Germany is busting our chops when it comes to renewable energy. The country that gets about as much sunlight as Alaska is leading us big time, currently gleaning 25 per cent of its energy from renewable sources versus a puny 6 percent here in the United States. Back in 2000, Germany also realized 6 percent of its energy from renewable sources. Then it passed the Renewable Energy Act and is now on track to be powered with 80 percent renewables by 2050, with solar playing a big part on their energy stage, along with wind and biomass.
In the new book Clean Break: The Story of Germany’s Energy Transformation and What Americans Can Learn From It, author Osha Gray Davidson reports that 65 percent of Germany’s total renewable energy is now in the hands of individuals, cooperatives and communities. Only 6.5 percent of the country’s energy is supplied by German utilities.
In an interview with Alternet, Davidson recounts what it is like in Germany today, how quickly they are making the transition to renewables and how it is being accomplished. Not surprisingly, the key to change on a large-scale is dependent upon political will and public backing.
There are interests in the United States that prefer to keep the status quo, even in the face of massive evidence that dirty energy is the culprit in the climate change enveloping the planet. It’s all about money and an unwillingness to change, because change is expensive. What those interests refuse to address is that the shortsighted policies they fight so hard to keep are the very things that will be the undoing of us. Oil, coal and natural gas are finite. They will, one day, run out. In the meantime, they pose dangers to us by fouling the air we breathe and the water we drink and use to irrigate our crops. There are debates about fracking with one side proclaiming the safety, while the other side pointing to gases being released in places gas has no place being, complete with pictures of fire coming from home faucets. And just to be clear, natural gas, so often touted as “clean energy” isn’t clean at all. It just isn’t as dirty as coal or petroleum. Others point to nuclear as “clean” energy, conveniently forgetting that there is no safe way to store nuclear waste, which can have a half-life of up to a million years. And there is always the specter of a Fukushima Daiichi style disaster in some other part of the world, perhaps even here. Earthquake-prone California’s nuclear reactors come immediately to mind.
The United States is a vast and resource rich country. We have everything necessary to become completely energy independent well before the end of this century and we can do it all with wind, solar and biomass.
Think of it: we can build an energy infrastructure free of pipeline fractures, natural gas explosions, nuclear waste leaks, smog alert days, not to mention ever escalating prices at the pump and price hikes from utility companies charging you to pay for the disasters they caused. And while we’re doing that, we will be creating new jobs and new products to export to the rest of the world. All we need is the will. And the will starts with the people. It is time to stand up and demand the future we want for ourselves and for our children. The people of Germany have done it and they are on their way. It’s time to put our collective feet pedal to the metal and make up for lost time.