US opportunity: Clean energy leadership

Posted: October 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

A US scientist built the first working solar cell. Another US scientist invented thin-film solar manufacturing.

So where does the United States rank by country in terms of solar power per capita?

Somewhere below 20th … and falling, because in terms of new solar power per capita as of 2011, the US ranked 31st, according to Clean Technica.

Think leadership in solar power is dominated by equatorial countries? It is true that oil-rich Saudi Arabia is making significant investments in alternative energy, however … the top five solar power countries per capita at the end of 2011 were, in order: Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Belgium, and Spain … with Slovakia and Luxembourg sixth and seventh.

It’s only a little different when it comes to wind power. The US was 9th in cumulative installed wind power per million people, with Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Sweden atop the list. The US was 21st in total installed wind power.

Countries adding the most wind power capacity per million people in 2011 were Sweden, Ireland, Cape Verde, Canada and Portugal. The United States was 11th.

Why has the United States relinquished leadership in technologies it pioneered? It’s not difficult to blame an entrenched, multi-tentacled oil industry. Let’s put it more simply: The US has relinquished leadership in these technologies because it has relinquished leadership.

Somehow it’s become politically easier to run a dirty oil pipeline through someone’s property than it is to install a wind turbine or solar array.

We are looking at the un-building of America.

A cornerstone of the slow death that the United States and its citizens (through leukemia and other cancers linked to petroleum and radiation, etc.) faces is Citizens United versus FEC (see “The Court’s Blow to Democracy” at nytimes.com). This is not to say that a 2010 Supreme Court ruling is responsible for problems festering for decades. It is, however, a huge roadblock to the adaptations we must make as a nation in order to survive … and for the planet to survive and for our children and their children to thrive.

It is also a roadblock to job creation.

It is true that we have somehow … and the very personal computer upon which this is being written is part of it … become energy gluttons. And there is a price to be paid.

We love the freedom of the open road, have become accustomed to jet plane travel. We like things bigger and better. We like our music loud and we want to see a bigger picture. When I say “we,” I mean, myself included.

To live as we do, however, and to fail to invest in clean energy … is simply suicidal.

Apart from the obvious environmental concerns about poison water and air from extracing what’s left of native fossil fuels from underground … isn’t it obvious that installing solar and wind power facilities will create more jobs than by simply laying pipe and operating drills?

What is preventing us from moving forward on clean energy technologies (well one is the misuse of the terms “clean” and “technology” by our electees but that is another story)?

We must ensure that it is possible for citizens not controlled by Corporate America to gain public office by amending Citizens United. We must ensure that all candidates on ballots have an equal opportunity to debate and to get their “equal time” … remember that idea?

Personally I would invite you to consider whether Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s platform more closely mirror your own values than those of Democrats or Republicans. Here’s Mat McDermott’s interview with Dr. Stein. If nothing else it’s an interesting read.

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