Thousands of years ago, the universe met a naked ape called “man,” and since then the ape hasn’t done much to make an impression. The naked ape has only visited its home planet’s satellite and has flung a few tin cans to farther reaches. Through a fortuitous accident of oxygen, carbon, and temperature, the naked ape discovered early on that it could make energy by setting things on fire.
It’s been thousands of years since, and the naked apes are still setting things on fire. First, it was wood, then coal, then oil and natural gas. Upon discovering any stinking, dirty natural substance, from creosote to fermented corn juice, the naked ape’s first thought is always “Can we burn this?” From setting things on fire, the naked ape has built up a tremendous amount of busy industry with noisy, smoking machines everywhere choking its planet with CO2 and heat.
In the quest for finding more things to set on fire, the apes occasionally looked up in the sky and noticed a great BIG thing that’s always on fire, which they called the sun. It dimly occurred to them that they could harness the power of that BIG burning thing and since it burns continuously, they’d never run out of things to set on fire for a long, long time. Only capturing the sun’s power seems to be too difficult, so they haven’t made much progress.
…Or Have They?
Wait, scratch the needle on that last part. It’s a crock of hooey. We’ve not only invented solar power, we’ve perfected it to the point where there is no reason we couldn’t have had a 100% solar-powered society, this very minute.
Now, ape holdouts will argue, “But you don’t have access to the sun all the time, so how do you deal with part-time energy?” And the buzzword they need to know is “solar plus storage.” While this is a newly developed technology that’s come into its own in the past few years, there’s no way you could argue that we could not have developed it decades ago. It’s just fancy talk for storing energy in a battery.
The next argument the ape holdouts use is “It’s nice, but too expensive compared to setting things on fire.” And to answer that, we have a linked source. But first, we must caution readers possessing a short temper with a trigger warning: This will anger you. The Motley Fool calls it “the biggest news in electricity since the light bulb,” and here’s a pull quote:
> “…utility company Tucson Electric signed a power purchase agreement last week for solar plus storage at a price of fewer than 4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) over 20 years. That’s less than half the price of retail electricity power and a price low enough to compete with natural gas, coal, and nuclear power head to head…”
Yep, in fact: “…both solar and storage are getting cheaper every year…”
Doesn’t this just make you want to hulk out, charge out the door, and start smashing gas stations? “CHEAPER!” All this time of sweating gas prices and energy bills, and if we’d only put more research into solar, we could all have been on solar… not only saving the environment and reversing global warming but CHEAPER! Argghhh!
Here’s a lengthy Palo Alto conference on the growing solar plus storage market as of 2015:
As the charts point out, the more the solar industry grows, the cheaper it gets per unit. Had we jump-started the solar plus storage market decades earlier, we could have easily been running at least a cleaner, greener power grid by now. Al Gore would be so blissed out he’d be catatonic.
But how proven is solar power? Here’s an example:
That’s a solar-powered car race held regularly in Australia since 1987. The World Solar Challenge has had teams from all over the world competing to not just build a feasible solar-powered car, but compete to make the fastest one too. The very first race saw the completion of the 1,878-mile course with the winning entry averaging 42 MPH; the most recent winning entries have gotten up to 57 MPH. All without burning a drop of gas. Let’s not forget, for city driving – which is what most of us spend 90% of our driving time doing – the average speed limit is going to be far lower. Imagine your garage with a solar-paneled roof, charging your solar battery car, then while you drive it the solar panels on the car replenish what you use until you get to work and plug the battery back into the solar-panel lined parking garage.
How about solar-powered drones? Baby, we’ve got that covered too!
So much so that we can build low-flying satellites. How about a solar-power quad drone?
Yes, that’s covered too. There are thousands more examples where this comes from. When you take other renewable energy sources into account, most of the world is approaching 100% renewable energy. Several countries and many more municipal areas have already hit 90% renewable energy, with about 47 more pledging to be 100% renewable by around 2030.
The Only Thing Stopping Us Is Politics
Hah ha ha, did you think the US military-industrial complex is just going to let you get your energy from the sky for free? Well, OK, they’re getting to the point where they have no choice pretty soon, once that word CHEAPER gets around.
In 1970, then-president Richard Nixon started the Environmental Protection Agency, which of course is all in favor of clean energy. Seventeen years later, that same person, now an ex-president, wrote a letter to a promising guest on the Phil Donahue TV show, ensuring him that if he ran for president, he’d win. This is ironic, because when that guest did indeed win the presidency twenty-nine years later, that person, whom we know today as Donald Trump, angered what is apparently the entire universe recently when he pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement. And while the firestorm of controversy still rages as of this writing, twenty-two US Senators aren’t miffed at all, because they advocated for Trump to cut the Paris ties – at the behest of lobbyists from oil, gas, and coal companies.
No, don’t panic. Repeat after Robert Anton Wilson: “Everything Is Under Control.” This is the last gasp of the naked apes. Setting Thing On Fire has been big business for decades now. The entire world save three countries is sticking with the Paris Agreement anyway, and scads of US cities, counties, and states have built bridges right over Trump’s head to stay with the Paris Agreement anyway, leading to such strange bedfellows as California and China.
Donald Trump, meanwhile, thinks the answer to all our problems lies in coal miners and oil pipelines. If you’re wondering where Trump got the inspiration to be so gung-ho about Setting Things On Fire, look no further than his Godfather, Vladimir Putin. Far from denying global warming, Vlad the Putin wants it to hurry up because he’s ready to plunder the Arctic for more things to set on fire. And yes, coal has also been a popular thing to set on fire in Russia.
The hold of the Setting Things On Fire industry over geopolitics seems so overwhelming that it even drives international relations, such as Trump’s recent visit to oil-rich Saudi Arabia. We all recently saw Trump visit Saudi Arabia, sign a $110 billion arms deal, and pose with his fellow mystics with their hands on the Eye Of Sauron. Except, whoops, that’s not really the whole truth; the whole truth is that there were some useless agreements and pledges pushed around, with none of the deals representing new commitments to buy anything that Obama didn’t sell them already. In fact, it seems unlikely that the Saudis could buy $110 billion in arms from Trump because they’re still struggling to pay off the tab from the $112 billion they bought from Obama.
Why is Saudi Arabia struggling to pay that tab? Well, see, the price of oil is so low…
The naked apes with their books of matches are going extinct. The world will move on from Setting Things On Fire to 100% renewable energy, and then it will move on further to become a utopia of crystal spires and togas, curing cancer and discovering faster-than-light space travel. They’ll pretty much have to anyway, while the last tiny enclaves of the old guard of energy production burns the very last thing it can until it runs out.
Unless we just turn to setting each other on fire too. That’s a renewable resource we’ll never run out of. Wasn’t that in Soylent Green somewhere? No, wait, that was Idaho Transfer…