Last night I was watching the season premiere of The Green on the Sundance Channel and after it was over I was thinking about one of the stories that was in the episode. The entire episode was about the future of power and covered things like wind power, solar power and poop power. OK, not exactly poop power, but power from the methane gas from the manure from cows – it was pretty amazing really. However, that wasn’t the part that got me thinking…rather it was the wind turbine story.
That segment was about a guy and his family in Pennsylvania who mortgaged their house, maxed out credit cards, used up their retirement money and borrowed from friends – all to install a series of wind turbines on top of a ridge on his property. This was not for power just for him, but rather for many in his community. He felt it was something that he “had” to do because of the danger that our planet is facing from global warming. And while I am all for taking the bull by the horns, that is a HUGE investment of one’s own capital (not business money, personal money and loans) to put something in place that our government and/or private ventures should be doing more of. I am not saying it is a bad thing at all…I find it quite inspiring and amazing that someone would take that much of a personal risk to put in the turbines – he should be applauded. But I do find it upsetting that this is what is going to have to happen in order for us to go “off-grid” and get off of fossil fuels. Getting one’s self off-grid is one thing…but doing it as an experiment to try to sell power to your neighbors is another thing altogether. What if it had not worked?
At one point in the story, the narrator mentioned that Denmark gets 20% of it’s power from wind while the U.S. gets only 1%. ONE percent. We are a world leader in technology – but yet we won’t invest in wind and solar power for the benefit of everyone. However, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out why – the oil, gas, and coal lobby runs strong and runs deep through our government. Just today it was announced on the news that the oil companies are asking for BIGGER tax breaks for “exploration”…even after the five biggest oil companies made $123.3 billion in profit last year. They want tax breaks to explore more places to dig for oil, not to get involved in alternative energies.
When will the investment in alternative energies move beyond a guy spending every penny he has and then borrowing even more into a solid, huge investment from the government or a multinational global giant? While I sincerely give this guy credit for bringing his dream to reality, it shouldn’t take this type of story to encourage companies to spend the money to start doing this on a giant scale. I know there are a few companies putting in solar power plants and wind farms, but we need more and we need it as soon as possible. Al Gore is spending $300 million dollars on ads and posters about global warming…I am thinking that the $300 million could have been put to much better use by installing wind farms across the country or putting solar panels on thousands and thousands of homes. I can appreciate a good ad campaign, but I think the time has come for action with these kinds of dollars coming available, not just words and feel good video clips.
If a few more $300 million chunks of money were thrown at alternative energy, guys like the one in Pennsylvania would not have to mortgage his house just to install wind turbines on his property.