David A. Boyd, Ph.D.
Opinion: A Growing Need for New and Improved Energy Conversions

Global energy "problems" have been historically associated with the economics of supply and demand. However, an emerging problem that current and future generations now face is one of energy conversion. Fossil fuels are presently the primary global fuel source for electricity, transportation, and heat. However, existing methods for converting them into useful forms of energy release green house gasses as bi-products, most notably CO2, and the cumulative effect of a century of large-scale combustion has resulted in historically unprecedented levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. It is believed that the current rates of introduction of these gasses into the atmosphere could have significant and potentially cataclysmic changes in the global climate. Energy derived from the current generation of sustainable, carbon-free, or even carbon-neutral sources cannot compete in terms of either scale or cost, and the harsh economic realities of the global energy landscape dictate that as long as fossil fuels remain the most plentiful and inexpensive they will be the primary choice for energy regardless of the environmental impacts. The conundrum is that unless competitively-priced alternatives or improved conversions are developed, there will be little impetus to stop "business" as usual, and the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere will continue rise. Meeting the current, as well the increasing, energy demands in an environmentally friendly manner will require the development of new types energy conversions ideally utilizing scalable sustainable energy sources, e.g. solar, as well as improvements in the efficiencies of existing fossil fuel conversions. These challenges present clear opportunities for research.