Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why Aren't We on This?

This morning, The Sun published a poignant editorial on what happened today (70 years ago) and why it still matters.

As we look back and remember Pearl Harbor and honor the sacrifices of those who died, were wounded and fought on that day — as well as those who fought in World War II — we can’t forget the sacrifices of the entire nation.

After Pearl Harbor, the country staged a unified and prolonged war effort. Everyone sacrificed. Food, fuel and goods were rationed to support the war. People planted “victory gardens” to increase the food supply.

Such an effort hasn’t been matched, and it arguably hasn’t been needed, since then. But what’s noticeably absent today is any larger sense of sacrifice.

A decade ago, the 9/11 attacks seared current generations of Americans, rallying the nation together. Like Pearl Harbor, America embarked on a war. Although it is a very different type of war — it blurs national lines and runs along ideology — it is arguably far more dangerous because there aren’t clear battle lines, nor are there clearly defined enemies.

However, Americans have far less direct involvement in the war effort than they did during World War II. In World War II, there was a military draft. Today, the military is an all-volunteer force, and only a tiny percentage of Americans have actually fought overseas in Iraq or Afghanistan, much less been in the service.

And the sacrifices of scrimping and saving to pay for the war effort? Americans haven’t been asked to sacrifice this time. Instead, the war on terrorism has been added to the nation’s debt.

Unfortunately, this rings very true today. After 9/11, we were just told to go shopping. And when the Iraq War began, Americans were told to be "patriotic" by slapping yellow ribbon magnets on the backs of their SUVs (and remember not to say anything derogatory about George W. Bush... Or else...).

But today, we have an opportunity to invest in a brighter future. And this time, all we have to sacrifice are pollution and an addiction to a certain black substance we import from abroad. And believe it or not, Warren Buffett is ready to take action on it!

Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings company has agreed to buy a giant, 550-megawatt photovoltaic farm currently under construction in San Luis Obispo County for $2 billion, giving a huge boost to the solar industry that could spur investment by other major players.

The "utility-scale" facility MidAmerican is purchasing is being built by First Solar Inc. of Tempe, Ariz. A spokesman for First Solar, Alan Bernheimer, said the farm would produce enough power to provide for the energy needs of 160,000 California homes. But the investment had deeper meaning for an industry that still has only a small footprint in the nation's energy mix and has been battered by recent bankruptcies.

"In a lot of ways, this is classic Warren Buffett," said Bruce Bullock, executive director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University. "He comes in to an industry that is starving for capital investment. At the same time, this is something that also tells people it's time to take solar power seriously."

Solar power currently provides just 1% of the nation's renewable power generation, according to the Energy Department. But it is also the nation's fastest-growing energy generation platform, said Michelle Kinman, a clean-energy advocate for Environment California.

"Solar is a sound investment," Kinman said, "a fact bolstered by MidAmerican's announcement today."

Before Buffett's big announcement, global investment in renewable energy already surpassed $1 trillion. And now that Buffett is in, that number only stands to increase. Yet as many in the private sector realize the fortune to be made in the green economy, we see continued inaction in the public arena.


Remember when this ad was on the air?

Now, Newt Gingrich tries to act like it didn't happen. And Jon Huntsman keeps flipping on his climate flop. All of a sudden, climate science has become total "taboo".

And as the G-O-TEA continues its war on science, our country continues to fall behind in the race for a greener future. Republicans in Congress are fighting renewable energy tax credits and overall investment in clean technology. Even as millions of Americans are still looking for work, the G-O-TEA is out to kill more jobs and further hurt our economy.

We know the problem. And we know the solutions we need to implement. And we know that the solutions won't just help us escape the climate crisis, but also help us kick our addiction to the fossil fuels swirling at the center of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, as well as many more of our foreign policy challenges.

Just as "The Greatest Generation" had unique challenges to rise above with The Great Depression and World War II, we have our challenges to face with the current global economy and the worsening climate crisis. We need to take action, and do so soon. Are we up for it?

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