In light of the recent hurricane disaster in New Orleans and the high cost of gasoline, Americans should know that over 28 years ago energy experts proposed a national renewable energy program that could have reversed the course of global warming and made us independent of foreign oil.
At the time, very few were listening.
In 1977, the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) published a nonpartisan report that could have changed the future of the United States and the world. The government report, written by some of the top energy experts in the country, concluded that if the federal government and energy industries worked together to speed up the mass production of renewable energy technologies, these technologies “could be made competitive in markets representing over 40% of U.S. energy demand by the mid-1980s.” Given this timetable, it is reasonable to conclude that by 2005, renewable technologies could be supplying up to 75% of all America’s current energy needs.
The key to this timetable, however, was predicated on whether there was the political will to implement a national energy policy designed to mass produce renewable technologies– like photovoltaic (PV) panels and wind turbines– to drive down their cost and make them affordable for all Americans. These “green technologies,” as they became known, were clean, safe, and pollution free, which meant they did not produce greenhouse gasses, a major contributor to global warming. In addition, they could have replaced our need for foreign oil (and the need to go to war for oil in the Middle East), and they could have been mass-produced in the good old USA, creating thousands of new jobs and a lucrative new world market.
Back in the 1970s, Jimmy Carter got the program off to a good start. He put PV panels on the White House roof and initiated a new energy policy that gave U.S. businesses and consumers various incentives and tax credits to reduce the cost of renewable energy technology. The idea was that once the per unit cost dropped and became more competitive with the cost of producing fossil fuels, more startup companies would emerge and begin mass producing renewable technology, thereby driving down the cost even more. And the more competitive the industry became, the more innovations and technological breakthroughs would follow.
All this changed when Ronald Reagan, “the likeable dunce,” became president. As an unabashed spokesman for the fossil fuels industry, he immediately removed the PV panels from the White House roof, gutted Jimmy Carter’s renewable energy program, and gave a green light to the oil and gas industries to do whatever they wanted. At the time, George Bush Senior (longtime business associate of Saudi oil sheiks, including Saleem bin Laden), was vice president, and he and his oil buddies graciously helped Reagan promote legislation that favored the fossil fuels industries at the expense of renewable energy.
As a result, alternative energy went into a deep freeze during the 1980s and many domestic renewable technology startup companies went out of business. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton attempted to kick start the renewable energy industry again, but his Republican opponents in Congress fought him at every turn. In fact, Newt Gingrich and his boys even succeeded in eliminating the OTA.
For the past decade, scientists and environmentalists have stepped up their warnings about global warming and potential natural disasters as a result of climate change. But again, very few have been listening– least of all the mainstream news media. And once George W. Bush, the unlikeable dunce, became president, he and his Big Oil partners in crime did everything in their power to deny the reality of global warming and discourage a national renewable energy program.
In the meantime, Europe and Japan have forged ahead of the United States with their renewable energy programs. In Denmark today, for example, more than 20% of the country’s electricity is produced by wind power. Moreover, Denmark is one of the leading producers of wind turbines in the world, with a 40% share of the total worldwide production.
So here we are in 2005 making very little use of renewable technology and living with the apocalyptic consequences of disastrous government policies designed by and for the profit of multinational oil companies, which have made record profits this past year as consumers get gouged at the pump and struggle to make ends meet.
Unfortunately, the price of gas is the least of our problems. The hurricane that hit New Orleans and the southern coast of the U.S. is a wakeup call for Americans and a harbinger of more natural disasters to come. As global warming continues to heat up the planet, extreme weather conditions– like hurricanes, tornadoes, and torrential rainfall– will become the rule, not the exception. And although the price of oil may come down in the short term, the long-term price is headed much higher as world supplies reach their peak. Not a pretty picture for the future, especially with George W. Bush calling the shots for the next three plus years.
Is anyone listening?