How we got here
Posted by Rich Sweeney on July 30, 2008
When it comes to the current climate/ energy crisis, people often scratch their heads and wonder “how the hell did we get into this mess?” As I’ve written before, a large part of the blame belongs to Ronny Reagan, who, with his infinite faith in free markets and hatred of government, killed almost all of the solar research that was taking place in this country in the late 1970s.
Yesterday I attended a conference called “Making Big Solar Work” at the National Academies. The list of speakers was impressive and contained a good mix of government and private researchers. Literally 2/3 of them started his speech with “I was working on this same problem back in 1980 when I lost my funding…” People cited all of the impressive research Bell Labs had done in this arena back in the day, and few doubted that our predicament would be much much better today had we continued down the path of funding basic solar R&D. For an idea of what I’m talking about check out this Bell solar video from 1954.
On April 18, 1977 Jimmy Carter gave this televised address. Much of it sounds like it could have come out of last weekend’s New York Times. He then went on to set a goal of getting 20% of our energy from solar power by the year 2000. Last year solar made up about .5% of our electricity generation. As an economist I often find myself chastizing pols for attempting to pick winners. Boy to I wish we’d stuck with this winner back in 1980….