Why Renewable Energy Will Replace Fossil Fuels

I am often a little amazed when I find renewable energy skeptics pointing out that without government incentives, renewable energy would not be competitive with fossil fuels, as if fossil fuels have not benefited from a series of public policies that greatly facilitated their development and adoption. Electric and gas utilities are monopolies regulated at the state level. Permission to operate and not compete and policies setting prices and assured return on capital investment are all provided by the government. Public service or public utility commissions operate in each state to protect the interests of those that generate and distribute electricity and natural gas. Then there is the oil depletion allowance, and the government’s huge investment in interstate and local highways. And of course, there was the billion-dollar bailout of the American auto industry, which the last time I looked makes products that are mostly powered by fossil fuels. All these initiatives are driven and funded by government, all a result of public policies designed to bring energy to the widest possible number of people. So please, no more nonsense about competing on the so-called level playing field. American capitalism has never been pure; we have always had a mixed economy. Government has long picked “winners and losers.”

There is good reason for fossil fuel folks to be nervous. Time is not on their side. People know that they need fossil fuels―I certainly did today when I put gas in my car―but most of us wish we had alternatives to these earth-damaging sources of energy. The market for alternatives is there and it will displace fossil fuels when (not if) renewable energy technology becomes cheaper and more convenient. At the start of 2017, Pew conducted a poll on attitudes toward renewable energy and in March 2017 Gallup conducted a similar poll. According to Gallup’s Frank Newport, the poll reported that:

  • “59% say protecting environment is more important than…

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