Thursday, 31 January 2013 17:26

Will the US Lead the Green Industrial Revolution?

Written by  Jessie
Master Gunnery Sgt. Rowan Dickson (left) and Brian Kummer attach a solar panel. Master Gunnery Sgt. Rowan Dickson (left) and Brian Kummer attach a solar panel. Maj. Paul Greenberg/United States Marine Corps/Public Domain

Last week in President Obama’s inaugural speech he addressed the most serious threat our planet has ever faced, climate change, when he said, “We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”

It is exciting and hopeful to hear our nation’s leader pledge to put us on the path to conquer global warming and combine it with the economic recovery the US so badly needs.  Now we need to back up these words with some actions.  What can we do to lead a green industrial revolution?   

Well we’re already seeing some promising actions from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).  Did you know the DOD is the largest single consumer of energy in the world?  The agency spends approximately $20 billion on 3.8 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and 120 million barrels of oil per year.  That’s a lot of energy, and sometimes fossil fuels are bought from countries hostile to U.S. interests.  So the U.S. military is turning its eyes to renewable energy.  Fortunately they are not starting from scratch; they currently have about 80 megawatts of installed renewable energy capacity.  However, the good news is that a report released this week by Pike Research forecasts this number to quadruple to 3,200 megawatts by 2025.  The research firm quantifies the increase in renewable energy use to a predicted almost $1.8 billion in 2025 of U.S. military spending on renewable energy programs, including conservation measures. 

All of this green spending can have lasting positive effects on the industry overall.  For example, as the demand for solar cells increases, it encourages the building of more solar cell manufacturing plants.  Due to economies of scale, the cost of producing solar cells can decrease, and the new lower costs are passed on to the private sector.  Additionally, the solar industry, because of large sales from the U.S. military, has more funds available to conduct research and development into better and cheaper solar cells, which can drive down the price permanently.

It is encouraging to hear and see the U.S. take steps towards leading a green industrial revolution.  Is there more that can be done?  Absolutely!  But we have to recognize these constructive efforts as they are brought to light.

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