In observation of Earth Day, we've interviewed Joe Shuster author of Beyond Fossil Fools: The Road Map To Energy Independence By 2040. The comprehensive (but totally readable) guide to kicking our fossil fuel habit before it's too late (be it ecological catastrophe or just running out).
Joe Shuster: Number one is to get informed and learn the strengths, weakness and limitations of all energy sources. Part of the solution will be wind and solar, but both are very expensive and need 100% backup.
I believe conservation is VERY important, but it is NOT the solution, and it is dangerous for people (couples) to believe as many do, that it will solve our energy problem. Let’s say the world found a way to use 50% less energy, but the world population grows the predicted 45% at the same time, then we would be at about a stand still with today's energy use. The fact is the world on a per capita basis will be using more energy- not less.
The U.S. is a different case: we use 25% of the world’s energy while having only 5% of the population – lots of room for improvement. We can use 40 to 50% less energy in this country particularly as we switch to our transportation fleet to plug-in hybrids and all electric cars. This would reduce the energy we need in 2040 by about 10%- significant but not the solution.
If we don't solve the problem in a timely fashion, our children and grandchildren will inherit a world in total chaos. If we do solve the problem, they will inherit a world where the atmosphere and the oceans will be recovering, less people will die from pollution, and hopefully they will be able to deal with the world's population and water problems.
It is well to know that if we deploy all renewable energy sources (solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, tides/waves, hydro, etc) up to their logical limitations, there would still be a deficit in the energy needed in 2040. This deficit can only be satisfied by either continuing to burn polluting fossil fuels or nuclear energy (fast reactors). No other options, no other choices.