If you watch the news, it is difficult to identify a single problem facing the United States to name as the most dire, as our around the clock news cycle bombards viewers with crisis after crisis, it seems to be a litany of woes.
Some would say it is the quagmire that is the Affordable Care Act, others would say the Tea Party’s obstructionism or the tragically frequent gun violence in the, while many would argue there is nothing hurting our country more than the ever widening wealth gap. While these concerns certainly carry their fair share of problems, no issue threatens the future of the U.S., and every other nation, more than the connected damages of rampant over consumption and climate change.
The last decade has produced nine of the ten hottest years on record leading to severe droughts that have led to near constant forest fire threats across the southwest, especially in California, dwindling harvests in the heartland and devastated fish populations across the country. Changing weather patterns have led to unprecedented natural disaster damage across the Northeast and a mind boggling stream of storms disrupting travel and commerce on a regular basis.
The U.S. contains merely 4% of the world’s population yet accounts for 25% of all energy consumption. National leaders speak proudly of having energy stores that should last over a century which means that even if we could afford to continue pumping the byproducts of said consumption into the atmosphere, it is acknowledged that this plan cannot last more than another few generations.
The move to renewable energy needs to be made for a litany of reasons, not just the moral motivations popular among progressives, there is really no alternative to keep our society running as we’ve become accustomed. The solution should be right in the wheel house of popular American theory, capitalism.
As the rest of the world surges towards a western standard of living, the demand for traditional will keep on an upward trend. Around the world energy already costs more than it does domestically, which leads to exports directed at greater profits. Sooner rather than later, as populations and affluence increase, we will have to pay more to keep our share of the market.
At the same time renewable energy prices fall every year, becoming more and more competitive. The more money invested, the more production capacity increases the faster technology improves. In the solar field they call it Swanson’s law, it suggests that the cost of the Photo Voltaic cells falls by 20% manufacturing capacity doubles. Economies of scale and all that.
The solution is simpler than it looks, requiring only that a major energy producer, with the distribution infrastructure and money to back it, notices these trends and decides to take its place at the front of the change. The only questions are can we make this happen before the natural economic switch point or climate disasters force the change, and will it be in time?