It seems like such an obvious solution: If the conventional methods used to create electricity are the number one source of hazardous air pollutants, then the best thing to do is to find another source of energy. This alternative energy source should be abundant, clean, and renewable, and it should be harnessable using currently existing technology. So, given this criteria, what exactly is holding us back from formally giving coal and fossil fuel dependency the boot? Well, let’s take a look.
Well, first and foremost, the entire energy production industry is absolutely massive. That means that there are a lot of powerful people who make their livings off of the way things are currently done, and would be financially devastated should any drastic changes be made. However, we’re not only talking about heartless robber-baron tycoons who want to bleed the world dry just to line their wallets; we’re also talking about anyone involved in the mining, shipping, pumping, transport, sale, and refinement of coal and fossil fuels.
Add to that the various industries and employees who produce the equipment used in energy production, as well as the myriad other parallel businesses who depend on the current methods of power production, and you’ve got millions of people who are personally invested in the success of conventional power. This makes it a very difficult issue politically. At the same time, a great deal of effort and money would have to be expended in order to change the existing infrastructure to accommodate newer energy sources. Put that all together, and you have a large problem that will take a great deal of time to solve.
With alternative energy still being a relatively new idea, it has yet to be made as cost-effective as existing conventional power production methods. Before any widespread changes can be implemented, a substantial amount of research must be done. Even for tested and reliable technology such as that used in capturing solar power, the cost of production and maintenance when compared to conventional coal-burning makes it a less attractive option. And with the demand for electricity increasing everyday, governments are being forced to choose the less expensive, if also more harmful, form of energy. However, solar power is gaining something of a foothold among private property owners who want to cut back on their electric bills, thanks to certain home automation providers. One such company, Vivint, offers rentable solar panels, so that the homeowner can lease the technology as a way to supplement current power needs. Their CEO Todd Pedersen recently gave an interview talking about the solar industry and how much it is expanding. He even went as far to coll out some of their competitors, and tout Vivint as one of the top solar companies in the world, and where they stood against more well known companies like SolarCity. The competition is definitely heating up, and with AT&T and other companies starting to break into the solar industry, this technology will be even more accessible and affordable for the general public.
Sure, the danger to the environment that is presented by global warming is a dire one, but for most people it’s just not really a pressing issue. After all, even if the polar ice caps are shrinking and temperatures are rising, most of us are still going about our daily lives as though nothing has changed. The climate change problem is simply too big. Sure, we’d like to do something to help if we could, but we’ve got more pressing concerns at the moment.
Thus, if anything more than the slightest effort is required on the part of the average citizen, then most people will decline in favor of the system that is already working. As animals, humanity is rather reactionary, and we prioritize our threats based upon which is more immediate. The sad truth is that unless we can change our attitudes, we probably won’t bother really investing the time, money, and interest into alternative energy until it’s too late. Once the wolf is at the door, so to speak, we may find that our efforts that could have staved off disaster are simply too little, too late.
So, it looks like we might be stuck with coal and fossil fuel for a while longer. However, mankind has done surprising and commendable things in the past. Maybe we will make the jump to alternative energy, but even if we do, it will still take some time to undo the damage that’s been done to the environment.