Alternative energy facing obstacles

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Monday, June 4, 2012
This is among commentaries submitted to The Gazette from students at Janesvilleís Craig and Parker high schools who did field studies in either Washington, D.C., or Madison in Advanced Placement U.S. government courses taught by Joe Van Rooy.

Whenever gas gets expensive, people start talking about alternatives, whether it is ethanol, electricity or hydrogen. But no matter how expensive gas has been in the past, these alternatives have never actually taken off.

Why? The problem is that alternative energy cannot compete with the availability and affordability of fossil fuels. Alternatives are not a part of the energy market like oil is. They account for only about 14 percent of our total energy consumption and are therefore far less available than oil-based fuel, which can be bought in every town in the country.

Alternatives have a hard time expanding because they are risky investments, and in a turbulent economy that makes potential investors hard to come by. One Senate staffer made the point that most alternative technologies have never been tested on a large scale. Because of this, no large-scale alternative projects are being undertaken, and what is out there has no way of competing with large-scale, cheap oil. This forces alternative producers to make up the gap by raising prices for consumers, making it impossible to compete with oil on price.

Like it or not, we are still in the oil age, and until alternatives are cheaper or less risky than oil, they will not be able to compete. The time just isnít right yet.

Oil wonít last forever though, and with the world consuming it faster than ever, that day is approaching ever nearer, ushering in a future filled with alternative energy.

Last updated: 8:52 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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