by Richard Hawkins
Life on our planet is solar powered. Plants are the original solar collectors and are the basis of the food chain. The amazing diversity of life on our planet (including us) is made possible by our nearest star, the sun. There is an unimaginable amount of clean energy available to us from this source. We just need to take advantage of if.
In an incredibly short time in the history of our planet and in human existence, we have developed a reliance upon an energy source that is unsustainable and unhealthy. In retrospect, it seems ridiculous that we have built the human society around an energy source that could ultimately be our demise.
We know the damage that burning carbon-based fuels has caused and are getting a pretty clear picture of how it will shape our future. With recent news that atmospheric carbon dioxide has surpassed 400 parts per million and dramatically affecting our climate, one would think that we would be pouring our research and resources into logical alternatives. Even if we continue as is, carbon-based fuels will eventually be depleted. We can only guess when this will occur, but recent estimates show oil may last another 50 years, natural gas about 70 years and coal around 120 years. The sun is expected to be around for another 5 billion years!
We spend a lot of time debating the energy projects that can transport dirty oil from Canada, drilling for oil in new and pristine places and making coal burn cleanly. We also place an inordinate share of our research and economy into trying to expand and clean up carbon energy. I drive the Beeline Highway daily and am watching the construction of a massive pipeline to transport natural gas to burn in power plants. Why aren’t we building a solar infrastructure?
Florida is the Sunshine State and we should be a leader in solar energy production. We are lagging behind areas that have far less solar exposure with countries like Germany far ahead of us in harnessing the power of the sun. Japan is now making huge investments in solar following the recent issues that have resulted in taking nuclear power off-line. Even Minnesota has passed a law requiring utilities to get more power from solar.
We know the damage fossil fuel energy has caused in just a few generations. We have learned the lessons of experiments with alternative energy sources including the damage from the dams in rivers, from nuclear accidents and no clear alternatives for the waste they produce.
It seems the largest barrier to a large-scale conversion to safe renewable energy has been cost. The small gap in cost per watt from burning carbon fuels as opposed to solar energy helps keep our focus upon refining what we have become accustomed to – fossil fuels. If we can just look a little further into our future, it should be clear that we cannot wait much longer to truly embrace the power of our star.
Localecopia is a nonprofit organization based in Palm Beach, Florida focused upon bringing businesses, producers, educators and government organizations together for the purpose of lessening our carbon footprint by supporting local product consumption, helping operations better utilize waste and bringing together individuals to help achieve sustainable business practices. For information about Localecopia, please visit www.localecopia.org.