I feel like I have to give a history lesson here.
Our whole culture was derived from exploiting land that didn’t belong to us, exploiting minerals without forethought of how it’s extraction effected the environment, and exploiting human labor without regard to individual well-being. And, we haven’t really changed that course. We’re still acting as though there is a limitless quantity of land, natural resources and human capital that will keep our gluttonous lifestyles going forever. Our economy is based upon growth of the GDP – again, not considering that there is a finite number of resources we can exploit to gain those stock market points.
But we’re not alone. Many of the developing nations are following our lead. But many are not.
Fossil fuels for example.
Because we have enacted laws requiring things like scrubber technology on our smokestacks and emission controls on our cars, we think that we can still use our atmosphere as a sewer. Some, who have traditionally opposed these technologies because it cuts into the profits of exploitation, want us to believe that we are no longer endangering our planet.
We’ve allowed the hydro-fracking of natural gas because we are reaching the end of the oil age. Instead of embracing technological advances in alternative energy, we’re squeezing that nickel until the buffalo grins and polluting our deep groundwater. Again, some deny that fracking is polluting our deep groundwater.
But fossil fuels effect us in more ways than the environment.
Wars are being fought to control land that bears these fossil fuels. And, these wars are not cheap. Our policy of resource imperialism has built the largest military machine that has ever existed on Earth. Thousands of people die in these wars each year. Public relations campaigns convince us that the wars are to protect our freedoms, but conveniently cover up the billions of dollars at stake for the world elite. So we feed it at the expense of other human concerns that, in my view, are much more important.
Let’s consider for a moment life without fossil fuels.
Because of our advanced technology today, we have an opportunity to set a new course that doesn’t rely upon fossil fuels. The Sun is this planet’s largest producer of energy. It’s been doing it for billions of years. That’s despite what some would have us believe – that the Earth is only 2,500 years old.
Plant life takes in the Suns rays and converts them into electro-chemicals that sustain all other life on the planet. The Sun is a natural engine source of energy. Why are we using fossil fuels to create ours instead? Simply put, the evolution of our technological knowledge brought us to fossil fuels first. And, our use of fossil fuels created a lifestyle that we got drunk on. We learned to depend upon it in so many ways. The industry grew like a gnarly vine throughout our economy and our lifestyle.
That’s why it’s so hard to change. Too many people and even institutions are heavily invested in it. The military industrial and political complexes have so intertwined that change is like unraveling a fouled fishing line. (Ironically, unraveling a fouled fishing line at first seems impossible, but the more you untangle it, the easier it gets.)
It’s easy for us humans to get hooked on things. We’re no different now than in the past. The downfall of Native Americans in North America was their addiction to the trade goods Europeans offered them. They thought they could play us off each other and end up the winners among other tribes. We now know what really happened was that they became addicted and let us get a foothold instead of throwing us out while they still had the chance.
Well, we’ve allowed fossil fuels to get a firm foothold. We depend on it to heat and cool our homes, power our automobiles and to provide jobs to the people who extract it from the Earth. The influence of fossil fuels has become almost insurmountable to those of us who believe it is time to move on to cleaner energy sources.
Monstrous wealth has been created in the hands of the utilities, manufacturers and the war machine needed to sustain their power. A lobby so powerful that makes even the most sensible initiatives impossible. So powerful that it influences lawmakers to set the rules against change.
Imagine if you will a solar panel on every street light in every city. The technology has existed for years. So why, a simple-minded outsider might ask, haven’t we placed those solar panels on those street lights? The reasons are basically the same, but in New Hampshire there is a set of laws known as “Net Metering”. What these laws do is cap the amount of alternative energy that can be fed into the electric grid by other than the utilities.
Since utilities in New Hampshire feed electricity into the grid largely produced by fossil-fuels, any excess solar energy that may be introduced by a homeowner or a municipality would dip into the utility’s profits.
It goes further. In the 1920’s the utilities began electrifying America and were able to leverage a deal with municipalities giving them almost total control over where those poles were located and what was placed upon them – for inperpetuity – forever. Those telephone poles you see lining our streets are owned by the utilities. In Keene they are Eversource and Fairpoint. If I were to tell you that the utilities have no obligation to allow a municipality to place it’s own equipment – i.e. solar-powered lights – upon them, what would you say? The deal they have with the City of Keene is to rent the light fixtures to the city and charge them for the fossil-fuel-generated electricity that they use.
So, I dare to tell you, the real reason we are not producing most of our electricity from solar energy isn’t the technology, but the self-interest of the fossil fuel machine.
All said, these things are not going to stop me from introducing a solar street light initiative to the Keene City Council next month. City staff will come forward with reasons why we can’t do it, and as you can see from my research, there are many reasons why we can’t. But, I’m only interested in the reasons that we should.