Time For Renewable Energy

After years of opposing or ridiculing renewable energy, the giant oil
companies are using a new approach. A recent ExxonMobil advertising
campaign puts it this way:

"Oil, gas, coal, biofuels, nuclear, wind, solar....to fuel the future we need them all."

Not an unexpected maneuver from a fossil fuel company that has owned
Washington and received subsidies and tax breaks for decades. What is
unfortunate is that this is the exact kind of energy pitch coming out
of the Obama Administration and most Congressional Democrats. Indeed it
is right out of candidate Obama's 2008 campaign rhetoric last year.

Then Senator Obama gave every energy source its due although he spent
an inordinate amount of time pushing the mirage of "clean coal" and
keeping nuclear energy on the table.

The problem is that all energy sources are not created equal for
purposes of efficiency, and the well being of consumers, workers, the
environment and posterity. Regardless of their BTU production,
different kinds of energy produce different levels of harms and
benefits, short and long term.

Take atomic power. Wall Street financiers have been adamant for years
that lending billions of dollars to utilities to construct a single
nuclear plant requires a 100% U.S. government loan guarantee. A 90%
loan guarantee by the taxpayers is rejected by the Wall Streeters. They
want a 100% guarantee on the barrelhead.

The well-known physicist, environmentalist Amory Lovins argues against
nuclear energy just on economic grounds. He says he doesn't even have
to get to the safety issues to recommend rejection. I know no one of
prominence of on the other side willing to debate him. If you do, let
me know.

But the safety issues surrounding the nuclear option will not go away.
Neither the unresolved permanent storage of deadly radioactive waste,
nor the national security problems, nor the risk of a class nine
meltdown that could contaminate, in the words of the old Atomic Energy
Agency (of the U.S. government), an area the size of Pennsylvania, are
going away.

Then, of course, there is the missing "source" of energy from the Exxon
ad. This is energy efficiency. Reducing waste. A thousand megawatts you
don't waste is a thousand megawatts you don't have to produce. The same
goes for not having to waste a gallon of gasoline in gas guzzling motor
vehicles. Nothing can compete with the payback ratios of energy
conservation which includes building and engine construction and use.
Yet again and again it is not at the top of the list or on many lists
at all.

Then there are the renewables-wind, geothermal, water and all the
wonderous varieties of solar. A few days ago, the Sustainable Energy
Coalition had its 12th annual Congressional renewable energy and energy
efficiency EXPO + Forum at the Cannon House Office Building in the U.S.
House of Representatives.

This year's EXPO featured over fifty businesses, trade associations,
government agencies and non-profit policy organizations to hear some
members of Congress regale them and converse with visitors.

I found the exhibits and their personable exhibitors to be specific,
comprehensive and seemingly convinced that renewables are finally,
after some failed starts, on an irreversible road to greater market

It was not only the advanced hardware and the use of tax credits that
fed their optimism. Renewables are branching out in ways that are
bringing them nearer to a level playing field with their heavily
subsidized and coddled fossil fuel and nuclear "competitors." More
venture capital, better tax credits, rebates and various state and
local proposals exist to facilitate financing for users.

One spreading incentive comes from my home state of Connecticut which
offers a special solar energy leasing plan for homeowners. The Nutmeg
State claims it is leading "the way with the nation's first rate payer
supporter residential leasing program for solar energy." Catch the
details by visiting ctsolarlease.com or phone 888-232-3477.

The point of this column is to demand thoughtful discrimination by our
policy makers between different kinds of energy. Some are clearly
better than others. From the federal government on down to the state
and local level, a discriminatory approach is a must if the conversion
to renewables and energy conservation from fossils and nuclear is to

The old energy lobbies are very stubborn and have their hooks into too many politicians who mouth the ExxonMobil party line.

There are far more jobs in the new energy economy with far more health,
efficiency, and security benefits than there are in staying with
hydrocarbons and radioactive atoms.

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