HERE COMES THE SUN: The Marginalization of Earth-Friendly, Affordable, Renewable Energy

HERE COMES THE SUN: The Marginalization of Earth-Friendly, Affordable, Renewable Energy


by John Smelcer

[This article is part of a series on Compassion for the Earth.]

Every single day for almost five billion years, radiant light from the sun delivers the equivalent of 174 petawatts (PW) of energy to the earth. A petawatt is one quadrillion watts. That’s 174 x 1015 watts of electricity per day! About a third of that total is reflected back to space and the rest is absorbed by clouds, oceans and land masses. The total human consumption of energy is about 1/1,000th of that. America’s consumption is about 1/10,000th!

sunshinesThe sun shines for free. It shines regardless of our needs or wants. It shines regardless of our existence. It is a clean and renewable source of free energy that will last for approximately another five billion years in the future. Imagine that: 174 x 1015 watts per day x 365 days p/year x 5 billion years to come. And yet, despite technological advances in solar panels, inverters, and storage systems (batteries) solar energy is not taken advantage of as much as it should be. Instead, we still rely heavily on fossil fuels that are trashing and polluting our planet, causing changes in the global climate, and may be negatively impacting our health. With all this free, clean energy available, why hasn’t renewable solar energy replaced oil and gas?

Some critics will say that the science just isn’t there yet, and that we don’t have good energy storage solutions (i.e. batteries). But the truth is that just a couple decades ago cell phones came in a case the size of a shoebox with monthly service fees that were prohibitively expensive for most people. But because of innovations, almost everyone on the planet has a cell phone. And look what cell phones can do today! They do much more than just allow people to talk to each other. The same would be true of solar energy. If people demanded solar energy, innovations would follow. My late friend Carl Sagan was adamant that humanity needed to wean itself off oil and gas and make use of the sun’s free and renewable energy.

Which leads to the second reason solar energy hasn’t replaced fossil fuels: Did you know that lobbyists from the oil and gas industry give millions of dollars to your state and federal legislators to pass legislation to make solar energy unattractive to consumers in order to keep us dependent on oil and gas for energy? One of the first things the current U. S. president did in office was to impose significant tariffs on solar panels while relaxing regulations on oil and gas exploration and development. Think about that! Our government purposefully makes it problematic for you to have free, clean, renewable energy that will last for five billion years. At the same time, a report from the Global Carbon Project found that in 2018 some 37 billion (37,000,000,000) tons of carbon dioxide (CO2)  was  dumped into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels—the worst year for global  CO2 emissions in history! Things aren’t getting better; they’re getting worse! It’s up to you. You have the power to help the planet. When enough people stop buying fossil fuels, the industry will cease to exist. Look what happened to the VCR and the eight-track player. When demand for a product plummets, production stops. The industry knows this. That’s why it spends millions to keep you dependent on their product.

Which would you rather have?


Canada’s northern boreal forest before (left) and after tar sands oil fields. Did you know that every spring the northern boreal forests recharge the entire earth’s oxygen supply? What do you think will happen if the northern forests are gone?

Which would you rather have?


A quiet field of solar panels or a noisy field of oil derricks that leak oil?

Which would you rather have?


Solar panels floating on the sea capturing solar energy or an oil rig aflame spilling millions of barrels of crude oil into the sea?


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