Watching the presidential debate last night, it killed me that solar power is such a partisan issue because it has so many conservative values. It saves homeowners money, so it's fiscally responsible and encourages home ownership; it helps make us less dependent on the Middle East for energy, and it's a realm where we should be able to challenge Chinaf, although they're currently taking solar power far more seriously than we are. But since the Obama administration pushed solar as a part of its platform, the right must disapprove of it at any turn.
And before I get into the details, and because I live in San Francisco and run a solar company, let's make sure that before anyone paints me as some San Franciscan, solar-company-running, ultra-left-wing-fruitcake, please know that I am assuredly not. I'm a fiscal conservative, I own a gun, and capitalism is the blood that runs through my veins. So, back off.
Back to solar. So, in addition to being naturally opposed to anything that is a critical component of Obama's campaign, conservatives also could never muster the strength to lay down the weapon granted to them because off that whole Solyndra mess, which despite having no real impact on anything at all (sometimes businesses go out of business), they use to repeatedly bash the current administration over the head like a sledgehammer. Basically, Solyndra was just a giant Rube Goldberg device that was perfectly timed to mess everything up.
Most conservative propaganda bashing solar tends to come in the form of talking about subsidies "wasting" tax payer dollars out of one side of their mouths, while simultaneous supporting subsidies for oil, gas and coal that absolutely dwarf those numbers out of the other side of their mouths. This might make more sense if there was any truth to the idea that solar couldn't compete with those (but hey, coal needed subsidies to compete a long time ago -- how easily we forget that), but there is no truth to it at all. Germany, which gets less sun than Seattle, gets a quarter of its juice from renewables. Where I live in San Francisco, you can lease a solar system on your house and pay far less for energy (especially if you have a big fat power bill). It not only competes with current grid power, but sometimes it blows it out of the water. Remember when people laughed about the idea of having a "personal computer," back when computers were $100,000 and practically the size of Romney's car elevators? When did they stop laughing? It's probably about that same time for solar power.
The other leg of conservative anti-solar propaganda is typically about "foreigners takin' all our jobs!" While I may agree we may have missed our window to be a manufacturing giant in solar because we don't put enough "oompf" behind it, solar clearly makes tons of non-exportable jobs.
When you go to the voting booths, reach deep and think about if you really believe mining coal and gas are what will make our country great 50 years from now, or whether it's doing the one thing that America is head and shoulders better than all other countries at -- innovating in industry and selling those innovations to the rest of the world.
Dave Llorens is the Founder and COO of One Block Off the Grid.
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