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For a Devotee of Solar Energy, a Shot at Earning Respect
J. Michael Kennedy, New York Times
…Not that many years ago, Solar Richard was simply Richard Thompson, a working stiff trying to make a buck. But since he began powering his home completely with solar power in 2001, he has been transformed into a certified character in this port city just south of Seattle. He is recognized on the street. He gives talks on solar energy to grade schools, and last February he traveled to Nigeria to address a conference on solar matters. His message is always the same: solar energy will save the planet, but the planet needs to get going.
“We could take out all the dams because we wouldn’t need them,” he said. “We could take out the nuclear plants and the coal-burning plants.”
At Mr. Thompson’s urging, the new mile-long Tacoma Narrows Bridge is on its way to being lighted with solar power, a project toward which the state has contributed $1.5 million. And if all goes as planned, there will be electricity left over to feed back into the city’s power supply.
Then, Mr. Thompson said, maybe he will get some respect. Maybe people will stop asking for free advice, like how many panels it would take to heat their house, and instead pay for his expertise. Maybe he will not have to eke out a living powering strawberry festivals and beer fest bands.
After all, he is not getting any younger, having, he said, passed the 60 mark a few years back. “If these are the golden years,” he said, “oh, man.”
(27 October 2007)
Handicapping the Environmental Gold Rush
Jeffrey Ball, Wall Street Journal
In the race to profit off the scramble to go green, there will be winners and losers. Here’s how the players currently stack up.
The green stampede is on.
As a global economy powered by cheap fossil fuel comes under intense pressure to change, corporate executives are racing to stay ahead of the tectonic shift in their world.
From Capitol Hill to California and Brussels to Beijing, multinational companies are stepping up their lobbying and tweaking their product lines in response to demands that they get more environmentally attuned. New companies — even new industries — are challenging the established giants to exploit a growing market for everything from green cars to green fuels.
And a host of middlemen have sprung up to make markets in new financial instruments created by the proliferation of green-oriented subsidies and mandates. All these players are jostling to shape the new government rules to give them the bulk of the benefit — and hit someone else with the bulk of the burden. Ultimately, the cost will be passed on to consumers.
Big energy burners are experimenting with ways to use fossil fuel more efficiently — and to roll out supplemental fuels. General Motors Corp., for instance, is developing more hybrid gasoline-and-electric cars, a technology it dismissed a few years ago.
(28 October 2007)