Symposium 2015: How do we more effectively promote the use of alternative energy?

Owatanna, MN Correspondent-The best way to promote the use of alternative energy is for the government to eliminate all forms of corporate welfare that benefit energy companies. This is needed to level the playing field for alternative energy producers who are at a disadvantage because their products—wind power, solar power, nuclear power—are not economically competitive with subsidized fossil fuels.

Even though some alternative energy companies receive subsidies or tax benefits, they pale in comparison to the benefits the large oil companies have virtually institutionalized into the tax code. If fossil fuels maintain a distinct price advantage over alternate sources, consumers will be reluctant to pay more for a product that doesn’t appear to have added value.

The next step will be to require all producers of any energy to ensure they have added no net pollution to the environment. This means fossil fuel makers will have to develop engines that produce no pollution, and then to offset the energy used to obtain the oil from the earth, they must spend money on either environment-enhancing strategies such as planting trees, or other pollution-elimination activities such as water filtration or recycling innovations.

Once alternative energy costs come down to be even reasonably close to fossil fuel costs, then grass roots efforts must be started by more affluent citizens to lead the changeover to non-polluting energy. Social media campaigns promoting the “coolness” of switching to alternative energy sources can work. The emphasis on one person at a time taking the pledge to fight the harmful effects of pollution is what is needed. What won’t work is a government-imposed carbon tax that will merely be a tool for large corporations who pollute to avoid responsibility by hiding behind another massive volume of vague and unenforced rules and regulations.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-One day, we’ll exhaust the resources we have in our care.  As true as that statement is, it doesn’t hurt to consider other options. Any form of alternative energy mentioned, usually sheds light on the implications of using energy that is alternate to fossil fuels, and does not cause harm to the environment.  These alternatives are introduced with the intent to correct issues associated with fossil fuels. However, throughout the years, what constitutes alternative energy has been controversial. This is as a consequence of the effects these so called alternative energies have on the environment, including global warming (This is due to high emissions of carbon).

Though today’s idea of alternative energy is controversial, it should nonetheless be promoted. The best way to get people involved in endorsing alternative energy is by example. We cannot be pushing an alternative energy source but have never used it before. A few years ago, a friend of mine started promoting solar energy. She had panels hooked up to her home and she also held events to educate and get people involved, even if it meant allowing them to purchase small solar equipment, such as mobile solar chargers.  All in all, promoting alternative energy means that we too need to get involved in using any alternative energy source.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-With gas prices below $2/gallon, it’s a little hard to get folks’ attention when you start to preach the gospel of alternative energy and begin warning them that the fossil fuel clock is ticking and that someday (although so far every prediction of when has been wrong) the wells will run dry and “The Road Warrior” will take on the status of prescient documentary.

However, anyone with a rational mind knows that the processes which created our oil are no longer cooking, and that future generations will spit on our oil-soaked graves when they learn of our profligate use of petroleum and our failure to adequately conserve.

So how do we convince Joe Motorhead to give solar a chance?  As loath as I am to recommend the writing of more checks out of our already overburdened government checkbook, I do think that a certain amount of subsidy is well warranted.  In fact, if I could personally designate the use of my own tax dollars, that would be one of my pet projects.  The recently expired solar tax credits were tremendously effective, increasing the number of small-scale solar installations dramatically.

The spirit of competition is another way to not just increase public interest in alternative energy, but to advance the current technologies.  Look at what the X-Prize did for privately funded spaceflight.  With a sufficient potential reward comprised not just of direct cash but of patents, market exclusivity and good old-fashioned fame and name recognition, it should be possible to goad the Tesla of alternative energy into emerging from the shadows and opening his garage.

We’re naturally resistant to change, and unless there is a promised benefit that outweighs the comfort of remaining in our fossil-fuel recliners, we won’t move.  A mixture of government investment, private funding and effective public relations (remember the ‘70s water- and electricity-conservation movement that raised a generation of green-leaning kids?), we’ll shift the paradigm and make solar panels as integral a part of backyard landscaping as gazebos and in-ground pools.

Cartwright—I’m all for the promotion of alternative energies, but this boils down to two things—economics and changing consumer behaviors in the form of incentives or disincentives.  I go back to my fuel surcharge and using part of the funds raised by that to invest in and promote alternative energies.  I think we should go off of the coast of just about every state and construct windmill.  Anyone who lives on the coast knows that those windmills would be turning all the time.  The government never does anything cheap or efficiently, so perhaps they offer up the opportunity to private industry with some sort of subsidy or tax credit funded by the fuel surcharge to build offshore windmills for energy purposes.  Do the same thing for businesses who are willing to build solar fields.

Wind is a no brainer.  We should be doing anything and everything to harness the power of wind. I think buildings along the coast or in areas prone to high wind should install smaller windmills on their roofs or on their properties; use the energy to power your exterior lights or heat your pools or something.  Solar is intriguing to me as well.  I think most buildings could put solar panels on their roofs.  I’d even like to see window tint film developed with solar panel capabilities incorporated so that high rises and commercial buildings can tint windows with solar power generating capabilities.  Things like this will only help in the long run.

As I said earlier, reducing the use of fossil fuels for transportation is going to take a disincentive for drivers to continue filling up with cars.  A fuel surcharge or significant increase in the price of gasoline is the only way to change this.  Some consumers will go buy a more fuel efficient car or an electric hybrid or a fully electric car.  That’s great.  The electric it takes to run that car has to come from someplace.  Perhaps it’s coming from coal fired power plants or nuclear plants.  I don’t know, but the transition to electric cars en masse would require additional power consumption and put additional strain on power grids.  We need to be ready for that so perhaps this is where additional wind and solar power come into play.

At the individual level, we need to disincentivize consumption of fossil fuels, predominantly gasoline for transportation purposes, and incentivize investment in alternative energies via tax credits and bigger tax breaks for buying electric cars or putting wind or solar power generating capabilities on your home or property.

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