The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has released the “Western Wind and Solar Integration Study” which concludes that up to 35% of America's power could be generated with renewables without extensive additional infrastructure.
NREL has also tripled our nation's potential wind resource estimates. With current wind technology, America can now potentially generate 37,000,000 GigaWatt-Hours of electricity per year. This is over 10 times what Americans currently consume.
A Duke University study has found that solar power is now cheaper than new nuclear power. And Vice President Joe Biden has predicted (after consulting with top scientists and industry executives) that within five years, solar power prices will be on par with grid (coal-fired) electricity.
And don't let anyone tell you that renewable electric power can't be stored either. Nuclear power plants have been storing energy in pumped water reservoirs since the early 1960's.
Solar and wind energy generation's time has come.
So, why are they building 30 new coal-fired power plants in the U.S.? Because this is the coal industry's last chance to make a multi-billion dollar killing. We have been fooled into thinking that fossil fuels are cheaper. This is a lie. Not only is the price of coal bound to go up, but there are enormous hidden costs (including subsides and more subsidies). Think about it. Just because what you pay at the pump or on your monthly bill now seems cheaper, doesn't mean that is all you pay - or will ever pay.
The National Academy of Sciences has published a study, requested by Congress, that concludes that use of fossil fuels for power generation results in $120 billion dollars a year in hidden costs associated with pollution's effects on human health, crops, timber yields, and other areas.
Of that $120 billion dollar figure, coal fired electricity plants generate over half the damages – which, at the moment, they are not liable to pay. You are.
The National Academy of Sciences further estimates that future damages from climate change could potentially more than double that $120 billion dollar a year figure – just in the United States.
So, what are we going to do about that? Well, the American people voted for President Obama. This should have been a clear message to the administration that we no longer want to have to put up with the Bush Jr./Dick Cheney energy policies. ...Now, in case you didn't know; the Environmental Law Institute has estimated that between 2002 and 2008, roughly $72 billion dollars in fossil fuel subsidies were paid by the American taxpayer. Ouch!!! (That's over 5 times the subsidies for renewables (omitting the corn ethanol boondoggle which, of course, the corn industry pushed for)).
So, why are we American taxpayers subsidizing the fossil fuel industries?
The fossil fuel industries are full of highly profitable established companies. They don't deserve subsidies. Taxpayer funded subsidies should help America. And in the long run, these subsidies aren't helping America.
Over the past decade, the five largest oil companies (Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell) made more than $750 billion dollars in profits. That's three quarters of a trillion dollars in profits!
And yet, on June 15, the U.S. Senate voted to continue big oil's $35 billion dollars in subsidies. Every Republican Senator and 21 Democrats voted down Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) amendment to the IRS code which would have used $25 billion of the saved money to pay down the deficit and $5 billion to encourage energy efficiency. Considering the fact that the Stimulus Bill subsidies for renewables are about to expire, this is all the more unconscionable.
Nonetheless, as huge as the subsidies are in the U.S., that's only a fraction of the world's fossil fuel subsidies. A comprehensive assessment, titled “The Politics of Fossil-Fuel Subsidies”, issued by the Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) has shown that worldwide, our governments are handing out subsidies of over $500 billion dollars a year to the fossil fuel industry! (that's over 12 times the world's subsidies for renewables.)
With over half a Trillion dollars in subsidies a year, it is no surprise that the energy and transportation industries are literally dominated by fossil fuels. How can any industry compete with an established industry that gets half a trillion dollars in subsidies – and doesn't have to pay for most the their environmental damage and essentially none of their health damage?
It's obvious: Our governments are out of touch with reality, incapable of change (even if it is a matter of survival), and overwhelmingly controlled by corrupting influences. This is not just a U.S. problem – far too many countries all over the world are puppets to the fossil fuel industry.
These dysfunctional governments have forcefully taken our money, in the form of taxes, and given it away to the least deserving. The fossil fuel industries don't have any emerging fossil fuel energy technologies that will make our lives healthier, safer, more sustainable, or less expensive in the long run.
(Someone is bound to bring up carbon sequestration at this point. But that's not a functional emerging technology, that's an attempt to mitigate the effects of an old dangerous polluting technology. Besides, carbon sequestration is just a boondoggle to spend our tax money to make the fossil fuel industry look more environmentally conscientious – while they keep right on polluting without carbon sequestration.)
No, no, no... This is the worst decision in history! For our half a trillion dollars in subsidies, all the fossil fuel industries have to offer is more of the same - air pollution, oil spills, scarcity, cost increases, war, and climate change. And worse; with all those mind-bogglingly huge subsidies, they can make sure that the competing companies with emerging technologies that actually will make our lives healthier, safer, more sustainable, and less expensive in the long run never get a fair chance to compete.
That's about as far from a free market as we can get.
But we don't really need a carbon tax – at least not yet.
We definitely don't need cap and trade (it will just make the banks rich).
We absolutely need to stop giving subsidies to some of the richest companies in history – NOW!
However; this won't happen until we fix our governments.
If we do nothing, it could mean the end of both democracy and free markets.
This is even a matter of life and death.
No living entity can survive for long if it cannot adapt to a radically changing environment. No society will last if it cannot stop poisoning itself. No species has much hope if it destroys its own niche.
There is a cancer growing within our civilization.
This cancer is thriving on undeserved subsidies.
If we stop the corporate welfare to the very industries that suppress innovation of healthier technologies, we can begin to adapt to our changing environment.
I believe that humanity still has the ability to think our way out of this predicament. But we have to use that ability. As of now, we're just waiting for the fossil fuel industry to make it all better for us. In case you hadn't noticed by now, they won't.
We have to take the initiative.