TOTALLY Boom/Doom Solartopian Green by 2030 ?

From Richard Bellpci, Wash DC.

This is my first post to the clamshellalliance list, so I want to
start by thanking everyone who pulled this together. It's wonderful to
hear about what people that I so deeply admired and respected then are
up to now, and how brightly the flame that was lit then in peoples'
hearts is still burning today.

Living here in Washington DC (which my wife and I refer to lately as
"the scene of the crime"), knowing that those Clam juices (to change
metaphors) are still flowing is especially heartening in these days of
another war that just won't end because a pusillanimous Democratic
majority cannot find the stomach (or however many organs they may be
missing, it's clearly more than one) to put an end to an illegal,
unconstitutional war and move quickly to impeach Cheney and Bush for
the multitude of high crimes and misdemeanors they have committed.
(Never forget that it was the immortal Gerald Ford, in a previous
political impeachment effort directed at Supreme Court Justice William
O. Douglas who said that high crimes and misdemeanors were whatever
Congress decided they were at the time.)

So hello to everyone, and on to something a little more substantive
that was prompted by one of my old friend Harvey's posts.

I agree with Harvey that we (all the people of the world) are in a
desperate race against time to change to a solar-based energy system
and drastically reduce carbon emissions. I went to hear Al Gore's
presentation at the Museum of the American Indian on Saturday and
noticed that he is now calling for a 90 percent cut in carbon emissions.

Harvey's thoughts got me thinking about two big problems that are
implicit in realizing the solar vision: 1. how much time do we
actually have; and 2. who's going to control distributed renewable
energy production. I haven't spoken to Harvey about either of these
points, so the following is NOT intended as a criticism of his
analysis but to "revise and extend" his ideas (as they say in the
belly of the beast [Congress, "revise and extend" his ideas in the
hope of making them more likely to happen in a humane and small-d
democratic way.

1. Peak Oil and the solar transition

I feel that the race we are in may be even more desperate that Harvey
describes. Whether or not world oil production really is at a peak, or
will be shortly, the continued growth of world demand, especially in
India and China, coupled with the apparent inability of the world's
producers to increase production accordingly, has created a very tight
oil market where even small changes (a storm here, a kidnapping in
Nigeria) can send oil prices shooting upwards.

As I read Harvey's scenario for making the transition, there is a bit
of a hidden assumption that we will have enough cheap fossil fuel
energy to build the trillions of dollars of new infrastructure that an
all-solar-based economy will require. (The Wall Street Journal carried
a front page story today about windmill manufacturers falling behind
in meeting the growing demand for wind power.)

If the world is confronted with much higher energy costs in the short
run (say a tanker sinks after a missile attack at the mouth of the
Gulf of Hormuz, and oil goes to $100 a barrel or above overnight),
then the costs of making the transition will soar. The likelihood of a
worldwide economic crash or depression would be very real.

On the positive side, however, such a stark development could be
helpful in forcing more active support for the solar transition at
every level of government, provided that proponents of solar were able
to mobilize effectively.

2. Who Will Own the Solar Economy?

The history of the rise of organic agriculture also gives me some
pause about who will end up controlling the solar energy system,
regardless of how distributed at least some parts of it will be. I
have been reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, a wonderful book that taught
me things about the U.S. agricultural system that had escaped me in
decades in the environmental movement. One of the most alarming
sections analyzes how major corporate agricultural interests, once
consumers made it clear that there was a desire for organically
produced food, quickly moved in and adapted the tools of oil-based
industrialized agriculture to produce goods that could be legally
marketed under the U.S. Department of Agriculture label.

So in looking at the transition to solar, I think we should keep high
in peoples' consciousness the ability of global corporations to move
quickly and aggressively to co-op emerging technologies, like
distributed renewable power, and bring these technologies under their

We face the same questions with renewables that have cropped up with
organics: are we getting the world we said we wanted? It's better if
crops are being grown without pesticides and herbicides, etc., but if
that's all we get, it's a sorry bowl of porridge indeed. Just getting
the technologies right is a stupendous struggle, but that struggle is
a small one compared to getting the CONTROL of the technologies right.

Thanks for listening.

Richard Bell

--- In clamshellalliance@yahoogroups.com, windhw@... wrote:
> ************************************** See what's free at
> _Harvey Wasserman_ (http://www.freepress.org/columns/display/7)
> TOTALLY boom/doom Solartopian green by 2030
> June 26, 2007
> We are all now desperate runners in the epic race between doom and
boom. It's
> a global- warmed dead heat between apocalyptic ecological collapse,
versus a
> Solartopian green-powered prosperity.
> Defeat is defined by a death spiral that decimates our planet.
Victory means
> the wealth, jobs and organic well-being that can come with renewables,
> efficiency and a post-pollution planet.
> A middle ground is likely along the way, but would almost certainly
happen by
> dividing humankind even further between rich and poor. That
polarization is
> ultimately unsustainable, and will demand correction, one way or the
> The "tipping point" where climate chaos becomes self-accelerating and
> irreversible may be as close as ten years away. Some believe we're
already over the
> edge.
> The global economy runs parallel. Any system addicted to huge inputs of
> irreplaceable, monopolized resources whose prices are soaring must
soon collapse.
> The cure is clear---a technological, economic and social revolution
> around the transition to green power.
> Despite the nay-sayers, such a Solartopian transformation is
physically and
> financially do-able. But can we do it by 2030?
> The answer: Ecologically, and economically, we have no choice.
> A new report from the United Nations points to huge increases in
> investing in the past 18 months---in excess of $100 billion. It
predicts almost
> a quarter of the world's electricity could be green by 2030.
> But Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., has pointed out that the National Renewable
> Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, has published on the internet
(and then
> withdrawn) findings that say ALL electricity consumed in the United
> world's largest consumer---could be produced by renewable means by
the year
> 2020.
> Like Russia, China and India, the US has enough harvestable wind to
do the
> total job. NREL says there is enough wind capacity in North Dakota,
Kansas and
> Texas alone to electrify the entire US, using currently available
> There's enough wind resource in the states between the Mississippi
and the
> Rockies---what we might now call Windiana---to do the US three times
> There are transmission constraints and occasional permitting issues.
> there's no reason to build any generator west of the Mississippi
that's not fueled
> by the wind or solar energy. There is also plenty of wind east of the
> Mississippi, especially in the Great Lakes and Atlantic.
> Worldwide wind power is proven, profitable and booming at rates in
excess of
> 25% per year. Solar, bio-fuels, wave, ocean thermal, geothermal, tidal,
> current and other forms of renewables are all close behind.
> Anyone doubting the explosion in Solartopian energy might check out the
> financial pages and investment reports popping up throughout the
global media. The
> trade association web sites (awea.org, ases.org, nrel.gov, etc.)
> with numbers that scream of a classic techno-economic takeoff.
> The situation parallels the rise of the personal computer and dot.com
> industries. Imagine yourself describing 25 years ago---in
1982---what was about to
> happen in the information age.
> Technologically, the Solartopian revolution is much further along.
But it has
> one problem the information revolution did not---an institutional
> There is a barrier separating a future defined by climate chaos and
> collapse from a boom to Solartopia. It is the coal, oil, nukes and gas
> industries---King CONG.
> Few stood to lose from the spread of the PC and internet. But green
> threatens the fossil/nuke multinationals with ultimate (and
> oblivion.
> A likely scenario: for the next five to ten years, led by wind,
> will grow at 25-35% per year. Despite King CONG, investment capital
is fast
> becoming a green tsunami. Production facilities for wind turbines,
> roofing shingles, wave-generating "sea-worms" and the like, are
> As capacity expands, production costs and prices drop. Demand will
> even further. Solartopian industry will accumulate serious wealth and
> employee mass. The host communities will add their social and
political commitment.
> Today's green lobby has tremendous popular support. But too many solar
> companies are owned by major corporations with fossil/nuke
investments. Above all,
> they fear the decentralized nature of green power.
> But sooner or later, the public demand for an independent green
industry will
> combine with accelerating wealth to create aggressive institutional
> When finally it attacks its competition---coal, oil, nukes and
gas---in open
> political warfare, King CONG will head toward the compost heap.
> The green power industry is certain to expand rapidly for the next
> Economically and politically mature by 2015, its technological
> will multiply on themselves. Self-sustaining profitability and
growth should
> match the PC/internet saturation of the global economy within
another quarter
> century---by 2030---maybe earlier.
> The take-off will bring a revolution in efficiency. Bloviating
> continually refer to an "inevitable" exponential growth in energy
> But soaring energy prices will force exponential breakthroughs on
the demand
> side.
> The biggest barrier to Solartopia may be reviving a mass transit
system that
> was systematically murdered by General Motors, Standard Oil and the
glass and
> rubber companies. Without good inter-city rail travel and advanced
> transit within the cities, the US has no economic future. The hybrid
> car-especially the plug-in model---marks a step forward. But the
automobile still kills in
> the range of 40,000 Americans per year, many on a freeway system
that is
> overburdened and obsolete. The auto must be transcended.
> The rhythm of this techno-financial revolution will push us toward
> by 2030. But so will our eco-systems. Time is short to solve our
> crisis. We must stop emitting carbon dioxide and reverse the damage
done. The
> eco-imperative extends to habitat destruction, air and water
pollution, decimation
> of the forests, the spread of toxics, and much more.
> Mother Earth is telling us we can't coast for another
quarter-century. The
> clock to "Thermageddon," as Greenpeace founder Robert Hunter called
it, ticks as
> fast as the one on economic collapse.
> Extinction peers over our shoulder just as green power approaches
> mass.
> So set the date for 2030, bid King CONG goodbye, and let's win this
race to
> Solartopia.
> --
> Harvey Wasserman's SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH, A.D. 2030 is
> available at www.solartopia.org. He is senior advisor to Greenpeace
USA and the
> Nuclear Information & Resource Service, and senior editor of
> (http://www.freepress.org/) , where this piece was originally
published. With
> Dan Juhl, he is co-author of HARVESTING WIND ENERGY AS A CASH CROP
> (_www.danmar.us_ (http://www.danmar.us/) ).