by Carl Binding and Han La Poutré
Modern, industrialized, society is heavily dependent on ubiquitous, cheap energy, which we expect to be readily available, not to be polluting, and to be convenient to use.
Since the invention of the steam engine by James Watt, this paradigm has lead towards tremendous improvement of life quality in the developed world, and developing countries eagerly aspire to similar energy standards.
However, the price of this hunger for energy is increasing. Fossil fuel resources such as oil or gas are becoming harder to explore, even leading to environmental disasters as with the Gulf of Mexico oil-platform, recently. Exploration of shale gas (“fracking”) causes negative environmental impact, beyond the well-known CO2 problematics. Besides the sheer availability of fossil energy, associated CO2 emissions have caused wide-spread concerns about impacts on climate and on human health (fine particle emissions).