The constant reference to renewable energy sources as "alternative" is a derisive device from the petroleum and coal industries (from here on, simply oil or petro) and so long as those of us not in petro keep calling it alternative, they'll have us where they want us. Whenever we squawk "alternative, alternative, alternative," it only serves to justify that we consider them the prime source.
If you haven't already read Armed Madhouse, by Greg Palast, then you should. Page numbers are usually cited in references but, in this instance, I ask you to read the whole book so you can see for yourself. If I gave page numbers, that is all many would read.
in 1956 when M. King Hubbert wrote his paper on "Peak Oil," he implied we would run out of oil by the end of the 20th century. He knew how the population at large would take it, and so did the oil industry. The report actually predicted we would run out of cheap oil and the days of $.25 per gallon would be gone forever.
There is plenty of oil all over the planet. They've found all of the easy-to-extract oil and now much of what they want to sell us seems to be at the limits of, if not beyond, their capabilities, as evidenced by BP's debacle at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. At a depth of 5,000 feet or approximately 151.5 atmospheres, 1 atmosphere being surface pressure, any number of things can go wrong, as the pressures at that depth are absolutely crushing.
Have you ever noticed whenever someone starts talking about renewable energy that the price of oil drops, which seems to mollify everybody except those serious about renewable energy? The price of oil has risen and we have accepted it in increments, much like the slow boiling of the lobster. If you dropped a live lobster in boiling water, it would scream, but if you raised the heat slowly, it would adjust until it is eventually boiled to death, oblivious to what was happening. They raise the price and although we complain, we adapt and pay their ransom. How else are we expected to commute 40 miles to work one way to pay for our affordable housing and buy food and their gas at the same time? I'm waiting for the day I see unemployed CEOs holding up signs: "will work for caviar."
There is more than enough solar energy in the Sahara Desert to power Europe, which in fact has been suggested; however, since big oil doesn't find that to be in their best interests, they reduced the price, thereby neutralizing the effects of a large scale solar project.(1) Dropping the price of oil to prevent large scale renewable energy projects will have to come to an end someday and when that happens, big oil will come to our rescue.
The petroleum industry was what killed the steam-powered car at the beginning of the twentieth century and the electric car near the end of the same century. When they can not feasibly extract any more, then they will allow us to have renewable energy sources, as they will develop and build the engines to sell us that use the renewable fuels and they will also go out of their way to make us absolutely overjoyed that they bent over backwards to do this for us.
As proof, their mission statement(2) will say they are providing a valuable service, without a single mention of their making billions off of us.