Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why Germany is ahead of the USA in green energy

One friend sent me this cartoon depicting a for-profit corporate dirty energy mogul emphasizing his monopoly power over the energy sector except for solar, which he touts as not feasible. 
I replied: Riggggghhhht!
    • Linda said:  It seems to be in Germany.
    • I replied:  Speaking of Germany, their industrial output has increased in the last decade unlike the other Western nations which lost the bulk of their manufacturing base to overseas. Germany has accomplished increased success in industrial manufacturing by 3 things: socialized health care which saves business from having to pay for medical insurance, a well educated workforce (socialized education), and pro-manufacturing government policies. While unemployment rose in much of the world, it dropped in Germany in the last decade.
    • I added: And Germany leads the world in percentage of energy derived from solar, nearly 50%. One would presume that Germany's lower unemployment and higher manufacturing rate may be related to how busy they have been converting their nation to sustainable energy. Obama tried to jump start the economy with the conversion to green energy, but the corporations that own our Congress blocked most clean energy legislation. That's because the ultimate plan of the corporate powers that run our government is to bankrupt the nation, subvert the Constitution, then foment a revolution that will put them blatantly in power and turn the once golden USA into a banana republic for them to exploit for our rich natural resources. LISTEN! Our government is already selling off public lands to make ends meet. That's because tax cuts reducing government revenues doesn't leave enough money to pay for essential government services. Thank you Howard Jarvis and Grover Norquist! Dumb down the public and they'll buy whatever lie you tell them.
      Buddha Al said: Sure beats eating radioactive contaminated food!
      I replied: Exactly! Or having so much air pollution that 50% of all children have asthma.

      • Buddha Al said:  I have an electrical engineering degree and have done work in solar power and similar projects and might jump back into it again. Love the concept of non-polluting energy which helps free us from relying exclusively on fossil fuels or dangerous atomic power plants.
      • Allison brought up an interesting point: I'm no expert on solar panel construction and development but as I understand it, they are very expensive to produce. Not only in money but also in the resources that go into making the solar panels. A lot of pollution and non-recyclable things are produced while making solar panels. I know that it has been discussed about making gigantic areas in the desert for panels but the result was that it would be so cost prohibitive to produce the panels in relation to the electricity that they would produce in return. How Germany did it? I don't know.
      • I replied: Germany has a Parliamentary type of government in which the Green Party is very powerful. Note: there are no members of the Green Party currently in the US Government. Germany also has free, high quality primary through university education, and therefore has a well-educated electorate, unlike the USA where we have an astounding number of adult illiterates. The free education system in the USA has been progressively underfunded so that public school don't produce a well-educated electorate. The current US Government believes that public school funding is "government waste," and is trying to transfer public school funding into private, for-profit schools. 
        Shakti Das chimed in with: Quite correct, Robin. The US Greens have advocated "proportional representation" for over 20 years, but there is a media blackout. However in my county there are Greens in government, but not in federal office. The closest thing that we will get this year that smells like sanity is to elect Norman Solomon for US Congress. He's on the June ballot as you know and has strong Green values.
        Allison added:  I think solar energy is a great idea but it would have to be 'better' in terms of pollution/money/materials for the benefits returned.
      • Buddha Al replied: Yes unfortunately silicon wafers also produce some pollution when being manufactured. However I don't believe we are going to stop using electronic devices because of this.
      • Shakti Das said: As with any investment, one should look at the cost/benefit ratios as well as the long term return on investment both in terms of personal expenditure and in environmental terms of sustainability. pollution, and natural resources. If one looks at a solar panel 20 year plus life cytcle it is a huge plus when compared to coal or other fossil fuels both in terms to personal costs(utility bills) and environmental/pollution costs. However every location needs to be evaluated on an individual basis. For example in the Northern California one needs some south facing exposure (as the sun is always south). Sunny locations pay back faster than cloudy regions, etc. Another renewable source is solar that is not home located but generated at a central (sunny) location. A third consideration is a hybrid system utilizing solar, hydro, and/or wind either co-located or at a remote location. These studies have been done in Germany and elsewhere showing that solar is very cost effective. It also does not have the health risks and health costs that are associated with coal, fossil fuel, and nuclear production. Another major advantage is that solar is an unlimited resource, while the costs of fossil fuels will continue to rise as supplies dwindle.

        Shakti Das added: In every calculation Nuclear Power always comes out last in terms of costs. It's a loser for the taxpayer and consumer, always winds up subsidized by the government.
      • Allison replied:  One thing that amazes me is this. When I point out to people that how power plants 'make' electricity by using nuclear, coal or other fossil fuel, is to make steam! Simply that. Heating up water to make steam to turn turbines to generate electricity. Some people simply don't believe me. They actually think nuclear power plants 'make' electricity from nuclear power. It astounds me that many many people don't understand that the purpose of burning fossil fuels or using nuclear power rods it just simply to heat water into steam to make turbines turn.

        Allison added: Yes, Shakti, you are correct, we do need to look at the long term costs/returns in these different power generating sources.
      • Shakti Das replied:  Good point Allison. Only 100-160 years ago, most people understood their technological support structures; i.e., food, shelter, energy, transportation, water supply, and medicinal systems; hence, this created a sense of security/control as if survival was not complex and was at the same time earth based. Withe the relatively new advent of big cities, Big Ag, mono-crop agriculture, Big Pharma, industrialized urbanization, and centralized power producing grids, people in general have lost knowledge and control over these basic survival mechanisms. That disconnection not only fosters a sense of dependence upon "the system" and a lack of self-reliance, but also negatively influences our ability to make wise economic and political decisions at the polls, because we are not cognizant of the factors behind such. Strangely those who are cognizant (the cognizanti) are deplored and feared because they dare to question the confused paradigm; hence new information (such as alternative energy, environmental sustainability are feared and rejected -- do not compute. It is to Germany's credit that such fear does not rule. Even their electoral system has over 90% turn-out ratios of eligible voters, compared with the US 40%. I think it is very valuable to continue to question past assumptions and apparent contradictions. Our children will thank us for doing so. BE WELL!
      • I replied:  I am proud to say that the City of Ukiah produces their own electricity. 44% comes from local geothermal wells. Another 36% comes from large and small hydroelectric. Another 20% comes from coal & natural gas. Less than 1% comes from nuclear, solar or wind.