A hallmark of the United States’ economic growth is an ever-increasing demand for energy, which has traditionally been met primarily by combusting the hydrocarbons found in fossil fuels. As national security and environmental concerns grow, renewable energy resources are gaining increased attention. Unfortunately, there is currently a dearth of renewable energy coverage in engineering and technology curricula. The objectives of this paper are to examine historical energy data for both traditional as well as alternative energy sources, and to motivate educators to address this gap. Even with the progressive developments of non-traditional energy sources over the years, the U.S. still receives more than 90% of its energy from fossil and nuclear fuels. Explicit examination of the alternative energy sector reveals that hydroelectric power and wood combustion constitute the majority of the nation’s renewable energy base. While still much smaller in scale, waste combustion, alcohol (i.e., fuel ethanol), and wind appear to be rapidly increasing in capacity, and are well-positioned to add significantly to the nation’s energy supply in coming years. The trends discussed here and their implications will be critical for educators, students, and citizens, because contrary to conventional wisdom, simultaneously meeting the energy needs of our society as well as that of the environment are not mutually-exclusive.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/kurt_rosentrater/194/