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The Clean-Energy Source of the Future

It's been a long time coming for both natural gas and solar as viable sources of energy in the United States. Both have been struggling with a lack of consumer and industrial buy-in, but both could be right around the corner. Is either one standing out at the moment?

The debate is on
In the following video, Motley Fool analysts Joel South and Taylor Muckerman each weigh in on how natural gas and solar have been performing lately and which companies are taking the lead. Both options have made progress recently, with Clean Energy Fuels (NASDAQ: CLNE  ) building out its "America's Natural Gas Highway" initiative and SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR  ) producing more efficient solar panels.

Has Clean Energy Fuels solved the "chicken-or-the-egg" debate?
The movement toward alternative energy is gaining momentum. One potential opportunity in this field is Clean Energy Fuels, which focuses its natural gas efforts primarily on trucking and fleets. It's poised to make a big impact on an essential industry. Learn everything you need to know about Clean Energy Fuels in The Motley Fool's premium research report on the company. Just click here now to claim your copy today.

Read/Post Comments (12) | Recommend This Article (4)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2013, at 11:03 PM, bugmenot wrote:

    Anyone with common sense knows that solar (or wind) has to be backed up by a fossil plant running at 60% of capacity in order to take over the load when it is dark. Maybe not common sense for HS dropouts, news journalists, and politicians. So you have something ready to provide 150% (peak) of the emergency load running at 60%. Solar doesn't make sense for reliable power. Does Obama want to take over Nevada and cover the entire state with solar panels to power Pelosi's California? Who gets to clean the solar panels of dust and sand? Illegal immigrants?

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2013, at 11:15 PM, janken123 wrote:

    Solar and Wind are both toys and will never be able to give us the power we need. Nuclear is clean, safe and economical. New plants are much improved over the originals and even burn the spent rods eliminating any storage problem New aircraft carriers nuclear powered can go without refueling for 22 years. Look what that would do for power plants.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2013, at 11:37 PM, luckyagain wrote:

    Natural gas is a better fuel than oil or coal but it still puts CO2 gas into the atmosphere. Solar on the other hand can make the best fuel: hydrogen gas; no CO2 when burned. The idea that because solar is only available during part of the day and therefore requires backup is wrong. Just use solar electric to make hydrogen gas which can be stored and burned any time of day that it is needed. So use natural gas as a transition fuel to get away from coal and oil as much as possible. The truth is that the transition from oil, coal and even natural gas will take many years.

    The transition should be started now while plentiful supplies of natural gas are available. The cost of energy is being constantly manipulated to prevent the development of solar and wind energy. Just look at how the cost of oil changes every day by 1% or 2%. The cost of oil can change 10% or more percent in a few weeks and people still want to depend upon it? Better to develop solar electric in the US than have to send US troops into the Middle East to get oil.

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2013, at 12:33 AM, uncoveror wrote:

    Fracking is destroying our drinking water, and solar doesn't require anything like that. Advantage solar.

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2013, at 1:22 AM, saabhubby wrote:

    OK, guys, lets get serious here. Solar power is a great idea, however, it is very inefficient (in terms of converting energy in to energy out) and like others have said, you need backup sources when the sun doesn't shine. Wind has the same issue, plus the added problem expensive upkeep. This leave natural gas. There are problems here as well. An initial gigantic capital outlay to retrofit coal burning plants and/or build new generation facilities. Of course there is also nuclear, there again though massive capital outlays and major legal expensense (sp) to fight off the green crowd. The long term best bet (imo) is natural gas, yes it still puts out co2, but is plentiful and will give us more time to come up with other alternatives, however, we will have to pay out the nose for our electricity at least until the capital outlay is paid off.

    As far as autos go, unless a way is figured out to go 300 miles on a charge, electric is out and I doubt natural gas would be accepted by consumers. Why? Natural gas is subject to freezing in the lines in colder climes, so you have to keep the lines/tank warm. This means plugging in your car when not in use. Plus, lets face it, you are traveling down the road with a pressurized tank (read bomb) in your car. For these reasons, I doubt consumers will go for it.

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2013, at 1:26 AM, saabhubby wrote:

    Not to mention that wind and solar also have their bad enviro issues as well. Both take up a lot of usable habitat to provide any real amount of power. Solar is a hazardous waste once they reach the end of their life cycle (heavy metals). Wind power has the problem of dealing with toxic waste from de icing and the killing of the bird and bat populations is significant as well.

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2013, at 1:31 AM, buzzltyr wrote:

    The correct answer is a combination of the 2. Solar works best for peak power, there when it is needed and is cost free when it is not needed.

    Nat gas is good for basic needs, but it makes no sense to build a huge plant just to be used afternoons in august

    The key is the demand curve

    Nuclear is dead, cost for a new unit is probibitive at this point

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2013, at 1:46 AM, GeorgePolitico wrote:

    A fair amount of electricity is used to provide indoor lighting during the day. If we supply this lighting with photovoltaic electricity we suffer considerable inefficiency: If the photovoltaic cell is 20% efficient and the lighting arrangement is 30% efficient, the combined efficiency is only 6%.

    I wonder whether light might be collected outside of buildings and transported in using fiber optics. When the sun was shining brightly, daylight might supply a large part of the indoor lighting. Obviously, there would have to be a backup fluorescent lighting system.

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2013, at 3:01 AM, spiritpen wrote:

    Every plant and animal that ever lived on Earth has been solar powered. So please dont say solar doesnt work. Solar arrays on our home and business rooftops are powering many all electric zero emission vehicles right now and have been for 20 years. EV1dotorg drivingthefuturedotcom

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2013, at 3:02 AM, Franlie wrote:

    It's not even a contest. Natural Gas is abundant and just needs fueling stations put in place where gas is now pumped.

    How is solar going to power transportation? The government has already lost a bunch of money backing solar with 0 results.

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2013, at 4:36 AM, btc909 wrote:

    Solar, buyers will be pissed when solar shingles drop in price. What you mean I don't need those ugly solar panels anymore? The biggest crutch to solar is "solar leasing".

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2013, at 8:34 AM, Blackjack83 wrote:

    Yes! To the gentleman asking if bringing solar light into buildings, yes, it is possible using fiber optics. The systems use some sort of parabolic dish for collecting the light.

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