Is free energy possible?

As it happens, the answer to this question is yes. It’s possible, and has indeed been demonstrated, that the world can make zero-waste energy from the very same substances that currently make up most of the world’s natural energy supply. These materials come from hydrocarbons, a renewable fuel that is made from methane. They come from wind, a renewable energy supply that is made from wind turbines. They come from waste plants, from waste from landfills, from sewage, from forest areas: all the things that the World Bank says are essential to the sustainable use of the natural world. In fact, the World Bank actually suggests that the only thing needed to make true a sustainable use of the natural world is to phase out energy-intensive industries. According to a study in Nature by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), only 20 percent of the world’s energy come from the sources that today contribute most of the world’s energy. “The World Bank says we need to phase out industry and move to ‘new energy’,” says Erika Klein, the director of the International Centre for Sustainable Development (ICSD), a non-profit institution in Vancouver, Canada. I was recently speaking at the ICSD about the fact that renewable energy is being increasingly used in places like India, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, and Nepal, among others. “Renewables are one of the most scalable, cheapest and most environmentally friendly forms of energy available to us,” Klein says. “The World Bank and its international partners believe that there is an untapped market for ‘renewable energy’ in developing countries, and they are working hard to encourage energy companies to expand their markets.” For example, the World Bank’s Eco-Fuel Initiative (EFI), a program set up in 2009, is working with several major multinational companies to develop sustainable fuels that are lower in total energy cost than fossil fuels, and to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). In May 2009, I was in New Delhi to give a keynote address at the Indian Parliament about the World Bank’s Energy Sector Dialogue. It was a fascinating experience. The country that I had spent most of my life representing, and that is in the midst of a highly productive manufacturing sector, had suddenly looked to me like a strange place to be. On the one hand, there were large and growing crowds at the Parliament building, and more in the crowd than ever had been there to see. In the Parliament basement, meanwhile, there was a big, noisy party, in which