Few week ago, I got a postcard inviting me to one of several free screenings of the movie, “The Age of Stupid,” at the Palm. It's a futuristic story of the last man on earth going through the earth’s archives (clips from real events) and asking the audience how and why we missed the boat on global warming and hence did nothing to stop the destruction that followed. The last man on earth was played by British actor, Pete Postlewaite.
Excellent film, very well done. The screenings were sponsored by Sunpower, the company now working on the California Valley Solar Ranch project. That project will be a 250 megawatt photovoltaic array located on private property out in California Valley and when up and running will power about 90,000 homes. The project is chugging through the County Planning process and on its jumps through the various other environmental hoops.
I asked one of the representatives the question I was dying to ask and it’s this: Why doesn’t some outfit like Sunpower (at www.thefutureofsolar.org or www.CaliforniaValleySolarRanch.com by the way) start a program of Rent-A-Roof and put solar panels on every rooftop in SLO County. Reply: only about 30% of the homes here are positioned properly to take advantage of solar panels, i.e. a south facing roof. And, let’s say all 30% wanted to participate in some kind of Rent-A-Roof deal, get free power then the company would sell all the extra power back to the grid, doing so might well trigger the law that would find that 30% to be a “public utility.” And that would put the Rent-A-Roof Company in the clutches of the PUC which means a morass of paperwork and bureaucratic red tape and political game playing (It’s the PUC, fer God’s sake!) that could tie up such a project for YEARS, no matter that it was a project that was helping global warming efforts and removing 30% of SLO County homes from carbon based lighting.
In short, great idea but because of the way our laws are set up, impossible to pull off. Too many roadblocks in place and too many special interests wanting to keep those roadblocks in place, like PG&E for example, a company that doesn’t want to see solar anything unless THEY own it and get the profit from it.
Once again, in the age of stupid, money and profit takes precedence over the health and safety of the earth. Why am I not surprised. As the movie title aptly has it: The Age of Stupid. .
The battle for California Valley’s solar plans will be in the news sooner or later. The usual suspects will arrive at the meetings, NIMBYs disguised as “concerned citizens” to talk about pronghorn antelopes and such like. Hopefully, serious concerns like the need for water to run whatever solar array systems go out there will be looked at. As for the pronghorns, one thing that a lot of “concerned citizens” keep forgetting is this: Global warming will destroy various endangered habitats worse than any solar arrays will so the endangered whatevers are doomed one way or the other. The bigger question is: do nothing and lose it all anyway, or do something and lose half. Take your pick.
Well, stay tuned. With luck the international meetings in Denmark will bring forth something more than useless speeches and ignored promises. In addition to a carbon tax, I’d suggest massive government investments in R&D as well. There’s an array of very smart people toiling away in obscurity in their little privately funded start-up companies. That’s all well and good for normal times with inventors working on nice little profitable widgets, but this is literally World War Three Time, which means all the nations of the world need to get their governments on board vis a vis R&D investment since it literally is a matter of national security for everybody.
But that’s unlikely to happen, certainly in our country, since our Congress is a wholly owned subsidiary of CorporateVille and CorporoateVille won’t do anything unless it can make a profit and that includes blocking solar, for example, until it can wring the last dollar out of some carbon based fuel source it owns, no matter that that last bit will be the tipping point of utter destruction. Not important. Corporate bottom line’s important, not the earth. Which is the problem in a nutshell.
And seeing what a hash our Wholly Owned Subsidiary of the Health Insurance Companies i.e. Congress has made of health care reform, I won’t hold my breath on their helping to solving energy issues. That’ll likely have to be left to China or Europe or even India.
Thus do empires and countries rise and fall in the Age of Stupid.