Assessing Alternatives to Fossil Fuels

Climate Change Dilemma

At this point, you may see climate change as something we need to take seriously. Regardless of what one’s position is with respect to climate change, you should be starting to recognize that there is a need for increased clarity about energy alternatives to fossil fuels. One important source of clarity is the use of numbers. In this module, you will learn the nuts and bolts of using simple calculations to determine viable mixes of future non-carbon energy sources.

If you are suddenly consumed by math anxiety math anxiety….Don’t worry! We will walk you though the simple back-of-the-envelope calculations you will need based on the clear presentations contained in David McKay’s book entitled: Sustainable Energy — Without Hot Air.

As a scientist, MacKay takes climate change seriously. He sees a transition from a fossil fuel economy as vital. As a physicist, he looks at the potential of current renewable energy technologies in supplying current energy consumption. Please note that he is considering primarily energy sources that are current technically feasible and ignores, to a certain extent, economic cost.




If you would like to see the whole book, follow this link:


“To those who will not have the benefit of two billion year’s accumulated energy reserves” — David MacKay

Click here to read the pages 1-7 of the synopsis of MacKay’s book to better have a sense of his general approach for developing energy plans for Great Britain. We will use a similar approach — same calculations but with different numbers — to do the same for the United States. Then answer the questions below.


Climate Change: Vulnerability, Mitigation, and Adaptation Copyright © by Matt Turner. All Rights Reserved.