Part of Barack Obama’s stimulus plan will certainly focus on financing alternative energy projects, probably the building of windmills, geothermal power plants and such. And as Orwellian the task of semi-eternal and laborious windmill buildery may be, it gives me great hope that we will begin to inject capital into an industry that’s perennially under-funded. We’ve been blathering for decades about switching our energy sources, and Obama seems to be a man who’s quite resolute on eclipsing the culture of passivity that has dominated previous administration’s energy policies.
The methods by which we approach the madness of the switch from our current energy culture (in the form of coal and petroleum) to an ecologically sustainable system (such as solar, wind and geothermal) must be deliberate and farsighted. There seems to be a great opportunity at this moment, due to a glut of social will and economic necessity within the country, to pursue a bold domestic energy agenda.
So we mustn’t squander our opportunity with short term or medium term fixes. Coal is malclimatific. Ethanol is quixotic. Oil is bittersweet. Magic is fictitious at best. Other energy sources and distribution models are essential to the furtherance of our nation; let us discuss one for a moment.
I propose the rigorous application of government subsidies and tax incentives toward the consumer and commercial purchase of solar panel and windmill installation. If we were to transform our society such that every structure, facility or neighborhood was energy independent — powered as a function of localized and/or personalized solar energy — we would achieve true energy independence.
What if the mall were adorned with solar panels on its roof? What if each house had a solar panel or two? What if each neighborhood had a windmill in the park down the street? What if, coupled with an investment into geothermal and wind power, Congress were to partially subsidize the cost of solar panel installation on residential and commercial structures?
Gradually, property owners would flock to the solar panel installation. If the procedure to outfit an average 3,000 square foot residential structure with solar panels, effectively generating all the structure’s power needs and eliminating all energy costs thereafter, were around $10,000, it would become a very attractive long-term investment for homeowners, assuming power can be resold back to the grid. This would also create the conditions for long-term value creation in the housing sector and potentially enervate the historically perilous decadal boom-bust housing cycle.
Now is not the time to think decades into the future; it’s the time to think a century from now. We will face some harsh climactic, economic and political realities in the coming years, and the processes that enabled them are, in large part, irreversible in the short term. By whatever fatalism you consider subsequent climate and geopolitical change, bold and immediate action is our only solution.
Obama strikes me as a far-seeing man – his statements on the present belie his thoughtful meditation on things far into the future. The investment into personalized energy systems is a most farsighted venture. What if the anatomy of the energy business was a body of companies that produced personalized solar energy systems (i.e. windmills and solar panels for consumer purchase), rather than energy creation companies with centralized resources and distribution monopolies?
If longevity, durability and ecological sustainability are the criteria of success for the imminent wave of energy infrastructure investment, then the subsidization and implementation of personalized solar-energy systems may be our best bet.
We’ve got the plans for the panels and the workers to build them. We’ve got the windmill designs and the steel to build them with. We’ve got the sand to make the mirrors and the technical prowess to manufacture them on a large scale. We’ve got the cultural determination and, ahem, the fierce urgency of now.
We have a future that daunts and a harsh reality to face. Let us consider this option as an addition to the portfolio of solutions we must apply to solve our long-term energy problems. At this moment in history – as calamity lurks at the doorstep of tomorrow – the folly of our past ways has become apparent. Let us shed the malaise of our past imprudence, get to work, and build an energy infrastructure our future countrymen will thank us for.