Ever since the discovery of oil and its ability to create it into gasoline (which ultimately led to the invention of the automobile), world industry has greatly benefited. Wars have been started over control of the world’s oil supply, with two-thirds of oil reserves in the politically unstable Middle East. Economists and scientists have warned about how much oil is actually left, with terms such as “peak oil” (coined by American geophysicist M. King Hubbert as to when oil production will peak, and afterwards decline) being used. It is still unknown when the world will run out of oil, which is the product of ancient fossils being subject to heat and pressure underground.
While it is universally known that oil is finite, governments have been known to block efforts to develop renewable energy sources due to lobbying from the oil industry. According to OpenSecrets, a government watchdog group tracking money in American politics, lobbying from the oil industry is still high, but has gone down in recent years thanks to a change in government policy, which now favors renewable energy.
President Barack Obama has criticized the oil industry at a recent Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada. “That’s not progress. That’s not innovation,” Obama said. “That’s trying to protect old ways of doing business and standing in the way of the future. We see the trend lines, we see where technology is taking us, we see where consumers want to go.” Obama also attacked the oil industry by saying that they are going against the very free market policies that they espouse. “That, let’s be honest, has some big fossil fuel interests pretty nervous to the point where they are trying to fight renewable energy. It’s one thing if you are insistent on being free market, it’s another thing if you’re free market until it’s solar that’s working and people want to buy it.”
Electric car companies—specifically Elon Musk’s Tesla, which has been credited with the rebirth of the electric car, could greatly benefit from the idea of a car-charging lane that charges your electric car as you drive. The idea is currently being tested in England, and this is how the car-charging lane will work.
“The government is already committing £500 million (US$784 million) over the next five years to keep Britain at the forefront of this technology,” said Andrew Jones, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport. Similar trials have also been done in South Korea for public transport. Using technology called Shaped Magnetic Field in Resonance (SMFIR), which charges vehicles through a magnetic field to generate electric charge, cities can drastically reduce or even eliminate their carbon footprints.
“Vehicle technologies are advancing at an ever increasing pace and we’re committed to supporting the growth of ultra-low emissions vehicles on England’s motorways and major A roads,” said Mike Wilson, Highways England’s chief highways engineer. “The off-road trials of wireless power technology will help to create a more sustainable road network for England and open up new opportunities for businesses that transport goods across the country.”
The biggest barrier to the project is its cost. While renewable energy is far better received in other countries, the United States also has the additional challenge of facing the oil industry, which has spent millions of dollars to prevent renewable energy legislation from passing. A lot of infrastructure will have to be renovated to accommodate the idea of a road that can recharge electric cars as well.
“It sounds very ambitious to me. Cost will be the biggest issue and I’m not totally convinced it’s worth it,” said Dr. Paul Nieuwenhuis, director of the Cardiff Business School’s Electric Vehicle Center of Excellence. Nieuwenhuis also questioned that battery technology is improving and that having to uproot infrastructure to install car-charging roads could be entirely unnecessary. Can the idea reduce or eliminate the need for fossil fuels? Until more of these roads are installed and tested to see whether they reduce carbon emissions, only time can tell.