One of my favorite publications–one that you may never have heard about–is the Co-op America Quarterly: Economic Actions for a Just Planet. The current issue is devoted to “The Promise of the Solar Future.” Co-op America brings together buyers and sellers who want products and services that are environmentally benign and made by companies and co-ops that are sensitive to their workers’ health and safety. Co-op America attracts tens of thousands of members who peruse its National Green Pages to purchase what they need and to invest in responsible ways and support sustainable economic activities. (See www.coopamerica.org and www.greenpages.org).
Obviously, solar energy is high on its priority list. But has there ever been a longer, more proven, more diverse source of energy so continually neglected, ignored, distorted, suppressed or given lip service than the best, most permanent, most decentralized flow of energy on Earth?
Why, the ancient Greeks, Persians and East Africans used passive solar energy in the architecture of their homes and other structures they built. Remember our school books picturing the many windmills of Holland from centuries ago. Whether its wind power, solar thermal, solar photovoltaic or biomass, the many faces of the sun have been giving us a free lunch of energy, awaiting our transmitting of this energy into appropriate technologies that deliver the electricity and fuel.
Still the resistance. Why? Well, put yourself in the shoes of the coal, oil, gas and nuclear companies. Do you want to be diminished or displaced by the sun–a gigantic energy source you can not own nor control? These companies, ever larger and more global in size, know how to say NO to governments that do anything other than give fossil fuel and uranium companies subsidies and more subsidies which tilt heavily the playing field against the fledging solar energy firms.
The decades-long eclipse of solar energy development by the Exxon/Mobil moguls persists in periods of increasing imports of oil, military conflicts rooted in oil, and ongoing environmental contamination. We have witnessed spiraling gasoline and heating oil prices, staggering oil and gas industry profits and gross distortions of solar power’s potential, meanwhile the petroleum industry uses acquisitions to bottle up small solar companies, and the unceasing shrinkage of domestic refinery capacity, continues.
Having marinated the Bush regime with former oil executives, the fossils fuel and nuclear companies have secured House passage of the worst federal energy legislation in American history. Not only does it raid your tax dollars to further subsidize these greedy companies in ways that would cause a near riot if announced at the NASCAR race, but the bill also destroys the states’ historical regulatory authority, for example, to establish safety standards for the siting of liquefied natural gas facilities that could blow up a city in an accident or from sabotage.
Overturned also would be state and local government authority regarding the location of electrical transmission and distribution lines.
Gone would be the successful Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 that has prevented Exxon/Mobil or Wall Street firms from buying up electric companies. Dirtier air, toxic drinking water, liability immunity from the courts, and the weakening of controls over radioactive wastes will be your future, if your Senators go along with Bush’s nightmare (to him, dream) legislation.
What of solar? Ninety five percent of the tax dollars and subsidies in current energy legislation are slated for the polluters while only five percent goes to energy efficiency and renewable technologies like geothermal and solar power. Big Business plunders while the people sleep.
Co-op America’s solar magazine whets your appetite for solar. The Quarterly has a useful list of what you can do solarwise from old knowledge known as thrift. Hang your clothes out to dry instead of firing up the energy wasteful clothes dryer, for example. It shows you how to visit existing solar homes (www.ases.org), tap state programs that give you a break if you install solar devices or systems. It takes you around the country and world where solar is being used for a wide variety of purposes efficiently.
Ten years ago Japan’s solar electricity output was less than half that of the U.S.A. Now Japan is looking to bigger export markets for solar and is 50 percent of their domestic electricity from solar power by 2030, giving new meaning to the “land of the rising sun.”
Germany has sped ahead of the United States as well, creating last year alone 5000 new jobs and generating nearly $3 billion in revenue by expanding more solar power facilities than any other nation.
The American people and our country are being held back from solar power because we let the oil/gas barons set energy policy and limit our choices.
Sure, places like San Francisco and Chicago are showing activity, but until a couple of million Americans bear down on their Senators in the next month, Bush will sign this legislation with oil dripping from his pen and oil dollars spilling lustily into Republican campaign coffers. Do your part, the way Co-op America does.