Monday, November 07, 2011

The Sun Also Rises

Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times that solar power is no longer the Impossible Dream:

. . . progress in solar panels has been so dramatic and sustained that, as a blog post at Scientific American put it, “there’s now frequent talk of a ‘Moore’s law’ in solar energy,” with prices adjusted for inflation falling around 7 percent a year.
This has already led to rapid growth in solar installations, but even more change may be just around the corner. If the downward trend continues — and if anything it seems to be accelerating — we’re just a few years from the point at which electricity from solar panels becomes cheaper than electricity generated by burning coal.

While the United States waged war in Iraq, the cost of solar power declined dramatically. However, the fossil fuel industry -- in both Canada and the United States -- has funnelled billions into the conservative parties of both countries:

Let’s face it: a large part of our political class, including essentially the entire G.O.P., is deeply invested in an energy sector dominated by fossil fuels, and actively hostile to alternatives. This political class will do everything it can to ensure subsidies for the extraction and use of fossil fuels, directly with taxpayers’ money and indirectly by letting the industry off the hook for environmental costs, while ridiculing technologies like solar.

Fifty years ago, the oil industry made war on the electric car. That war was so successful that it has only been in the last decade that people have seriously considered battery powered automobiles. We should expect the same reaction now.

The question is: Are we going to be bulldozed a second time?

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