SA Forum is an invited essay from experts on topical issues in science and technology.
SA Editor’s Note: As leaders from business, politics and science convene this week at the World Economic Forum conference in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss pressing matters of the day, Scientific American is publishing a series of interviews with leading scientists, produced in conjunction with the forum. This is the second of four interviews for the WEF by Katia Moskvitch.
The price of oil has plummeted from more than $100 a barrel in July to less than $50. Meanwhile the U.S. has become the world’s leading producer of natural gas, helping the country become more self-sufficient on energy. Will this abundance of fossil fuels derail the world’s shift to renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar power? And what does this shifting energy landscape mean for the role of fossil fuels in the U.S. energy mix? And what about nuclear power—should concern of the safety of nuclear waste trump the benefits of exploiting this noncarbon-polluting source of energy?