How to Support Renewable Energy (And Why You Really Should)

How can you support renewable energy? Plus, why you should.

Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD
5-minute read
Episode #222

Earlier this month came the news that China plans to invest $361 billion into renewable energy projects over the next three years. A few days later, President Barack Obama penned a single author article in the journal Science, "The irreversible momentum of clean energy," in which he outlined four reasons the trend toward increasing use of clean energy does not show signs of slowing down or stopping.

Even in the currently very divided U.S. political climate, public support for increasing our use of renewable energy sources is one thing that most of us do agree on. Some are concerned about pollution. Others are concerned about the national security risk posed by relying on other countries for our energy needs. Whatever the reason, according to a 2016 study from the Pew Research Center, 89% of the public supports expanding our solar power efforts, including 83% of those who identify as conservative Republicans and 97% of liberal Democrats. Additionally, 83% of thoe polled support increasing our use of wind power.

The results are much more divided when it comes to support for nonrenewable energy sources like offshore drilling (52% oppose while 45% are in favor of expansion in this area) and coal mining (57% are opposed and 41% are in favor of expansion). The responses were heavily divided along political party lines: the majority of Conservative Republicans were in favor of expanding offshore drilling (76% in favor) and coal mining (73% in favor) while only 26% and 14% of liberal Democrats supported increases in offshore drilling and coal mining, respectively.

So what are the benefits of renewable energy? And how can you, as an individual, support renewable energy efforts?

What Is Renewable Energy?

As a country, the US relies heavily on coal, oil, and natural gas for our energy needs. These energy sources are called fossil fuels because they are literally derived from fossils, or the decomposition of dead organisms over millions of years. As you may have guessed, these fossils are a nonrenewable resource. Their supply is finite.

Luckily for us, we have a 3.8 x 1026 Watt energy source (that’s 38 followed by 25 zeroes) constantly shining down on us that’s not going anywhere, at least not for another ~4.5 billion years. The Sun! According to NASA scientists, if we built a bridge of ice that was 2 miles wide, 1 mile thick, and extended all the way from the Earth to the Sun, the Sun produces enough energy to melt that bridge in a single second.


About the Author

Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD

Dr Sabrina Stierwalt earned a Ph.D. in Astronomy & Astrophysics from Cornell University and is now a Professor of Physics at Occidental College.