The Earth’s human population reached 7 billion this week, according to the United Nations Population Fund, shining the spotlight on the world’s infrastructure, water, and energy problems.
To complicate matters further, the UN estimates that by 2050, the population will reach 9 billion.
In the United States, the energy community has been increasingly looking at gas as the bridge to the future, hoping that abundant domestic supplies will provide plenty of relatively cheap, clean and dependable electricity for the coming decades. Many cite its flexibility to ramp up and down and firm renewable power as another plus. Some trucking companies are in fact converting their fleets to run on liquified natural gas (LNG), despite the high up front costs, banking on the promise that low and stable natural gas prices will make the investment more than worth it.
Natural gas developer Chesapeake Energy announced on Thursday that it had raised $3.4 billion to further drill in the Utica Shale, perhaps one of the clearest signs that shale gas is here to stay.
But the developments have not come without sizable bumps in the road. A midnight explosion at a Pennsylvania natural gas compressor over the Marcellus Shale has renewed fears about the safety of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the technology that has unlocked the vast domestic stores of gas. Just this week, the EPA released its report on the safety of fracking and its potential to contaminate fresh water, a document that sparked immediate opposition from the industry.
And while renewable energy companies continue to tout their technologies as clean, green and environmentally sound, yet another bankruptcy of a clean energy company that received a Department of Energy loan guarantee–this time of $43 million–has raised new doubts about clean energy investments. Read more: Renewable Financing Is Not What It Used To Be.
Even so, entrepreneurs and developers have not given up hope. National Hydropower Association executive director Linda Church-Ciocci told Breaking Energy that hydropower has substantial room for growth in the United States and continues to produce renewable power at a remarkable 95% efficiency. In Ireland, developers are capturing the ocean’s energy, in the form of both waves and tides, to experiment with another kind of hydropower.
And in the US, a company that is building a transmission system specifically for renewable power marked a victory this week when the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) approved it for public utility status, allowing Clean Line Energy Partners to build its line through the state.
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