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?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Huntin Hajis

First let me say that without question I oppose the war in Iraq. At one time I was in support of the war, and thought President Bush had made the right decision to invade Iraq. But it wasn't too long into the occupation of Iraq that I began to realize that something was terribly wrong.

It started with the looting, and the unprotected hospitals. The arms depots which were left unguarded, and the sparse number of troops. The chaos, and the inability to restore basic services. It all began to add up. We went in with too few troops!

I kept waiting for the truth to sink in, and for someone to admit that more troops would have to be sent, but it appears keeping too few soldiers in Iraq is part of the Bush Administration plan.

A very big consequence of not having enough troops in Iraq is that we have grown an insurgency.

The closest analogy is that of antibiotics. If you take too little you just breed super bacteria that no longer respond to antibiotics. By sending in too few troops those troops we have sent in have only acted as trainers for rebel forces which grow in numbers, and strength by the day.

In the meantime we continue to make more, and more enemies with every death, and injury.

No matter how many pieces of candy tossed out to children by troops driving by in their Hummers it isn't going to turn the tide of this war. Iraq is a ticking time bomb, and it was we who set the fuse.

Many of our troops are used as bait. They are instructed to drive through areas in which an attack upon our troops is expected. Once the attack occurs other U.S. units will come in for a counter attack. This is Vietnam all over again. It's a war by numbers, but it is not a war in which we will win. These methods prove that we are understaffed in Iraq, and it's not right to send our troops out to act as bait.

The U.S. military learned a great deal from Vietnam. The use of overwhelming force when occupying a nation is the way to go, but for political reasons the Secretary of Defense has still not been sacked for intimidating our military's general staff into sending so few troops.

The truth is our political leaders smile a great deal, and act like they care about our troops, but are deliberately wasting these troops lives. And because it's Republicans were talking about here they can get away with - wrapping themselves up in the flag, and hoping like hell the media will be too timid to reveal what's going on.

One result of using our soldiers as bait is the stress is creates on our soldiers. By not enjoying overwhelming numerical superiority, and by not creating a passified Iraq we have created a non-stop war in which our soldiers are being hunted.

Our solders natural response is to view anyone who is not one of them as the enemy.

We're now seeing the slaughter of innocent civilians, racist approaches towards viewing Iraqis, and it is all too clear that this can only breed further hatred for our troops.

We either need to send hundreds of thousands more troops over to Iraq, or we need to pull our troops out now. But we all know more troops won't be sent will they. It would make the administration look bad.

We have lost the war folks, let's prop up an interim government, broker a deal with the Kurds, Iran, Syria, and Jordan - and get the hell out while the going is bad!

The civil war there will happen no matter how long we stay - we can't make it not happen no matter how much blood, and treasure we throw at it.

It's not good news, but it's the way it is.

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