New technology essential |

New technology essential

I am aghast at the utter lack of imagination and foresight demonstrated by the Bush administration as regards our nation’s energy policy, among other things. We are too dependent upon foreign oil for our safety. We need massive stimulation of new technology development and proliferation of alternative energy solutions and conservation measures. One way to do this is via government programs which mandate the accelerated use of new technologies in all federal buildings, vehicles and other infrastructure. Free-market purists would argue against such measures as being artificial. To that I respond: What do you think drove the initial, critical development of microelectronics? Answer: the space and military weapons programs which needed advanced solutions at any price. Transistors used to cost hundreds of dollars apiece. Now, you can get a microprocessor chip containing hundreds of millions of transistors for under a hundred dollars.

The point here is that we can bootstrap new technologies with public funds to reap untold gains once the technology becomes financially self-sustaining. Solar (photovoltaic) power is one such technology which is on the brink of widespread financial feasibility. Government incentives such as the California state “buydown” program and California tax credits make it barely feasible but not compelling for most people. We need more state and federal support to make it irresistible. One idea is to require utilities (or the government) to purchase green power at high prices. If homeowners and businesses could sell electricity produced via solar panels back into the grid for 50 cents a kilowatt hour, everyone could be a profitable energy producer.

Chris Sommers

Grass Valley

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