Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cash for Clunkers, How About Solar Cells for the Middle Class

The cash for clunkers program is about to end, and only those ideologically opposed to any government involvement in the economy are calling it a failure. For a few billion dollars, (And yes, I do realise that's a lot of money.) we've increased fuel efficiency in the domestic auto fleet, lessening dependence on foreign oil, and started on the long, hard fight to control global warming by getting rid of older, heavier polluting cars. And as a bonus, we've saved a lot of auto industry jobs.
So what's should we do next? I think we should add a little box to everybody's income tax forms. If you make less than a certain, to be determined, amount, and if you own your own home, make a check mark. That amount should be the line below which individual home owners cannot be expected to pay for their own, home, solar arrays. For a few billion a year, with home owners chosen by lottery, congress could jump start the home solar industry in the USA. Put in a provision to use American made solar panels, and local contractors rather than national businesses like Wal-mart, and we'd get the domestic solar panel makers humming, and stimulate, small local businesses. We'd decrease the amount of green house gases by cutting day time, coal fired, electricity use, and if a couple of hundred thousand home owners suddenly weren't paying electric bills, they'd spend a lot of that money on other things, which would stimulate the general economy.
Of course, we'd have to give up on this whole idea that electricity should be supplied exclusively by large corporations. When electrification started, home electricity was being supplied to a small number of middle class homes, and above. That's not true anymore. Electricity is as much a part of vital infrastructure as roads. Perhaps those cities that own utilities shouldn't have their operations privatized. Perhaps private electricity companies should be taken over by local municipalities.

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