Economic Worries Affect Renewable Energy Research

October 24, 2008 | | Comments Off on Economic Worries Affect Renewable Energy Research

As the economy continues to struggle, and news of major world leaders meeting to discuss the crisis, many people wish they could get a break anywhere. At least we can look forward to cheaper renewable energy soon. Both Presidential candidates are offering “green collar” job plans, hoping to grow our economy and our independence from traditional energy sources. The future looks bright for renewable energy. Or at least, it used to.

Renewable energy is facing an uncertain future as the economy continues to struggle. The cost of gas has dropped slightly, but is still higher than most would prefer. With lower gas costs comes American complacency. Soaring prices and concerns over our reliance on foreign oil have caused people on all ends of the political spectrum to demand solutions. Just as in the 70s, interest in renewable energy has surged. What is uncertain is if the near future will turn out like the 80s, where lowered gas and oil prices caused a collapse in the focus on renewable energy.

After the collapse in renewable energy research and interest in the US, Europe overtook the US as the lead in research and development. European governments were eager for the jobs and technology, leading to large amounts of investment that were not present in the US. Only recently has America come back into the picture as a major center of interest, as concerns over high gas prices and our involvement in a war with a major gas producing country have brought the idea of renewable energy back into the forefront of our minds.

Many states have set lofty goals for energy production in the next 10 to 15 years. There is now a worry that those goals will not be met. Stocks of renewable energy companies have fallen harder and faster than all other stocks during these recent turbulent times. As we look to increase production, we will need facilities and factories. The credit crisis has affected the ability of all borrowers, not just those looking to buy a home. There will be struggles to stay on target for our energy goals, and the next President will have to prioritize renewable energy above some other pet projects in order to keep their campaign promises and our hopes of renewable energy alive. Whether this will actually happen remains to be seen.

“Government funding for renewables is now going to have to compete with levels of government funding in other areas that were unimaginable six months ago,” Mark Flannery, an energy analyst for Credit Suisse, said.

What we can count on is the money already awarded for research, such as the $40 million that the Energy Department granted to BlueFire Ethanol, a California based company that is doing research on making ethanol out of waste. There were $17 billion in tax credits awarded by Congress for the development of clean energy. But, for the first time in many years, the amount of money invested in renewable energy is expected to be lower this year than last. What this means for our renewable energy future will only be answered in time. Hopefully the American mindset has evolved, and we will avoid letting a chance at renewable energy pass us by again. This time we must demand change.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user net_efekt.

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