Why We Need to Increase Federal Spending on Cheap Solar and Renewable Energy
As anybody who has studied peak oil numbers has seen, we have a very short window on fossil fuels. Give it a few decades or less, and not only will we be out of gas, but we’ll be out of livable environment as climate change makes our current system untenable. We’ve been in the renewable energy race for decades, but a clear contender is emerging: cheap solar. As Motherboard reports here, we’re looking at solar power that is as cheap or cheaper than our current energy sources within ten years.
And it won’t be the giant solar panels we think of when we think of solar. It will be paper thin solar or, as we’ve reported on here, fiber-optic solar mesh. If Elon Musk has his way, we’ll be driving solar-powered cars, too.
So what remains to be done? The obvious thing: Boost the federal spending on research and development so that we can get cheap solar funded and deployed before we hit the peak oil/climate change Wall of Fire.
There are a host of proposals for how to address climate change around the world: a global cap-and-trade system, pervasive carbon taxes, renewable energy mandates, even geo-engineering schemes. All of those are worth pursuing. Many of them are yielding fruit today. But so far, they’ve proven very far from sufficient in tackling the problem.
There is one over-arching, unilateral strategy that would address climate change, without the need for global treaties or bruising fights with industry. It’s this: Make renewable energy so cheap that it hardly makes sense to use anything else. Make it cheaper to use solar and wind than coal or natural gas, and utilities and industry will switch. The larger the price difference is, the faster that switch will happen…
Yet, as the continued exponential growth in carbon emissions shows, that price drop isn’t happening fast enough. At the current pace of price reduction, we’re on track for burning fossil fuels as our primary source of energy well past 2040, a path that would blow us well beyond the consensus 2 degrees Celsius threshold for preventing the most dangerous warming.
Now there’s something to create a Whitehouse.gov petition about.