Simon (2007) calls fossil energy a “wicked problem”, in the sense that it is characterized by a high level of information uncertainty, exists in a contestable policy environment where multiple actors compete with each other, and it is determinative of institutional relationships and complex choices.
Many scientists have argued that the technology to develop alternative fuels have been in existence since the 1960s and 70s, when America sent the first man to the moon, but that a complex web of political and economic interests have stifled efforts to develop alternative energy sources. Today, it is generally agreed that at the rate the world consumes its oil reserves, eventually these would dry up like the once mighty oil fields of Texas, of which only a fraction are still in production. Rumours of aging oil fields and rising levels of water, as well as runaway prices in petroleum products, seem to indicate that Saudi reserves may be reaching exhaustion point (Anwar, 2010).
The phrase “alternative energy” connotes more than just energy sources other than those traditionally resort to. It also implies that the sources of energy “are more efficient than conventional non-renewable forms” (Southampton City Council, 2009), and that they “do not use up natural resources or harm the environment” (WordNet, 2010). The attributes of sustainability and the absence of undesired consequences are implicitly included when one refers to alternative fuels or energy (Alternative Energy Institute [AEI], 2010).
The very term itself appears to imply that these are only secondary, back-up, or stand-by sources, something resorted to in the meanwhile, much in the nature of emergency lights in office buildings when the power goes off. In a published account of a congressional hearing on fuels, one legislator was described as having said that the term “alternative fuels” implies that