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The new economics of sustainable energy are pulling the future faster into the present

As fracking booms, renewables quietly receive large investments
Photo: Christopher Halloran/

The long-time barrier against bringing sustainable energy into the mainstream is coming down fast. So says longtime environmental analyst, Lester Brown, in The Christian Science Monitor.

Often it takes irony to really drive home a point. Take, for example, Texas which is the number one oil producer in the nation. Well, Texas is now also the number one wind-power state. And it plans to capitalize on this advancement by exporting the electricity to other states. Many other “wind rich” states like Kansas plan on following in Texas’ footsteps.

There are international signs that reaffirm what is happening in America on the renewables front. Denmark now gets more than 60 percent of its electricity from the wind. China receives more electricity from its wind farms than from its nuclear power plants.

All of these developments fly in the face of the current American booms in fracking for oil and gas. Gasoline prices are relatively low. SUVs are happily humming across the United States, burning a gallon of gas every 15 miles.

What is happening in the underbelly of the energy market, however, is undeniable. One would think that it’s the practical reasons why green energy is rapidly developing: it’s cleaner. Ironically, it is not the fact that sustainable energy is less harmful to the environment. Instead, it’s economics.

Billionaire investors like Warren Buffett and Phillip Anschutz are beginning to pour money into sustainable energy initiatives, according to the Monitor.

“The billionaires are investing in renewable energy: Warren Buffett invested $15 billion…There’s a whole list of billionaires just piling money into this. What that does for investment is it says: ‘This is where the smart money is going. You don’t get to be a billionaire by being stupid,’” said Brown to the Monitor.

Two more signs that the economics of sustainable energy are finally catching up with that of conventional energy: homebuilding in America and farmer economics.

“Almost all the big homebuilders in this country either offer or automatically put solar panels on new rooftops,” stated Brown in the Monitor.

“A farmer in Iowa can plant an acre of corn that will produce about $1000 worth of ethanol. But if he puts a wind turbine on that acre he can generate $300,000 of electricity per year,” he added.

On the technological side, another barrier is being tackled by the likes of Elon Musk. The home and commercial storage batteries being produced in his “gigafactories” are solving the problem of storing energy produced by solar panels for later use.

Evidently, it’s now just a matter of time before we get our energy from ten feet above us instead of halfway around the world.   


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