acknowledgment of our dire oil addiction, about 2/3 of all the United State’s oil use is for transportation. So don’t expect to see a huge change any time soon.  Do you plan to purchase an electric car next year?

While it is evident that we are making efforts to move toward a more green economy, many adjustments must be made before we can fully make a definite change in the way Americans produce and consume energy.  Here are three questions that need to be answered before we can make alternative energy an everyday reality.

•    How long will it take to retrofit our power grids? The United States currently lacks the infrastructure to support alternative energy.  As you read this article, an investigation is being conducted on natural gas pipelines that ruptured and caused a deadly fire to engulf a California neighborhood. These pipelines, which took decades to construct, deliver natural gas that powers homes and businesses across America and are part of 1.8 million miles of pipeline.  Smartgrids have been discussed, and many companies are laying the groundwork to construct mechanisms to move power across the country, but currently the United States does not have the infrastructure to make this transition.

•    Who will foot the bill? The transition to more alternative forms of energy will be costly.  Many energy producers have invested heavily in the research and development of new technologies that support renewable energy, but most have been reluctant to fully implement these ideas into their business strategies.  These producers understand the risks involved in making the transition and are weary of how their businesses will be affected.  They could either choose to incur the costs associated with these upgrades or defer to the other option of passing it on to energy consumers.

•    How do we pass green energy legislation? Current policies don’t support a green economy.  Many green energy advocates are pushing for a combination of policies that will help move the country toward more alternative forms of energy, but getting these measures approved have been difficult.  Last year, the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP15) brought back the discussion of “cap and trade” but Congress soon lost interest in moving any legislation forward.

If you’ve got an answer for these questions please let us know. Or visit our Energy Forum microsite and post your own question. Your questions will be presented to our panelists on Nov. 8, 2010, when Black Enterprise and Shell will host an expert panel to address these issues and other concerns related to the future production and consumption of our nation’s energy.

For more information on alternative energy visit:

Green Power: How to Find your Next Opportunity in Energy

Can COP15 Be Trusted in Your Neighborhood?

Black Mayors Press Senate to Pass Energy Bill

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