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The Oil Crisis
I remember the autumn of 1973. I leaned up against the back of the living room sofa and looked out the window at the line of cars going down the street to the Esso station that used to be there. The owners of the cars chatted, smoked, and listened to the radio while they waited to see if a rumored tanker truck would come and dole out some precious gas. This was the beginning of the OPEC oil crisis. On the nightly news, the persistent calls for America to end its dependence on fossil fuels began.
Flash forward to 2013, the music, cars, and fashion have all changed, but the need for fossil fuels
has done nothing but increase. “Energy independence” is a frequent campaign pledge for politicians, but little is done to achieve it.
The negative impact of our reliance on fossil fuels is everywhere to be seen: the emissions from fossil fuels are warming the planet and putting the lives of our children at risk; massive spills from ships, pipes, and drilling rigs have fouled our environment; the transportation of oil between nations by ship or pipe requires the US to maintain a huge military to protect its energy supply; military aid or military intervention is used to keep oil producing countries cooperative; a heavy-handed involvement in those countries causes resentment and creates a fertile breeding ground for terrorists, the poor-man’s revolutionary.
Even as we spend billions of dollars to build up and support a military to protect us from terrorists, pundits rarely mention that, because of our dependence on oil, we are sending massive amounts of money to the very countries producing those terrorists. Have we forgotten that Osama bin Laden was the child of a billionaire who could have hardly acquired his fortune were it not for a torrent of money flowing into Saudi Arabia from the West. Moreover, if it weren’t for that oil, it is likely that there wouldn’t have been any Western military presence in Saudi Arabia, his stated reason for hating the West.
At home, the money and power of the fossil fuel companies, and international corporations in general, have allowed them to capture the government. Campaign finance laws are now thinly veiled conduits for bribery. The revolving door between government service and industry means that the voice of regular people is rarely, if ever, heard. Laws and trade agreements are written to favor the corporations. The result is a falling standard of living, less freedom, and more conflict as people look for someone to blame. Because the corporations own or influence the media, too often, we blame the wrong people.
Way back in the 1970s, I remember all the talk about renewable energy and how it was going to free us from our dependence on oil. Somehow, that push toward energy independence through renewables got sidetracked into “drill, baby, drill.” It’s time to bring back the idea of renewables and make it a national priority.
The Path to Solar Energy
For anyone who thinks that solar power is an idea that just won’t work to solve our energy problems, I have one word: Germany. Germany, over the last few years, has dramatically increased their solar power production. They use a system of feed-in tariffs which guarantee that people can sell their excess power to the grid at an attractive rate, making installing solar panels a good choice for home owners. This northern, cloudy country is now producing the equivalent of several nuclear power plants’ worth of electricity via solar panels. Germany has set the goal of being 80% renewable by 2050.
If Germany can do it, there is no reason that the much sunnier US can do it as well. Detractors will say that solar power is not efficient or reliable enough. They will say that it cannot provide power at night or when the weather is bad—just when we may need power the most.
These and other criticisms have a grain of truth. That’s not a reason to give up, though. There are real, imminent, dangerous problems that a switch to renewable energy would solve. And even if the problems are not as dangerous as they seem, as some contend, a switch would still make life better for our children. The question is not should we make the switch, but how do we overcome the forces that, for their own selfish reasons, oppose it.
In the early 1960s, John F. Kennedy, faced with a Soviet Union that had placed the first satellite, dog, and man in orbit, called for the US to put a man on the moon before the decade was out. He said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…” It is this same kind of determination and marshaling of resources that we need now. That, unfortunately, is not happening and not going to happen.
The Bitcoin/Solar Connection
Fortunately, we live in an era when it is possible for people to take control back and do it for themselves. This is the driving force behind Bitcoin—to take the control of money out of the hands of the bankers and return it to the people. Want to pay for something on the internet? Use Bitcoin. Want to move money across international borders? Use Bitcoin. Want to save money safely without the fees and small print of the banks? Use Bitcoin. Want to avoid inflation and save securely for retirement? Use Bitcoin.
Of course we are not all the way there yet. There are challenges and obstacles to making the advantages I outlined here as easy as I make them sound, but the infrastructure is being built by individuals working independently around the world. Momentum is being built.
Solar panels are to power generation as Bitcoin is to money. By putting solar panels up on as many houses and businesses as possible, we could severely reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and centralized power generation. Rather than paying out every month for electricity from a coal-fired plant, we could be getting paid by selling back into the grid for any excess power we generate. The savings and revenue will spur people to adopt solar, and as it becomes more common, more people will think that solar is the right and natural way to go. Momentum will be built.
One company that has seen the synergy between Bitcoin and solar power is GoGreenSolar.com which has been accepting Bitcoin since February of 2013. Supporting forward thinking companies like this is a way to support and grow Bitcoin and to help make for a better future for our children.
Do you have a tip, a business that you think should get some press, or want to provide a guest blog? Contact me at editor(@)bitcoinwarrior.net.
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