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What are our energy options?

What are our energy options?

Future360 is pleased to present this energy series in conjunction with the Switch Energy Project -- a campaign to educate global citizens about the science of energy. Today we look at the many choices we have for energy and consider the pros and cons of each. It turns out there are four key factors consider when choosing an energy source. Is it affordable? Is it available? Is it reliable? And is it clean?

Affordable. It's hard for an expensive energy resource like solar to compete on the open market with a cheap one like coal. We make most energy choices based on price. Affordability is often based on what we don't pay. For instance, pollution from some energies is based at no cost. Paying for these externalities would increase their price and bring competing sources closer together. An energy that's not affordable is not sustainable.

Available. We tend to use what we have, where we have it. Hydro in Norway, geothermal in Iceland, solar in Spain. If it's not locally available, it needs to be easy to move. Most countries use more oil than they have. But oil has a highly developed transportation network, which has made a regional resource into a global commodity.

Reliable. Can we rely on a consistent supply. Wind and solar are intermittent which means we have to back them up with a reliable, on-demand resource.

More recently there's clean and more countries are accepting more levels of it. Develop countries are choosing more of it at a higher price, developing countries are using cheap energy and are paying for it with pollution. For more information, visit