Even though the U.S automobile fleet shrank by 4 million vehicles last year, cars will not disappear completely any time soon. However, the fleet can be cleaned up by marrying the electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles now starting to come to market to renewably-produced electricity. The U.S. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory estimates that the current electrical infrastructure could power over 80 percent of the U.S. car fleet, relying largely on off-peak electricity as cars are charged at night. Upgrading to a stronger, smarter, and interconnected national grid that taps into the country’s enormous wind, solar, and geothermal resources completes the transition.
While oil resources are limited, wind resources are abundant and inexhaustible. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that the world’s top carbon emitters have enough wind energy potential to meet their current electricity needs many times over. The United States’ total wind potential is estimated at 22 times current electricity use. For China the wind resource potential is 15 times greater than the country’s current electricity consumption, and for Russia, it is a staggering 170 times higher.
Looking at offshore wind resources alone, the U.S. potential is 4 times current electricity use. For Canada, offshore wind is a whopping 39 times greater. (See full data set.)
To date, almost all the offshore wind action has been in Europe, but that may soon be changing. China and Japan have just begun developing offshore wind. With the recent approval of the Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts, along with proposals by Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and other states, the United States may join the game as well.
Unlike oil, wind is widely-distributed and clean; it does not spill or disrupt climate. It is also becoming increasingly cheap. With wind, we have a well that will not run dry.