More and more people who know I write about green technologies approach me these days and ask very seriously about getting solar panels, going completely off the grid with solar and battery storage, and about electric vehicles and even hydrogen-powered cars.
There’s a growing interest in these technologies, as there should be. People want to save on their home energy and commuting costs. And these are people are in New England, which hasn’t suffered the searing heat of the south and Midwest, where running energy-intensive air-conditioning systems most of the day is pretty much a necessity.
Adding to this are some pretty disturbing developments. NASA climatologist James Hansen, who has been warning about global warming for decades, has released a statistical analysis concluding that the recent extreme heat and drought being experienced in the United States are other parts of the world must be the result of man-made global warming. (The extreme highs now double extreme lows.) Hmmmm, drought and crop failures, rising food costs, imminent water shortages. Add to that Greenland’s ice sheet recently showing inexplicable signs of melt. All this is happening, ladies and gentlemen, without an Al Gore at PowerPoint. And if you really want to be scared, read this articlein Rolling Stone by environmental advocate Bill McKibben that makes the oft-complex climate change math all too simple to understand.
Don’t click away yet. A Sunday New York Times column on the nations’ extreme heat reports that belief in global warming now crosses party affiliations and likely conservative and more liberal states.
According to a survey conducted in July by the University of Texas, 70 percent of Americans believe the climate is changing, compared to 65 percent in March, and only 15 percent say it isn’t. Party affiliation continues to divide public opinion, but today most Republicans, 53 percent, believe in climate change, as do 72 percent of independents and 87 percent of Democrats.
Where’s the Solution?
Don’t count on our government to do much about climate change. Environmental reality has consistently lost out to the political reality—or better put, political unreality—as well as the elephant of economic priorities. The U.S. government could enact a Home Star-like bill that doles out a few billion in enticing rebates for meaningful home energy efficiency upgrades, which in turn could spur a dynamic industry that helps grow the economy, but it would rather keep gifting those billions in the form of subsidies and tax breaks to super-rich oil and gas companies that don’t need them. And this will likely be the case until something big and catastrophic happens.
The Smart What?
In the face of all of this, many industry leaders and manufacturers are content to wait for the so-called smart grid to educate homeowners on the benefits of energy efficiency. Yet the smart grid is (1) off to a very slow start and largely mired in pilot-land, and (2) implemented by electric utilities, which still call their customers “rate-payers” and are notoriously poor at communicating with them. So we are to wait and rely on electric utilities to explain the benefits of something complex and unseen as energy efficiency?