Q&A w/ DANNY KENNEDY, ROOFTOP REVOLUTION: How Solar Power Can Save Our Economy and the Planet from Dirty EnergyWritten on May 13th, 2013
Is there a revolution coming to your rooftop? While opponents claim solar is expensive, inefficient, and unreliable, in his book ROOFTOP REVOLUTION: How Solar Power Can Save Our Economy And Our Planet From Dirty Energy, DANNY KENNEDY makes clear solar can save money, create jobs, and protect the environment if only politics and perception will get out of the way.
During the recent Presidential campaign, we heard a lot about Solyndra, the solar start-up that received a sizable government loan only to go belly up. Solar’s detractors claim the collapse of Solyndra proves solar is just a hippie pipe dream, but Danny Kennedy, says the truth is quite the opposite. Solyndra failed because it wasn’t able to compete in a red-hot industry, not because solar isn’t ready for prime time.
The industry employs 100,000 people in the United States, twice as many as in 2009 and twice the number of coal miners. In 2011, Warren Buffett invested $2 billion in a solar farm, and General Electric bought a start-up solar manufacturer, announcing, “By 2020 this is going to be at least a $1 billion product line.” Production of solar-generated electricity rose by 45% in the first three quarters of 2010, while electricity from natural gas rose only 1.6% and coal declined by 4.2%. Kennedy argues for a rooftop revolution to break the entrenched power of the coal, oil, nuclear, and natural gas industries and their progress-denying allies.
In the year 2000, Germany got 6% of its energy from renewables. That’s about what we get in the US today. But today Germany gets 25% of its electricity from solar, wind and biomass. And Germany is not exactly the American Southwest. Perhaps just as impressive and important, 65% of the country’s renewable power capacity is owned by individuals, cooperatives and communities. Clean and decentralized. I’ll be talking with Osha Gray Davidson about how they did it and what we can learn from their story.
Osha is new to me, but I contacted him immediately as soon as I saw his new book CLEAN BREAK: The Story of Germany’s Energy Transformation and What Americans Can Learn from It. As anyone who listens to this show knows, I feel one of the crucial elements in America’s sluggish response to many of our biggest challenges is our ignorance about what other countries do well.
Last week I interviewed longtime reporters Don Barlett and James Steele regarding their new book, THE BETRAYAL OF THE AMERICAN DREAM, looking at the relentless economic, financial, and governmental process over the last 40 years to enrich the largest corporations and richest individuals at the expense of the middle class. This week I’ll talk with another wise and experienced Pulitzer prize winner with a long term perspective, HEDRICK SMITH, about his newest book, WHO STOLE THE AMERICAN DREAM?
I don’t think it’s a coincidence nor do I think it’s redundant to turn so soon to the same questions being pursued by another savvy journalist. HEDRICK SMITH had already won a Pulitzer by 1973, the year that the post-WWII boom for the middle class began to wane. Real wages for all Americans had risen pretty consistently from the war years, and have done so almost not at all ever since. I point this out to highlight the fact that Smith has witnessed first-hand the rise and long fall of the middle class and brings that experience to this book and this conversation.
Chris Mooney is senior correspondent for The American Prospect magazine, and author of The Republican War on Science; Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming; and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored with Sheril Kirshenbaum, with whom he also writes "The Intersection" blog. You can find the intersection blog at discovermagazine.com. In 2005 Chris was named one of Wired magazine's ten "sexiest geeks."
ROBERT SCHEER, editor-in-chief of Truthdig, was Vietnam correspondent and an editor of Ramparts magazine from 1964-69. He worked with the Los Angeles Times for nearly 30 years, as a national correspondent from 1976-1993 and as a weekly syndicated columnist until 2005. In 2005 he co-founded Truthdig. Scheer is heard weekly on Left, Right and Center on NPR's KCRW. A clinical professor of communications at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, he is a contributing editor for The Nation as well as a Nation Fellow. Scheer has written nine books, including With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush and Nuclear War; The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us about Iraq; The Pornography of Power and his newest, THE GREAT AMERICAN STICKUP.