Thursday, February 09, 2006

Powerful Friends

A P photo

This story in today's NYT shows the tipping point that is occuring.

Here is part of it.

Solar Energy Is Gaining Powerful Friends

New York Times
February 9, 2006
Michael Janofski

It was not so many years ago that solar power was a niche concept for electricity generation, an idea embraced mostly by the green-minded who were eager to do their part for energy conservation.

It is still a niche concept, providing less than 1 percent of the electricity on the grid. By comparison, coal generates about half the nation's supply, followed by nuclear power and natural gas at 20 percent each.

But the list of leading solar supporters now includes President Bush, a former oil man living in a partly solar-powered White House who is suddenly endorsing solar energy as an affordable source of power in the future.

Mr. Bush's overall budget for so-called renewable energy in the 2007 fiscal year is $1.17 billion, about the same as the current level of spending. And solar energy is only a tiny part of that, at $148.3 million. Still, spending for research on solar energy, both by government scientists and by outside scientists and academics, would be 78.5 percent higher than it was in the 2006 budget.

That proposed investment reflects a belief that new technologies will make solar power more competitive by lowering its costs, which are now as much as 25 cents a kilowatt hour, more than double the cost of any other fuel source.

Some industry analysts say the budget request, if approved by Congress, would lead to the supply of electricity from sunlight more than doubling, to 2 percent, by 2025.

"The administration finally realizes that it can't drill its way out of an energy crisis but can manufacture its way out," said Rhone A. Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group whose 175 members research, develop and install solar energy systems.

Solar's gains are part of the administration's response to a growing public demand for cleaner energy and Mr. Bush's latest campaign to wean Americans off foreign oil.

The Energy Department also proposed a 65 percent increase in programs intended to produce fuels from corn and sugar, to $149.6 million, and a 25.8 percent increase, to $195.8 million, for efforts to develop hydrogen fuel cell technologies.


The president's energy budget is expected to get a full airing on Thursday when the energy secretary, Samuel W. Bodman, appears before the Senate energy committee.


Daniel F. Becker, director of the Global Warming Program at the Sierra Club, said: "To make any big difference on solar requires a lot more investment than the president has proposed. He's right to point out that we're addicted to oil. But the biggest step toward breaking it is to make cars go farther on a gallon of gasoline."

The new attention to solar energy reflects an intense — and relatively recent — lobbying effort to convince Congress and administration officials of its benefits. Mr. Resch, who was hired to lead the trade organization 18 months ago, said he emphasized to lawmakers that investing in solar power would help create thousands of well-paying jobs, lower emissions of heat-trapping gases and eventually provide a safe alternative to natural gas for heating homes, which worries many energy experts because of its price volatility and growing scarcity.

For an industry that typically aligned itself with environmentalists, who tend to vote Democratic, Mr. Resch said, success meant forging new relationships with Republicans, including Senator Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, an early supporter of solar energy as a potentially cheaper alternative to coal and natural gas.

Congress responded last year by including in the energy bill a two-year program in which the government would offer the first federal tax credits for a home solar system in nearly 20 years.

As parallel measures, Mr. Resch said, more than a dozen states have begun offering similar rebates, and more than 30 have programs in which people using solar systems to supplement other power sources can sell back excess electricity as a way to reduce their power bill.

"It all shows that solar is the next great high-tech growth industry, " Mr. Resch said.

"We're not just hippies in garages in Berkeley anymore. We're high-tech manufacturers producing reliable electricity with no fossil fuels."

I actually met some Republicans the other night

who believed that invading or bombing Iran was not very smart.

They thought that the corruption in DC was rampant and bad.

They even thought that maybe it was time to deal with Climate Change.

In all fairness,

They had been drinking.


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