This article originally appeared on April 30th, 2006 in americanchronicle.com.
I don't usually rant and rave when I write. I like to tell a story. That's going to change a little today. Excuse me while I climb upon this soapbox.
I went to high school in the mid seventies. At that time, despite a severe gas shortage and inflation threatening to go out of control, the future held a lot of promise. We Americans seemed to buck up. We took measures to conserve energy. Little signs appeared next to light switches reminding us to turn off lights. We started dumping our huge gas guzzlers in favor of smaller, more gas efficient cars. New technologies became available and began to develop, promising technologies like solar and wind power. Solar panels were even installed on the White House grounds. We were going to beat this oil embargo. We were not only going to shed our dependence on foreign oil, we were going to become independent of oil altogether.
Then something happened. The eighties came along. For various reasons, oil and gas suddenly became cheap once again. We began to burn up oil like there was no tomorrow. We forgot all about conservation and the wonderful new technologies we had been developing.
The nineties started with a bang. That's when we found out all the money that could have been spent on developing clean, reliable, renewable energy had been spent on developing smart weapons and computers. The rest of the decade was spent wallowing in excess. No one seemed to care as we threw the years away and continued to burn up our natural resources.
The new millennium hit. It started on a paranoid note with the Y2K bug that never hit being the biggest threat. The world didn't come to a screeching halt on January 1st, 2000 and we continued to suck down our "cheap" oil. September 11th, 2001, and everything changed. Or did it? We dumped more of our young soldiers and money into foreign conflicts, and for what? To destroy weapons of mass destruction? To liberate a people? To protect ourselves? Do we really need to protect ourselves from third world countries? I no longer believe such propaganda. Everything that's happened has happened to protect the assets of the very rich and powerful. Our future was stolen long ago by some very greedy people who tried to bury it simply because it was a threat to their power. President Bush telling us we're addicted to oil is like the pusher telling his client they're hooked on heroin. He knows it's true, but he doesn't want to do anything to make it change. If the addicts break their addiction, the pusher is out of power. He may have no future, but the addicts suddenly do.
Ok, here's the thing. I want the Earth to be around for quite some time so that my kids can grow up and have kids of their own and they too can grow up and have more kids. I want my progeny to stretch forward into the millennia. I also want them to be able to enjoy the God given freedoms spelled out in our constitution. How can this be achieved? Power. I'm not talking about political power, I'm talking about electrical power.
Here's my idea. Every household needs to start switching over to a mix of solar and wind power. When it's sunny, the solar shingles on our roofs will be generating electricity, powering up rechargeable battery banks which will power our modern conveniences. When it's cloudy and rainy, windmills will supply electricity for those battery banks (which should be big enough to power the household for at least a week without recharging). In addition, we should have electrolyzers set up in our homes to make hydrogen fuels. This hydrogen would be used to power our motor vehicles, which would now be non polluting and environmentally friendly.
I can hear the chorus of groans out there already. Many people are still convinced that such a plan is infeasible, that it is too costly. That's what the oil barons want you to think. Our goals will have a tough time being realized unless this attitude is changed. When I read about a study that shows that the cost of electricity per kilowatt hour using wind or solar is more expensive than using coal, I wonder what kind of math they are using. You can't know what the cost of a kilowatt hour of electricity from a wind generator or solar cell is going to be because that cost is dependent on how long the generator or solar cell lasts. The cost is a one time expense when you buy the unit and then the cost of electricity doesn't go anywhere but down until service is required.
If we couple these two technologies together and start creating power plants in our homes, power plants which can also fuel our cars, many problems will be solved. We can reclaim our future. This is something you, the individual can do. It has become obvious our government will not help and, in fact, seeks to prevent this vision of the future from coming into being. They would rather we burn up all the non-renewable natural resources so they can line their own pockets. The fact is that the ultimate cost of our continuous dependence on fossil fuels could be the collapse of our very civilization. Look into it for yourself. There is available today an amazing variety of alternative power products you can incorporate into your homes. The best way to reclaim our future and our independence is to start utilizing what is available to us. When the consumer markets on these products start to grow, the choices we have will grow and the costs will come down. I pray we still have a bright future. I hope to see you there.
I'll get down off this soapbox now. You can have it back if you want.