Continuous research and development could soon see wind and solar dominate energy production, according to Nobel laureate Walter Kohn, Ph.D.
Speaking at a symposium at the American Chemical Society’s 240’th National Meeting, Kohn said that he believed that with continuous research and development of alternative energies we could see an era in human history where solar and wind would be the world’s dominant contributors to energy.
Kohn, who is with the University of California, Santa Barbara, and shared the 1998 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, noted that the total oil and natural gas production which provides about 60% of our current global energy consumption is expected to peak in about 10 to 30 years, followed by a rapid decline.
“These trends have created two unprecedented global challenges”, Kohn said. “One is the threatened global shortage of acceptable energy. The other is the unacceptable, imminent danger of global warming and its consequences.”
“The most obvious [response to these challenges] is continuing scientific and technical progress providing abundant and affordable alternative energies, safe, clean and carbon-free,” he said, and because the challenges are global in nature, Kohn says that the scientific and technical work should enjoy a maximum of international cooperation, which he believes is already beginning to evolve.
Over the past decade, global production of photovoltaic energy increased by a factor of about 90 while wind energy increased by a factor of about 10. Kohn expects vigorous growth in these two energies to continue during the next decade and beyond.
Another important issue, incumbent primarily on developed countries, whose population has pretty much leveled off, is reduction in per capita energy consumption, Kohn said.
“A striking example is the U.S. per capita consumption of gasoline, approximately 5 times higher than the global average,” he said. “The less developed world, understandably, aims to bring their standard of living to a level similar to that of the highly developed countries; in return they should stabilize their growing populations.”
Kohn noted that he is impressed by students on his campus who spent their own collective funds to fully solarize an athletic building. “When it comes to providing leadership by young people in the area of energy conservation and energy efficiency and global warming — they are fantastic,” he said. “It is a major social commitment for our times.”