Saturday, June 10, 2006

Solar Alternative To War

Only a few years ago if someone mentioned having a bank of solar cells on their home it would almost certainly have meant a solar water heater.

Those brave pioneers of the home solar energy movement certainly deserve recognition, but the truth is not very many people were willing to invest in solar water heaters in a time of inexpensive fossil fuels.

Only those truly concerned with the ecological benefit of solar energy could convince themselves that going solar was worth the money.

In recent years more efficient, and less expensive photo voltaic cells have lowered the cost of producing electricity from sunlight. While it still takes a sizable tax break to justify "going solar" doing so is no longer a far out proposition.

When the cost of global warming, pollution management, and building expensive new power plants is considered it makes more sense to go solar than not.

Still the upfront cost of going solar is daunting for an average household. The cost of a solar energy system capable of producing a typical home's entire electric needs averages $35,000. This cost includes a device used by the homeowner to sell surplus electricity to the power company.

Several sunbelt states, including California are granting large tax rebates to homeowners, and businesses willing to install solar energy systems. The federal government is also offering a tax rebate.

State, and federal tax rebates total to approximately $7000. This incentive is no doubt helpful, but the difference between cost, and tax incentives leaves most homeowners unable to take the solar plunge.

Gas, oil, nuclear, and coal are too inexpensive for solar to compete on a kilowatt per kilowatt basis, but simply comparing cost per kilowatt fails to factor in the cost of global warming, the cost and impact of pollution, the cost of dealing with nuclear waste, and the cost of paying for two oil wars - and perhaps more.

Despite the current cost advantage conventional energy has over solar the future of solar is bright. Solar technology continues to fall in price while the efficiency of solar cells increases. Each new generation of photocell has lowered the cost per kilowatt, while energy from fossil fuels continues to rise. As the world's finite supply of fossil fuels dwindles, driving the cost for such supplies upward, obtaining energy from the sun is looking more, and more like a solution for the world's energy woes.

There's no denying that Big Oil runs Washington D.C., which is why today the United States is more dependent upon imported oil, and natural gas than ever before.

Yet, with China, and India demanding more, and more oil for their own developing economies it is inevitable that within just a few decades that "alternative" sources of energy will be needed.

The question isn't if the U.S. will adopt solar energy, but when. The adoption of solar energy should not be driven by scarcity economics.

The cost to society for its dependence upon fossil fuels is continued risk of global economic instability, and possibly war.

If estimates of the cost of the U.S. war in Iraq are correct, then the U.S. has already spent $300,000,000,000. on this oil war.

Again, the average home in California could be converted entirely to solar power for $35,000. The Bush Administration has already spent as much money on its war in Iraq as it would have cost to convert 8, 571, 428 homes to solar!

That figure assumes the federal government would foot the entire cost, and therefore is a low estimate of how many homes could have been turned into mini-power plants. Even providing a large federal tax break for converting going solar could convince many more households into paying for such conversions themselves.

Also, by supporting solar energy on this scale the federal government would have driven the cost of solar energy down further. The economies of scale would have dropped the price of solar electric systems considerably thus allowing even more households to convert to solar.

If the Bush Administration in response to 9/11 had announced that the U.S. was overly dependent upon foreign oil, and announced a massive tax break for solar, geothermal, biomass, and wind-power one can only wonder how many tens of millions of households would already be using clean and cheap alternative energy right now.

But having the President's family on the take from Saudia Arabia dictated that the U.S. would remain highly dependent upon its oil pushers. We passed up on a historic moment of becoming an independent nation again.

U.S. troops currently occupy Iraq in the hope that one day it will supply the U.S. with its coveted oil. The war in Iraq is for oil.

Not only has the U.S. wasted a huge amount of tax dollars on its dependence upon oil, it could have used those tax dollars securing its independence. Sadly, its leaders don't consider themselves representatives of the United States, or the citizens of that nation, but instead consider themselves to be representatives of the oil industry, and Arab Princes.

Greed, short term concerns, and self interest have run the U.S. government, and economy for too long. The U.S. needs new leaders - leaders not owned by oil interest! As the American Empire spirals slowly into history who will speak for America?

No comments:

email jp






Wired News: Top Stories