Make no mistake about it. To get a barrel of oil to the surface of the earth, it takes a tremendous amount of energy and it unleashes a long chain of environmental consequences. It would be nice if we can have a crystal clear view of what these consequences are. Unfortunately, you and I know that we can only see up to a certain point. We can only see up to the point where that fossil fuel is turned into gas, jet fuel, plastics, fertilizer and other related derivative products. Unfortunately, within that barrel of oil there is a certain percentage that we really don’t know where it’s going to go. Also, once these products are created, we really don’t know where they’re going to end up.
Plastic is not biodegradable and sadly, there is a certain percentage of the ocean’s surface that is polluted with plastic. That’s not going to go away anytime soon. How can it? It can’t break down. Regardless of how much sunlight beats down on it, it’s not going to chemically dissipate, dissolve and disappear. Throughout all that time, it’s going to continue to kill fish. It’s going to continue to suffocate and drown mammals. It’s going to end up clogging all sorts of places on the earth. It’s going to inhibit all sorts of growth. Do you see the problem here?
I used nonbiodegradable plastic as just one example and believe me, there are many different consequences of one barrel of oil. This is why it’s really important to turn our attention to the economic viability of alternatives to oil. Not only do these alternatives come back again and again but they don’t have that much long-term environmental damage.
One particular candidate that really shines out like the bright noonday sun is solar. Thanks to global manufacturing in China, the price of solar cells has crashed through the floor. If you think prices are still expensive now, look at 20 or even 30 years ago. It would blow your mind. Solar cells back then are so expensive that they are like illegal drugs. That’s how expensive they were. Now, thanks to globalized manufacturing and in particular, Chinese mass manufacturing, the price has sunk to the point where it’s becoming really hopeful that solar will finally give coal and other fossil fuel-based electricity a run for their money.
A lot of this is due to the price of solar cells but we’re not there yet. I strongly suspect that the tipping point will be reached once scientists and commercial developers have come up with a solar cell internal infrastructure that would turn light into energy the same way plant leaves turn light into energy. It really boils down to trapping and using the right template to trap light energy into a form that can be converted into other types of energy.
Again, we’re not quite there yet but it is quite exciting because with that type of technology, you build a long-term infrastructure that continues to crank out energy and doesn’t involve pollution. It also is renewed every single day as the sun reliably sets and rises. The future is bright especially if solar power is part of that future. Thankfully, we are near that tipping point.
Do yourself a big favor and spread the good word about solar power so more and more people convert their homes into solar homes and this would create the market stimulus needed to produce an irreversible transformation of market forces so solar becomes cheaper and cheaper year after year.