[Note to reader, I'm trying to catch up on my blogging. I started writing this post over 6 months ago, so it may be a bit weird to read]
The other day I was thinking about this War in Iraq. Im sure I dont need to go into all the reasons its a stupid war. However, I , like many people have been disturbed by the amount of money we are spending ont his war. I, like many others think that money could be better spent.
Lets put a number on the cost of the war as of now. Some folks will pin this number at somewhere between 3 and 5 trillion dollars. Trillion. And I do get why the numbers add up that way, they are taking secondary and indirect expenses into account,as they should. Its hard to really worry about Obama's costs after 6 years of funding this nonsense.
As of right now, its about 500 billion dollars. If we stopped everything now, it would still get up to over a trillion dollars. Some pin the amount, using direct costs at 1.2 trillion. There are a lot of things you can buy with 1.2 trillion dollars. But lets talk about getting off carbon producing fuels and moving into renewables. If we started an apollo project on energy, could we go carbon free?
Dr. Richard Perez outlines how much solar we would need to ameliorate our energy issues. The clear idea here is that not only is there plenty of energy from the sun, but we get to have it year after year after year.
I wont go into all the challenges of going renewable. There is a lot, its substantial, but none of it is impossible. It will take work, and money.
How much? Well Solar buzz neatly outlines the entire market as it currently stands. A solar module costs over 4 dollars per watt, this does not include the installation costs, which can double this cost.
How much energy do you use? Well, the average family consumes about 2000 watts.   This power is an average of daily use throughout the year. Obviously airconditioning in the summer consumes far more electricity than most any electricity use at any other time of year (unless you have electric heat). In a year, the average family has used up about 14,000 Kill watt-Hours of energy (the difference between power and energy is like the difference between horsepower of your car engine and the number of miles you can go).
OK, regardless of how much it costs for a family, lets look at how much electrical energy our country uses. As a country, we use about four trillion kilowatt-hours of electrical energy every single year (considering our population and GDP, that is pretty pathetic). Anyway, if we were to spend 100% of the war costs on solar panels, we would be able to supply...drum roll...
300 million kilowatts. A kilowatt for every person. Now we have to remember... this doesn't mean that that much power would be supplied by this amount of solar installed. You have to cut it by half, for day/night, and perhaps another 50% to deal with rainy days, snow, dust, age, etc. However, in America that 300 million population number include kids. Housholds tend to have more than one person in it, so really it does seem that the cost of the war could have been spent on applying solar to every home (even though, not every home is a candidate for solar).
That same article from Perez, by the way, points out that even though every home may not be able to have a solar installation (like apartment buildings), solar can be decentralized. That means power for some homes can come from solar installations that are above parking lots somewhere else in the state.
When I first did this calculation, I was disappointed. I figured that damn war cost so much in direct costs, we could have had renewable power for everyone. Its close, but there are still government, public and private corporations and industry which uses hoards of power. In fact, about half of all power is residential use, and the other half is everything else.
However, lets remember how we got here, we have spent literally trillions of dollars and millennia of man-hours creating an oil based economy, the expectation of switching over to to a renewable economy, one that allows us to completely forgo foreign supplies of energy (be it oil or even nuclear material) is a high mark indeed. But clearly it can be done, we had money to waste on baseless reasons to go to war, we can do it for ourselves.
In this article I focused on solar. There are plenty of other avenues for energy. We are best if we keep it decentralized if possible, renewable, and encouraged by our government.