Over recent decades, it’s become clear that humans are simply using more unclean energy and resources than can be sustained over the long term
This fact becomes even more apparent when looking at the remarkable growth of China and India, among other countries, which will lead to far greater demand for energy over the coming decades.
Plastic From Pollution?
Carbon dioxide has been identified as the primary culprit of climate change, and it’s a common byproduct of electrical generation and transportation. At least one company, Newlight Technologies, aims to turn carbon dioxide from a waste product into a sustainable source of plastic through its AirCarbon biopolymer. Carbon itself is a valuable element, and it’s the primary component of the polymers used in plastic. Being able to convert carbon waste from coal and natural gas power plants into a useful resource could play a role in cutting the rise of carbon in the atmosphere, and AirCarbon has been described as both carbon-neutral and carbon negative; that is, it removes more carbon from the environment than it produces. The economics of AirCarbon still need real-world testing, but some companies, including Dell, are already using its plastics for packaging and other purposes.
The Return of Solar Transportation
Over the decades, solar panels have become many time more efficient. However, one of the early icons of solar technology, solar cars, have largely faltered despite the meteoric rise of solar panels on buildings and in power plants. In New South Wales, Australia, however, part of one train line runs exclusively on solar power, perhaps showing a sustainable path for solar-powered transportation. Although the service only covers 3 kilometers and carries just 100 passengers, its solar panel roof, supplemented by panels on stations, means the train releases no carbon while carrying a reasonable throughput of passenger traffic. Furthermore, the train holds a bank of batteries, letting it operate even when the sun isn’t out. In the world’s oceans, solar- and wind-powered ships are also generating interest. Ships and trains are inherently much more efficient than road vehicles, but they still consume a significant portion of the world’s energy. Moving from diesel-based transportation to solar energy can cut back on carbon release significantly.