Renewable Energy Debate

March 15, 2019 – Volume 29, Issue 11
Can alternative sources replace fossil fuels? By Matt Mossman


1830s–1950sScientists tap the energy-producing potential of water, sunlight and wind.
1839French scientist Edmond Becquerel discovers that exposing certain materials to sunlight can create electricity.
1882A dam on the Fox River in Appleton, Wis., becomes the world's first source of hydroelectric power.
1887Scottish electrical engineer James Blyth builds the first electricity-generating wind turbine…. U.S. inventor Charles Brush builds a wind turbine that he uses to power his home in Cleveland…. Coal is the dominant energy source in the U.S.
1908Henry Ford's Model T makes gas-powered cars popular and hastens the decline of electric cars.
1936Hoover Dam on the Colorado River begins generating hydroelectric power.
1954Scientists at Bell Labs in New Jersey demonstrate a solar panel made of silicon that is six times more efficient than earlier designs, making the technology useful for satellites.
1960s–1980sNew reasons to explore renewable technologies emerge as U.S. energy use surges.
1962Author Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring, a critique of pesticide use that helps start the environmental movement in the U.S.
1973Arab oil embargo revives interest in alternative energy sources in the U.S.
1978The Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act ends utility companies' exclusive rights to generate electricity in the U.S., leading to sharp increases in renewable energy production.
1979President Jimmy Carter holds a press conference on the roof of the White House to display solar panels installed there and announce new subsidies and tax credits for alternative fuels; his successor, Ronald Reagan, removes the panels.
1988NASA scientist James Hansen tells a U.S. Senate committee that the burning of fossil fuels is causing global warming.
1990s–PresentUse of renewable energy rises before encountering political headwinds.
2000U.S. Green Building Council introduces its first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for buildings that meet the group's energy-efficiency standards.
2008Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens plans a massive wind farm between Texas and Canada, but the plan fails due to lack of political will in Congress and the high cost of building transmission lines.
2015Nearly 200 countries sign the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which calls for major investments in renewable energy…. The Obama administration's Clean Power Plan encourages renewable energy development to limit carbon emissions from power plants.
2017Renewable sources, led by wind and solar power, produce almost 18 percent of U.S. electricity, up from 9 percent in 2008…. President Trump announces U.S. will exit the Paris Agreement.
2018Trump imposes a 30 percent tariff on imported solar-power equipment (January)…. Trump proposes revamping Clean Power Plan to let states decide whether and how to limit greenhouse gas emissions (August)…. A lease auction for wind power off the Massachusetts coast draws a record $405 million in winning bids (December).
2019Federal energy officials predict that 64 percent of new U.S. energy production in 2019 will come from wind and solar power (January)…. Congressional Democrats propose a Green New Deal to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions within 10 years by drastically increasing reliance on renewable power (February).

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Document APA Citation
Mossman, M. (2019, March 15). Renewable energy debate. CQ researcher, 29, 1-58. Retrieved from
Document ID: cqresrre2019031504
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ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Alternative Energy
Mar. 15, 2019  Renewable Energy Debate
Sep. 29, 2006  Biofuels Boom
Feb. 25, 2005  Alternative Fuels
Nov. 07, 1997  Renewable Energy
Jul. 09, 1993  Electric Cars
Jul. 10, 1992  Alternative Energy
Mar. 26, 1982  Solar Energy's Uneasy Transition
Nov. 20, 1981  Wind and Water: Expanding Energy Technologies
Aug. 31, 1979  Synthetic Fuels
Nov. 12, 1976  Solar Energy
Mar. 14, 1973  New Energy Sources
Aug. 14, 1968  Steam and Electric Autos
Jan. 22, 1929  Federal Water Power Policy
Oct. 08, 1928  Status of the Muscle Shoals Project
Jan. 26, 1927  The Colorado River Problem
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