Rural climate skeptics are costing us time and money. Do we keep indulging them?
If you’re a climate skeptic, you probably don’t have the option of joining the ranks of the 1% whose lifestyles depend on carbon-intensive energy. You might be an environmental activist, or you might be a concerned voter who wants more clean air and cleaner water for your kids and grand-kids to enjoy. (Hint: Neither of those are easy choices.)
We also don’t have the option of ignoring the climate skepticism from the 1%—or from the 1%, as the case may be. For example, if you own a car and it’s more than 10 years old, you might not be able to use the fuel-efficiency or emissions-cutting measures that your car manufacturer offers. And if you don’t have a car, you’re limited to the public transit options that cover the areas you live in, like public transit or cycling.
But there’s another option that many conservatives, libertarians, and progressives overlook: the choice to go solar.
In 2015, solar power generated just under 3,000 terrawatts of power—enough to power about five million homes for a year. That year, the U.S. Department of Energy spent $7.2 billion on solar photovoltaics.
Last summer, the New York Times reported that the Department of Energy spent $13 million on solar grants for just one project, installing more than 40 acres of solar in rural New Jersey. As the Times described, “[t]he project, which is the largest solar farm ever installed in New Jersey, and was paid for with $13 million of DOE grants to New Jersey residents from the [Energy] Department, would have required more than 11.5 times New Jersey’s residential electricity consumption for a single year.”
The cost for that project was $1.5 million per kilowatt of power produced, according to the Times, while the average price of solar power in 2016 was about $0.13 per kilowatthour.
The reason that rural solar could become a more cost-effective option for many homeowners and businesses