There aren’t enough wind turbines in the world to outpower humankind’s appetite for energy, a study by University of Oregon researcher Richard York has found.
Photovoltaic cells haven’t outgenerated the growing demand, on average, in the 130 countries that comprise much of the inhabited world, York found in a study that will appear in an upcoming issue of Nature Climate Change journal.
All the alternative energy types developed over the past half-century, including nuclear power, have done little to stem the use of fossil fuels anywhere on the globe, York found in an analysis of 4,000 data points collected by the World Bank. Fossil fuel consumption grows right alongside all of them.
“Adding energy sources spurs demand beyond what it was before,” York said. “When wind turbines are added, you don’t notice less additional growth in fossil fuels.”
York, an associate sociology professor who specializes in environmental studies, said it doesn’t mean that campaigns to increase the use of solar and other green energy forms aren’t important.
“If we’re not going to use fossil fuels, we’re going to need to have something else,” he said. “But we shouldn’t think that just adding solar cells is going to prevent other energy use.”
His study, completed last summer, contradicts an operating assumption of the International Panel on Climate Change – the global body that tries to understand the science of climate change – that any alternative energy that comes online will displace fossil fuels.
“If we’re going to make policies to try and stop using fossil fuels, we need to think more systematically about doing that rather than just focusing on technological development and hoping that adding other sources will just naturally displace fossil fuels on the energy market,” York said.
To even the score between alternative and fossil fuel energy, countries will have to suppress demand for fossil fuels with carbon taxes or cap and trade systems, he said.
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