Renewable Energy: The path to global sustainability

alaska-airlines-biofuelFor as long as we can remember, oil has been the key source to fueling factories, heavy machinery, vehicles, and airplanes. However these days, investors are looking at renewable energy producers, hoping that they would come up with sustainable solutions that could possibly work as a substitute for oil. With companies perfecting a new technique in making silicon wafers that will reportedly cut future solar power costs by 20 percent, most of those that switched to alternative markets have directed their attention toward solar energy.

That isn’t to say that other sources aren’t making headway in their respective fields. Warren Buffett is banking on a new 400 megawatt wind farm in Nebraska estimated to increase the state’s wind-generated energy by 50 percent, although the industry has been under a lot of heat lately as wind turbines are killing more birds than the 2010 BP oil spill. Over in geothermal developments, US Senator Jon Tester initiated the Geothermal Energy Opportunity Act, encouraging research in using fracking water as a source for electricity and heat.

The one clean energy source that has unexpectedly progressed amidst the oil price fall is biofuels. Past market performance demonstrates that biofuels thrive when oil costs $100 per barrel, but they seem to be faring relatively well at the $50 to 60 range. As it stands, oil doesn’t seem to be doing too badly with continued investments in Iraq and other large crude oil producing countries and its early signs of a price rally, which could be good news for biofuels given the positive correlation between the two energy sources.

Oil has always been the number one source of energy to fuel jets, however all that could change with the advances made in bioenergy research. Alaska Air recently announced its partnership with Gevo in testing their alcohol-to-jet fuel, becoming the first commercial airline to fly on corn and plant waste. Over in Washington State University, researchers have discovered a way to create fuel from a black fungus that is commonly found in rotting fruits, decaying leaves, and soil. And as for electricity and heat, the Bioenergy Act of 2015 aims to develop biomass technologies to power homes and businesses, all the while creating jobs in rural areas and reducing the risk of wildfires. Could bioenergy replace oil in the future? The recent developments in the market seem to point in that direction.

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