We will continue to use fossil fuels as long as they are cheaper than the next alternative. That is likely to be in the 20 to 50 year range until we hit Peak Oil and the price for oil begins to climb.
During this time, the protests against fossil fuels will increase as more and more weather events are attributed to global warming but these voices will be ignored by the government and industry except for token efforts to appease them. OPEC will increasingly be a source of trouble and political favoritism that will cause trouble.
Renewable energy advocates will continue praising solar and wind and advocating for them despite the physics that says they cannot provide 100% of our power needs. Solar on individual homes will increase slowly. However, it will soon become more obvious that mass solar or wind farms and powering the grid is not a workable idea. The renewable lobby is powerful because it has so many people fooled into thinking it will work and it is a “Green” idea so they will still be screaming for subsidies and demo projects for years to come. Billions of dollars will be wasted on such projects - like AOC’s Green New Deal.
Electric vehicles will slowly continue to be popular but will soon be a source of problems as the recharging demands begin to exceed the grid’s ability to provide all that extra power. Local grid wiring and local power production will begin to strain to meet demand. This has been predicted and quantified but ignored for a long time. Electrical surcharges will be added to home electric bills at first. Owners will try solar and wind but that won’t work. In some areas, they may revert to using a diesel generator to charge their electric car. Sales of electric cars will hit a bottleneck until this is solved.
Despite being the only viable known and proven solution to our energy problems, nuclear reactors will continue to be ignored and avoided mostly out of emotional reasons. It is likely other nations will adopt the use of nuclear before we do and that will apply pressure for the US to consider it. As more younger people move into political power and influence, the old cold war fears will begin to subside and nuclear will gradually be seen as the logical solution.
Until there are more nuclear reactors, hydrogen as a fuel will not be popular because of the cost of making enough of it on an industrial scale. So hydrogen-powered cars and fuel cells will remain undeveloped.
This next 50–75 years represented the most difficult portion of our energy conversion and therefore will represent the most difficult adjustments made on a technical, cultural, commercial and social level. It will be a time of turmoil, wars, conflict, class struggles and commercial market storms that will, at times, appear to be very serious and divisive.
In about 50 to 75 years - most of this will change.
Due to Peak Oil and rising oil prices, other energy forms will be adapted led by 4th and 5th Gen nuclear reactors like thorium molten salt and pebble-bed reactor designs. To cut costs, mass-produced, truckable small-scale reactors will replace the huge installations of the past. Using these will have a cascade effect on several other energy-related issues:
There will be a rising demand for rebuilding the power grid (“smart” grid) so it can accommodate more nuclear power plants, support reverse metering better and the rising number of solar and wind farms. This will also begin to reduce the bottleneck for electric cars.
The biggest gain for electric cars will be the standardization of battery recharge/replacement so that an infrastructure of nationwide “filling stations” can proliferate. It is likely that the liquid battery or the replaceable battery pack will be the solution adopted.
The increase in nuke reactors will also create industrial-scale hydrogen for use in Otto cycle vehicles (gas cars) and in fuel cells. This will boost the permanent demise of the fossil fuel cars and enhance the use of electric cars.
Electric-powered aircraft will begin making it to market beginning with smaller hydrogen-powered fuel cell prop planes and adding jet or turboprop later.
Gird level energy storage will also be resolved by then and will finally make it possible for solar and wind farms to really “power the grid” although it is likely to be less popular as people get more comfortable with nuclear power. O&M costs and the geographic size will be seen as too expensive.
Bio-fuels will be explored and will begin to develop but mostly in the lab and demo projects.
During the demise of the use of fossil fuels, there will be a scramble to continue to use the last of what is still being produced by OPEC. The cost will rise until only the military will be using fossil fuels. Countries will fight over what is left which will drive up the price and even result in resource wars. This will serve as a powerful motivation to speed the transition to other fuels and toward total energy independence.
In another 50–75 years - 150 yrs from now . . . .
Hydrogen will be the fuel that powers most cars to burn or use in combination with fuel cells. Fossil fueled cars will be gone or converted to hydrogen.
Smaller but more powerful Fission and Fusion reactors will proliferate reducing the load on long distant grid wiring. These will also be powering the many water desalination plants that will be needed by then. Small nuclear power engines will power ocean super tankers similar to how the Navy does it now. Smaller ships may go to steam power fueled by liquid hydrogen.
Some areas will be using solar and wind farms exclusively. Most single-family homes will be solar-powered with fuel cell supplements.
Aircraft are likely to be hydrogen jets or fuel cell electric prop planes but some other means might be developed by then.
It is likely that bio-fuels created by designer algae and advanced chemical processes will be developed and may eventually become a player in the energy market. This might take the form of fuel made from sewage or trash to using algae to make hydrogen.
By 2100, the use and most other industrialized nations will be energy independent. Leap-ahead technologies will also help many third-world nations.
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