• Article

The energy future

The foreseeable energy future will be driven by economics of known technologies and the desire to reduce CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. Renewable energy options are compared with each other and with the use of fossil fuels with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Economic analysis is used to determine the best of several alternatives. One can disagree on the detailed costs, including externalities such as climate change and air and water pollution. But the differences in capital and operating costs between known technologies are so significant that one can draw clear conclusions. Results show that renewable energy cannot compete with fossil fuels on a cost basis alone because energy is intrinsic to the molecule, except for hydroelectricity. However, fossil fuels are implicated in climate change. Using renewable energy exclusively, including transportation and electricity needs, could reduce the standard of living in the United States by 43% to 62%, which would correspond to the level in about 1970. If capture and sequester of CO2 are implemented, the cost of using fossil fuels will increase, but they beat renewable energy handily as an economic way to produce clean energy.


Newman, J., Bonino, C. A., & Trainham, J. A. (2018). The energy future. Annual Review of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, 9, 153-174. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-chembioeng-060817-084300