What would have happened if the US had embraced president Jimmy Carter’s idea to evolve to better energy ideas. Carter installed solar panels on the White House (that Reagan ripped down) and urged people to find ways to conserve. It may not have inspired enough Americans to bring about wide spread change, it did inspire a few Germans. Then Chernobyl pushed the already growing idea over the edge in Germany.
In the US the idea of clean energy is still a fight as fossil and nuclear industry companies put forth great effort to block change and raise doubts about the benefit of more modern energy systems. The biggest contrast is this mention of the Reichstag and the US Capitol. One is modern and run on modern renewable sources. The other still mostly on coal that is sickening nearby residents due to the coal lobby preventing even Congress from changing their habits. Germany gives a vision of what could have been and what can be if the US establishes an energy policy built on what is best for the country.
After Fukushima Germany decided to speed up the phase out of nuclear power. This was met with dire predictions of blackouts, high coal use and the collapse of industry. Of course none of this happened. In fact Germany was a net exporter of power in 2011 and reduced their greenhouse gas emissions 2%. Germany has also proven that the use of solar and wind are not unreliable. Solar produces a predictable source during the day while wind produces at night. So far Germany has managed to make this work well with improvement to the power grid, something the US so far has failed to do. Something else that is working against nuclear power as a future source of power is the huge cost. Nuclear power is expensive.
2012 has seen a huge leap in Germany’s power exports. They exported 14,600 gigawatt hours up from 1,600 for the same 9 months in 2011. This, despite speeding up their nuclear exit.
It isn’t too late for other countries to start down this path. A national effort to improve the power grid and incentives to install solar, wind and other new technology is the first step down that road.
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