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Nine Challenges of Alternative Energy

David Fridley

August 10, 2010

Unlike conventional fossil fuels, where nature provided energy over millions of years to convert biomass into energy-dense solids, liquids, and gases–requiring only extraction and transportation technolgy for us to mobilize them–alternative energy depends heavily on specially engineered equipment and infrastructure for capture or conversion, essentially making it a high-tech manufacturing process. However, the full supply chain for alternative energy, from raw material to manufacturing, is still very dependent on fossil-fuel energy for mining, transport, and materials production. Alternative energy faces the challenge of how to supplant a fossil-fuel-based supply chain with one driven by alternative energy forms themselves in order to break their reliance on a fossil-fuel foundation.

This is a chapter from The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises (2010).

See also David Fridley’s 2016 book-length treatment of this topic, Our Renewable Future: Laying the Path for One Hundred Percent Clean Energy