Parts of Europe are leaps and bounds ahead of the US in the pursuit of alternative energy solutions. The US is undeniably a laggard when it comes to renewables, but according to David Fridley, the Renewable Energy & Biofuels Fellow for the Post Carbon Institute (PCI), “Many of those scrambling can’t see the forest for the trees and are headed straight for low-hanging limbs, not fruit.” In a new report issued through the PCI, Fridley enumerates the “Nine Challenges of Renewable Energy,” which are obstacles to the widespread deployment of alternative energies around the world. They are: 1. Scalability and timing 2. Commercialization 3. Substitutability 4. Material requirements 5. Intermittency 6. Energy density 7. Water 8. The law of receding horizons 9. Energy returned on energy invested By way of explanation, Fridley writes, “The public discussion about alternative energy is often reduced to an assessment of its monetary costs versus those of traditional fossil fuels, often in comparison to their carbon footprints. This kind of reductionism to a simple monetary metric obscures the complex issues surrounding the potential viability, scalability, feasibility, and suitability of pursuing specific alternative technology paths.” The following excerpt from the report provides a bit more insight. “Unlike conventional fossil fuels, where nature provided energy over millions of years to convert biomass into energy-dense solids, liquids, and gases – requiring only extraction and transportation technolgy for us to mobilize them – alternative energy depends heavily on specially engineered equipment and infrastructure for capture or conversion, essentially making it a high-tech manufacturing process. However, the full supply chain for alternative energy, from raw material to manufacturing, is still very dependent on fossil-fuel energy for mining, transport, and materials production. Alternative energy faces the challenge of how to supplant a fossil-fuel-based supply chain with one driven by alternative energy forms themselves in order to break their reliance on a fossil-fuel foundation.” Fridley makes far too many interesting points than can be summarized here, but I encourage readers to read the report and to watch a You Tube video on the Post Carbon Institute site titled “The pipe dream of energy independence.” Whether you agree or disagree with Fridley’s position, you will certainly learn something if you spend a little time reading his report and listening to his comments. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.