“Let’s assume we’re at the stage where energy production isn’t the bottleneck anymore,” says Felix Fischer, assistant chemistry professor at UC Berkeley, pointing out that the last two decades have produced huge advances in alternative energy generation. “We’re pretty close to that now. In fact, in some places, we have overproduction. Then the question becomes, what do we do with the extra energy?”
That conundrum, which Fischer calls the “reality check question,” is key to making really big changes in the way we deal with energy. It’s important to understand energy generation processes like artificial photosynthesis, he says, but points out that the technologies arising from those discoveries may be decades down the road. “Right now, we need efficient means to transport and store energy for diverse applications.” In other words, we need technologies that can be placed right now into sustainable efficient energy storage and management systems. And that requires thinking about some really big questions.