Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Peaceful light and heat: Solar development

Resource capture is at the heart of much of America's military strategy, procurement, aid to other militaries, foreign basing, intervention, invasion and occupation. The strategic nonrenewable resources that are overwhelmingly sought are dominated by oil, of course. Finding renewable domestic substitutes for oil thus affects three huge problems.

One, war. We can butt out of the affairs of oil countries and stop killing and dying.

Two, global warming and climate chaos. We can radically reduce our national carbon footprint.

Three, our economic slide. Our economy will be greatly assisted by a massive reduction in military spending on our 1,000+ foreign bases and huge seapower reach.

If we are to achieve this, it's time to start in earnest. This is beyond the reach of many Americans on an individual basis, so the government, the private sector, and nonprofits all need to get involved.

The most hopeful big move is the commitment and strategic plan and partnership between the federal government, utilities in the western US, and private sector solar electricity developers. This initiative, which has now begun to roll out, will generate enough electricity to power up to seven million homes in the next decade of development. Even most of the crackpot environmentalists are praising the Obama administration for a plan that carefully avoids impacting wildlife. Could it be that the kneejerks who have opposed wind power and other intelligent solutions have noticed that fracking after natural gas is wrecking more habitat than all the clean energy projects ever proposed?

Even the military wants to go green for strategic reasons. The recalcitrant ones are the usual war profiteers and petroleum corporations. We can affect this by our individual purchasing, but we need political pressure too.

Back in the day, in 1982, I bought my first solar electric panel and hired a very smart backwoods hippie to wire my solar cabin and install the panel. Of course, I lived in the far north of Wisconsin, where land was cheap. I paid it off in just a couple of years and built my little cabin without borrowing a nickel, for less than $6,000. Now I live in an urban area where even the most ramshackle home has a huge mortgage. I'm in debt until forever, but I love Portland, Oregon, so I stay. PGE, the local utility, at least offers a green power option, which costs a bit more but uses only renewable sources of energy. Citizen watchdogs tell me it's legitimate, so I've been purchasing on that option for years. However, unless most customers subscribe, it only means that my purchase is green but less of the power purchase for another customer is. Unless utility customers choose the green power in overwhelming numbers, my neighbor who chooses the standard dirty radioactive exploding tapwater plan just gets all his electricity from the dirty sources.

Efficiency is crucial and so is alternative production. Voting with our dollars, our opinions, and our votes for candidates who expand these clean and peaceful energy initiatives will get the job done. What a great legacy--be a part of the Great Energy Transition in our culture, our economy, and our nation. GET US cleaned up.

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