Current Use and Research on Alternative and Renewable Energy
According to the US Department of Energy, the United States uses nearly 25 percent of the world's fossil fuels, but contributes only 3 percent of total fossil fuel production. Nearly 60 percent of United States' oil supply comes from regions that suffer from political instability. The United States maintains a military presence at oil fields and production sites around the world, and it actively protects oil pipelines in the Middle East and Central America. US forces took control of oil production facilities during the 2003 invasion of Iraq; critics charged that this was the main objective of the invasion and occupation.
Fossil fuel energy is relatively cheap to produce and most of the world's technology is geared toward the use of fossil fuels. However, fossil fuels are a non-renewable energy source, as their production requires millions of years. Alternatives such as wind power and hydropower are renewable and produce little pollution, but environmentalists sometimes object to these as they can contribute to habitat destruction.
Solar and hydrogen power are pollution-free and do not require extensive intrusion upon natural habitats. Problems with solar energy include the currently high cost of manufacturing and distribution. Hydrogen fuel is expensive to manufacture, handle, and distribute, and it requires the greatest initial investment of any alternative energy program.
The US automobile and energy industries have made significant investments in ethanol-powered and hybrid electric vehicles. An increasing number of government mandates have urged the development of alternative energy.
In 2006, British Petroleum Company released research indicating that there are an estimated 1,200 billion barrels of oil left in the world's reserves. According to proponents of alternative energy exploration, these numbers mean that at the very least, governments should adopt programs aimed at increasing efficiency of fuel usage, if not promoting immediate and drastic reductions in fossil fuel consumption.
Some activists believe that global governments are actively discouraging research into alternative energy in support of the multi-billion dollar fossil fuel industry. More moderate critics argue that governments are simply not investing enough energy or resources into research and development. Opponents of alternative energy development argue that governments are awaiting a viable alternative to current fuel sources while attempting to protect and enhance current supplies.