Despite the fact that the vast majority of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and is caused by man-made emissions — and a strong majority of Americans agree — the GOP is still deep in denial. Why? Probably because their corporate benefactors tell them to be.
But ironically, it may not matter. Because while the cost of fossil fuels — the main cause of greenhouse gases that cause climate change — continues to go up, the cost of renewable energy is plummeting. For example, the cost of solar panels has dropped 99% since 1977, and has accelerated (over 60% of that drop has occurred in the last 3 years).
Even just considering the individual market, solar is a good investment. A homeowner purchasing a solar power system for their own home now sees a return on investment (savings in energy costs versus the total installation price of the system) in all but one state. In fact, in 86% of states, the ROI is better than you would get from a 5-year CD (Certificate of Deposit). In 67%, the ROI of solar is better than 30-year treasure bonds. And in 25% of states (today, and the number is growing), the ROI is better than the S&P 500 stock index. Here’s a link to a chart showing the ROI for each state.
That’s right, millions of people can make more money by installing solar than by investing in the stock market. In Hawaii, the average savings by installing solar is above $60,000. And in 3 out of the 4 most populated states, the average savings is above $30,000.
Not only that, but there are important added benefits. Installing solar means you are reducing pollution, including greenhouse gases (and thus climate change). It also helps our country become more energy independent, and so less reliant on oil coming from foreign countries (cough, Middle East). How much money and lives would we save by avoiding just one war for oil? Not only is solar energy local energy, it creates local jobs and so doubly helps our economy.
And if our government would stop subsidizing big oil the numbers would look even better for renewable energy.
All of this doesn’t take into account the fact that carbon pollution is the greatest unpriced externality in history. If fossil fuels had to pay for the damage they are doing to our economy, they would be even more expensive.
I say, let the free market work. Eliminate subsidies for oil and coal. Sure energy prices would rise, but then they would go back down as renewable energy (solar, wind, hydro, tidal, geothermal etc.) becomes more popular. We’d not only be doing the earth and ourselves a big favor, we’d be making money. Lots of it.