Fighting the new Solar FUD

Cavemen are always coming up with new excuses for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt on renewable energy.

Having succeeded in slowing the industry down with their global warming denialism, a can’t do attitude and firm opposition to subsidies (while supporting subsidies aimed at finding things to burn) they’re now trotting out what they think is their trump card.


Abolish renewable energy targets because “carbon capture” (which doesn’t really exist) can cut carbon emissions cheaper, says Policy Exchange, a right-wing think tank with the ear of Britain’s Conservative government. Besides, their American counterparts might add, companies like First Solar don’t stand a chanceagainst subsidized foreign competition.

It’s elegant how all these arguments fall neatly into place like dominoes. You slow investment by putting government in the aid of fossil fuels, then you claim competing with those who have invested in renewable energy is impossible because of national interest.

Great way to lose the future.

Fact is, as GreenBeat’s story on First Solar states clearly, our problem is that we’ve stayed on a single technology platform for decades, concentrating only on reducing production costs on that platform. We’ve succeeded, reducing the need for subsidies because costs are lower while prices for fossil fuels are higher.

But in doing so we’re left vulnerable to rival companies in other countries that can lower costs by ignoring environmental damage, keeping their currency artificially low, and paying workers a pittance, which remains Chinese policy. (Although we can compete on labor costs if we want. Hint. Today is Cinqo de Mayo.)

The best way forward is through innovation that can’t be copied, speeding the rate of change, something America does better than anyone else. MIT’s latest breakthrough with thermoelectric panels is just one example from today’s news.

The problem is these innovations aren’t moving to factory floors quickly enough.

Financial innovation, like that engineered by SunRun, is also important in increasing demand. But it won’t matter unless we also remain committed to investing in new supply technologies. This fossil fuel advocates are dedicated to denying us.

On both sides of the economic equation we remain in an uphill fight. Cavemen have the money, they have the ear of policymakers, and they have all the political talent with which to spread their FUD and “no we can’t” attitude.

Their only problem is that we can. We are. And we will. The renewable industry has the opportunity, in this nationalistic climate, to turn the cavemen’s arguments against them. We shouldn’t be shy about doing just that.

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