Why Is The U.S. So Far Behind In The Renewable Revolution?

America’s prowess in renewable energy capacity is unquestioned. According to the Renewable Energy Policy Network, by the end of 2015, the seven countries with the highest capacity of renewable energy (not including hydro power) are China (199GW), U.S.(122GW), and Germany (92GW) followed by Japan (43GW), India (36GW), Italy (33GW), and Spain (32W), Figure 1.

Figure 1

(Click to enlarge)

The same report states, “considering investments made in new renewable power and fuels relative to annual GDP, top countries include Mauritania, Honduras, Uruguay, Morocco and Jamaica. The leading countries for investment per inhabitant were Iceland, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, Japan and Ireland.”

America’s energy flow from the perspective of resources and consumption serve as an invaluable tool to visualize the U.S. energy mix and their interrelationships. The energy flow charts, Figures 2 and 3, from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are a single page reference that illustrates energy and material flows in a way that distinguishes between resources, transformations and demand sectors, and thereby, details the sources of energy production, how they are used and how much waste exists. The Figures model the U.S. Energy Flow for 2010 and 2015, respectively.

The size of each box and the thickness of each line is a relative measure of the amount of energy delivered, received or lost. It displays the connections between primary energy resources (fossil, nuclear, hydro and renewables) on the far left, and end-use sectors categorized into residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation on the right. Energy is expressed in Quads, where a quad is equal to 10E15 BTU or 1.055 × 10E18 joules (1.055 exajoules or EJ) in SI units.

Electricity Generation (EG) is listed midway between the primary sources of energy and the final demand centers. The reason for this is EG’s role as a secondary source of energy; transforming primary energy resources (resources listed on…

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