The cost of energy, especially energy derived from fossil fuels, feeds into a wide range of problems around the world--foremost of course being the gradual destruction of the environment. Finding a clean, nearly free source of energy would drastically alter the dynamics of the world system--politically, socially and economically.
Where We Are Now: Anyone who’s been to a gas station or paid an electric bill knows that energy isn’t free. Additionally, the current debate over when and how to transition away from a carbon-based energy economy has highlighted just how finite and expensive most current energy solutions are.
Even worse, the US Department of Energy predicts a 34 percent increase in the cost of energy by 2020, leaving electricity costing an average of 12.2 cents per kilowatt hour.
However, many experts claim that those numbers don’t accurately incorporate the true life cycle cost of coal. Gill also believes that a 20 percent increase in both solar and wind energy could meet the world’s energy demand for the next 20 years, two forms of energy that are notoriously cheap once the initial investment costs are overcome.
What Needs To Happen: Although the start up costs are high, solar thermal and offshore wind power drastically reduce the long term cost of energy by using a fuel that, unlike coal, natural gas and nuclear, costs exactly nothing.
To really get massive amounts of energy for next to no money, (and for a similarly Apollo-like public attention garnering) most people pin their hopes on a major and unexpected development in nuclear fusion. And while some fusion technologies promise easy, cheap energy, many experts think it might be over 100 years before fusion lights anyone’s home.
Chances It Will Occur Within A Decade: The cars will be different, and the light bulbs will be more efficient, but 10 years from now, we’re still going to have to pay an electric bill.single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.