Renewables deserve level playing field

{child_byline}Letter to the Editor{/child_byline}

In the fight against climate change, we are failing to unleash one of our most important weapons — free-market capitalism.

We tend to make major policy decisions only when a problem rises to the level of a widely perceived crisis. Exxon scientists raised concerns about global warming in the 1970s, and only now has it risen to the level of a national political concern.

In the necessary transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, our most important natural resources are free, abundant solar and wind energy. Unlike coal, oil and gas, where the costs will rise as the resources are depleted, the price of sunshine and wind will remain steady at zero forever.

Our most important human resources are scientific knowledge and technical know-how. The last decade has brought astonishing declines in the cost of wind and solar power, and both are now competitive with coal and gas. New approaches to storage and grid management are coming on strong, providing backup power for wind and solar generators.

What is most needed now are breakthroughs in our public policies that will encourage a rapid transition to clean energy. A good place to start would be to stop using taxpayer money to subsidize fossil fuels. Since we’re now phasing out solar and electric car subsidies, so we should phase out direct subsidies (think tax breaks) and indirect subsidies (think air pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions) for fossil fuels. These subsidies are huge; for the U.S., in 2015 they added up to $649 billion in direct and indirect costs paid by taxpayers.

A level playing field for fossil fuels and renewables would more nearly represent true market capitalism than does the distorted energy market we now have. It would call forth the investment capital, scientific expertise and entrepreneurial creativity needed to develop cheaper and more efficient ways of producing and delivering electrical energy.

Call that energy “freedom kilowatts,” because using our brainpower to transform free wind and sunlight into electricity is the best path to the energy security we want.

Let’s give true free market capitalism a chance.

John Douglas “Doug” Wellman

Nelson County

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