In the United States, usage of fossil fuels is often considered a necessary evil. Though the massive auto industry produces vehicles reliant on these fuels to run properly, the market exists for alternatives that are both sustainable and healthier for the environment. Critics of renewable energy have long sustained that, without governmental support, that it would not be able to compete with fossil fuels. However, this assertion ignores the support that the government gives to the fossil fuels industry, so it can hardly be said that renewables are on an even playing field.
That may change in the future, however. In any industry, companies have the potential to disrupt themselves and usher in a new era in which they still have a stake. This is very prevalent in the energy industry; even amongst oil companies, there is still a drive to move more towards renewables. It’s all about long term business strategy; as it enables these companies to adapt to the growing demand and position themselves at the top even amidst changes.
Public demand increasingly leans toward protecting the environment and shifting more toward alternative energy and higher emissions standards, often citing the success experienced by countries in Europe and Asia as reasons for this change. Additionally, most of the support for fossil fuels and traditional energy emerges from older individuals, with 75% of people aged 18-29 favoring renewable energy. It’s wholly possible that, as this generation ages and takes on positions of responsibility, that it might wield its influence to push the country toward sustainability. This demand can be seen in the interest in things like hybrid and electric cars, with Tesla gaining a lot of hype for their efforts to integrate electric car charging stations into existing infrastructure.
So, with this pressure as well as the opportunity to seize a new market, some of the early adopters of renewable energy have been oil and natural gas companies. For instance, Total Oil, a France-based company, has pledged to become a leader in the solar market, planning on saving emissions by installing solar panels on its facilities. It may not be due to any strong ideologies on the part of these companies, but their resources may make a sustainable future happen faster than anticipated.
Returning to the earlier objection that it can be difficult to be competitive with renewable energy, this concern is offset by lowering costs of renewable energy. Incentives or not, renewables are becoming increasingly viable as costs are lowered and these sources become more convenient and easy to access. These factors create a snowball effect, where better energy infrastructure leads to adoption becoming an increasingly appealing option and begetting more development.
Even for employment, renewables have already become a powerhouse, so to speak. The solar industry alone employs three times as many people than the oil, gas, and coal industries combined. Some may argue that renewable industries hurt jobs, but this progress flies in the face of these arguments. Even with government officials that strongly support coal and view fossil fuels as an indicator of national prowess, these mindsets are gradually becoming more and more outdated. Though the government may not be providing much support, many companies have taken up the challenge of helping renewables make their mark. In light of this, it now falls to individual cities and states to help incentive future energy initiatives.
The interest is there. The cultural passion exists. Renewable energy will supplant fossil fuels, though this process may take a while. Between a generational shift towards environmental awareness and sustainability and a market for new energy methods, one hopes that the hurdle of government support for fossil fuels will wane and give way to further support for alternatives. Many other countries have a plan in place for the future, and it’s time that the United States followed suit.