Renewable Energy–We Need A Long Term Plan!


Natural sunlight has the greatest potential of any energy source to solve the world’s energy problem of peaking fossil fuels and climate change.  In one hour enough sunlight strikes the Earth to provide the entire world’s energy needs for one year; and that energy has been free to us for 5 billion years. Until recently solar has been a daytime only energy source because storing surplus energy was too expensive. Inspired by natural photosynthesis process as performed by all green plants, a laboratory at MIT developed a new process that will use the Suns energy to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. Excess energy not used during the day time hours would be stored and recombined inside of fuel cells to create carbon free electricity to power homes, offices and cars–day or night. This project was funded by a very small $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation in 2008, so that a carbon free solar technology could be started by 2018 with proper incentives applied. A mere $10 million grant opened up a great opportunity to put our country back to work manufacturing energy products.

By comparison, $30 billion per year is spent in paying subsides to oil companies that provide us with our inexpensive gas, that gets more expensive each day. $600 billion/year is spent on maintaining a military to keep the Middle East oil pipeline open to the US. We spend $80 billion/year for military systems system research on new military weapons. Yet we spend only $1.5 billion/year on renewable energy research. With that picture, it is understandable that the country does not move forward in developing renewable energy manufacturing jobs in the USA, while the rest of the world moves further ahead of us. U.S. economists have forecast that jobs may possibly return to the country by 2016 and now I can see why. It is not because of ample innovations in solar, wind, tidal, hydro, algae research and fuel cell development do not exist; it is because we as a country have not placed a high enough priority in developing a carbon-free society for the needs of the planet and its future inhabitants. Other countries have placed higher priorities on developing renewable energy technologies; while we flat line in agony and lick our wounds over a major blunder on Wall Street and politicians get ready to run in the next election. That is a very weak attempt to compete in the world economy as we once did in the 1960’s Sputnik era. For decodes the government has provided massive subsides to the oil and gas industry and also to very inefficient ethanol industry with no significant movement into a world of carbon-free renewable energy except by their advertising and public relation promotion.

My question is why does it take so long for our country to get into action to do some good for the planet and its people and why doesn’t US manufacturing get its act going right now in generating solar technology jobs here? The answer appears to be that we do not have a focused priority and a definitive plan to do it. If a superior example is needed politicians should refer to the example set by John F. Kennedy in 1961. He formulated a strongly focused plan, set out specific goals with funded objectives and sent a US space  capsule to the moon in 10 years. He reached out to the Congress and to the American people for support and the country got behind the plan and the goal was accomplished in record time.

Our country again needs that kind of direction, an action plan, a strong set of goals and funded objectives to establish carbon free solar energy as our long term priority goal. Part of that plan should be to use our taxpayer  subsidies to big oil companies as part of the investment to build a sustainable carbon free energy future here in the US as soon as possible! A definitive plan would not only would answer a long term solar energy solution for our planet’s future survival, but would also eliminate the constant battle for cheap fossil fuels; which will only get more expensive in dollars and in potential mining damage to an already scarred planet. I  addition the US Workforce would again become a force in generating exciting new high paying technical career jobs in the US working for planet Earth. We as a people need to decide if we value the preservation of the planet for ourselves and for our future generations and if we truly want to be a can-do workforce again! The technology is here right now! It is time to get beyond short term political bickering and get on with solving issues that we all know will smack us in the face in the future. Let’s use our Sputnik history and experience of 1980 as a base to go forward with a confident focus to preserve the Earth that gives us life.

–Jack Wilbert

About pystew

Retired Teacher, political science geek, village trustee. I lean a little left, but like a good political discussion. My blog, the New NY 23rd (http://newny23rd) is about discussing the issues facing the people of our new congressional district. Let's hear all sides of the issues, not just what the candidates want us to hear.
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