The Decline of Renewable Energy

Many today believe that renewable-energy technologies will enable us to end our addiction to fossil fuels soon. The facts say otherwise: unless and until we start investing far more heavily in green R&D, we will continue moving in the opposite direction.

PRAGUE – Many today believe that renewable energy will let us get off fossil fuels soon. Unfortunately, the facts say otherwise.

According to International Energy Agency data, 13.12% of the world’s energy came from renewables in 1971, the first year that the IEA reported global statistics. In 2011, renewables’ share was actually lower, at 12.99%. Yet a new survey shows that Americans believe that the share of renewables in 2035 will be 30.2%. In reality, it will likely be 14.5%.

Solar and wind energy account for a trivial proportion of current renewables – about one-third of one percentage point. The vast majority comes from biomass, or wood and plant material – humanity’s oldest energy source. While biomass is renewable, it is often neither good nor sustainable.

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