by Carla Jones, co-author of Our Energy Future: Introduction to Renewable Energy and Biofuels

9780520278776This guest post is published as part of a series in relation to the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco this week.

The world is at a crossroads in deciding its energy future. One direction leads to the latest technologies in fossil fuel development: hydraulic fracking, clean coal, and shale oil production, which are collectively deemed by some to be the answer to the future of independent energy in the United States and other developed nations. Despite their promise, these energy sources do not overcome the environmental challenges associated with continued emissions of carbon dioxide and long-term availability for future generations. In the other direction lies renewable energy. Renewable resources are abundant, clean and sustainable, but remain in their developmental infancy and lack the cheap efficiency enjoyed by the fossil fuels market.

As we stand at this intersection, questioning the growth of the global economy and debating the environmental impacts of energy use on the planet, we are faced with the challenge of forging a new path, one that seeks to enhance global prosperity while simultaneously overcoming the growing mountain of demand for low cost, high-yielding energy resources. To be successful, this path requires a new type of energy consumer, one who is educated and dedicated to making a difference in the fight against climate change.

Our world is full of people looking to be inspired and led in a direction where their lives will truly impact the future. The field of energy, particularly renewable energy, is ripe for new and innovative thinking to expand available technologies and develop a successful approach for sustainable energy production to support our increasing energy demands. A critical first step down this path is to educate ourselves about energy, the options nature provides, the technologies most likely to support energy production and consumption in the long run, and the environmental implications of the way we obtain our energy resources. Through education, we can push the boundaries of our energy knowledge and discover new answers to the difficult and complex questions behind creating a sustainable energy future. The time is right for us to forge a new direction in the energy market and take control of creating a renewable and sustainable future: Our Energy Future.

Carla Jones is adjunct faculty in Sustainability Studies at Roosevelt University, and author of the forthcoming book Our Energy Future: Introduction to Renewable Energy and Biofuels (Feb 2016, UC Press)