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America Could Have Dropped Big Oil Decades Ago -- What Happened?

Renewables are still just scraping by, while we're beholden to dirty fossil fuels. An important history lesson explains why.

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He compares the adoption of solar to that of central air conditioning, and how suddenly homeowners went from wall units to central air. It was simply a smarter way to cool the home and soon everyone had it. He sees solar following the same adoption curve. Once a few people on the block see it coming to the neighborhood, Llorens foresees a domino effect. "When people see it for themselves, that it's just an unequivocally better way to get power for your home," he says. "That it's cheaper, more stable, and it's clean. Then it explodes."

There's no way to get around the fact that on Capital Hill and at the state level today everything is about spending. But the focus is incredibly narrow. Take Pennsylvania's penny-pinching new governor, Tom Corbett, who has taken a hatchet to such things as education and social service programs, yet will go out of the way to give the fossil fuel industry an unnecessary break. Here's a headline from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on June 4, 2012, "CORBETT SEEKING $1.675 BILLION TAX BREAK FOR SHELL." 

On a global scale, as well, lunacy seems to rule the day, such as occurred in late May of this year when it was reported in the Guardian that natural gas had been "rebranded as a green, low carbon source of power" by the European Union, allowing the fossil fuel to inch in on the billions of euros intended for renewables.

Since solar technology has become available, the obstacles have remained the same year after year. Sadly the solutions are the same, as well. It's simply a matter of failed leadership. Spend no more, if that's the Holy Grail; merely spend the money in the right places. Last year, solar combined with wind, and geothermal to provide only 4.7 percent of the nation's power, still a far cry from the 20 percent said to be obtainable more than 30 years ago.

Aaron Skirboll is a freelance journalist and the author of "The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven: How a Ragtag Group of Fans Took the Fall for Major League Baseball."

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