Went to a seminar recently given by a chief scientist at a major petroleum company (names not given to protect the guilty). The topic was biofuels/alternative energy and their position in the company's energy outlook and planning.
As a quick summary, I am listing below THEIR take on the energy future to 2030:
1) major oil companies don't look beyond 20 years out. Too many factors they can't predict even at that far out.
2) most fuels will come from where they are still coming from; coal for electricity, petroleum for transportation.
3) biofuels will increase, a lot as a percentage of current output but will still be nearly insignificant.
4) Any significant decreases in GHG or petroleum demand will come from efficiency improvements, including possibly smaller cars, not less cars.
5) Ethanol as a fuel is a wash even with cellulosic ethanol as a commercial product, there is some hope for algal diesel but not much.
6) Solar will remain more expensive then converting coal or natural gas into a liquid fuel so if petroleum based fuels become expensive enough, they will make liquid fuels from coal, most probably.
7) They think there is plenty of oil to supply demand out to 2030, with the Saudis playing a very large role is maintaining price.
Electric cars are still a bit of a wild card for them. They vastly prefer fuel-based transportation, obviously. They think range and DOC issues to remain for the forseeable future
9) They think the US is basically incapable of doing anything other than what they are currently doing; driving their personal automobile for everything. Major initiatives like carbon taxes only drive up the cost of fuels and don't affect use.
10) They think things like making cars cheaper would be more effective than fee-based systems. The logic being that specialized purpose high efficiency vehicles would be purchased for single person commuting if costs were lower.
11) We will tap every gallon of petroleum and every ton of coal. The question is not if, but when. And they don't see anything slowing it down and several things (growth in Asia) speeding it up.
12) Lastly, he thought my riding an ebike everyday to commute was tantamount to monastic self-sacrifice. He commented after seeing the bike that all I needed now was a hair shirt. I told him that unless it was very cold or raining, I preferred riding my ebike to driving.
Bear in mind that this was a petroleum industry guy, but as a chief scientist, he is a bit more objective than a "talking head" company rep. So take the above with a grain of thought, but it was a sobering reality check for people interested in alternative energy.