23.3.12

Has the Wind Been Knocked out of Wind Power? The Sun Gone Down on Solar?

The energy discussion in the United States is crazed right now. Just a couple of months ago, Obama nixed the Keystone XL pipeline but yesterday he fast tracked the southern portion of the Keystone XL. He has promoted shale gas drilling. He has said we can "win the future" by working on big building energy conservation measures and pushing renewable energy. It is a full-scale run at everything "all of the above" (with a lot of oil) energy strategy.

Last fall, there was a "phony scandal" about Solyndra, a solar energy company that went bankrupt even though it received government funds. Republicans decried the government funding as a form of cronyism and government interference in the market to further an environmental ideology. Critics were quick to point out that Republicans have been essentially subsidizing fossil fuels for decades to companies whose quarterly profits are at 10s of billions of dollars.

There have also been anti-wind dust-ups. In Massachusetts, some very wealthy people opposed the Cape Wind project because they didn't want their ocean view impaired. Even environmental groups, worried about habitat impacts to snakes and threatened species, migration routes for raptors, or harm to bats, have opposed wind power projects.

These scandals certainly hardened anti-renewable energy people's views. And they have done some PR damage too.

But there is some consensus in the public that climate change is real and that we need to act to curb it and renewable energy is part of that answer. Rasmussen reports that among likely voters, "64% say global warming is at least a somewhat serious problem, including 30% who say it’s Very Serious." In the same report, 51% of respondents think oil companies should have to invest their profits in alternative energy forms. In March of this year, Pew found that 52% of those they surveyed think that alternative energy sources need to be the top energy priority, down from 63% last year.

But all of this is still confusing. It's hard to know what the actual state of renewable energy is in this country. People are outfitting their houses with solar PV panels and there are large solar arrays going in in California and big wind projects all over. Then there are places like Germany that seem to defy the Republican dismissal of solar. What's the rub?

Today, Dr. Bevin Etienne will be on our show. He works for Sustainable Planning and Development and has advised renewable and alternative energy projects in California, Nevada, Mexico, Dominica, and more. He works on the projects understanding the engineering and the financing aspects, enabling him to work with governments and corporations to solve energy dilemmas.

Listen in today on The Lion 90.7 FM from 4-5 pm. As always, feel free to call with questions or comments: (814) 865-9577

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