Leibowitz, the advertising guy, pointed me toward a recent BBMG poll, first cited in Brandweek. The poll found that while 28 percent of consumers said it was "very important" to buy from companies who do good things for the planet, only 17 percent reported "always" doing so.

Even that number, I'm betting, is inflated. "Always?" Just as suspicious is the 16 percent who reported taking a reusable bag with them while shopping. Just go to Whole Foods some day and watch the line. You may be at the most cheerfully "green" grocery chain around, but you're still not going to see one out of every six shoppers putting their groceries into little cloth bags.

Or take solar panels. Jim Arwood, director of the energy office of the Arizona Department of Commerce, is a big believer in solar power. Solar panels on his roof supply almost half of the energy used by his household. Even better, because the panels connect to the electric grid, the energy produced by those panels is never wasted. It goes back into the system to provide power for other homes, reducing the state's reliance on dirtier forms of energy — and earning Arwood credits from APS in the process.

But here's the rub.

Arwood is one of only 1,642 people in the entire state who've put up panels connecting to the grid. Seven times as many Arizonans voted for Fred Thompson after he quit the presidential race. Forty-two times as many people have outstanding warrants for their arrest in Maricopa County alone.

It's truly ridiculous. We're living in the sunniest state in the Union. We have tax incentives up the ying-yang. Students at Arizona State University's School of Global Management recently concluded that, thanks to those two factors, a medium-size set of panels would pay for itself in approximately 17 years. For an upper-middle-class family, that's not a bad equation.

And yet, for all the green hype flooding my mailbox, hardly anybody is doing it. California last year launched a "Million Solar Roofs" initiative, with the goal of plugging that many homes into the grid.

In Arizona, we'll be lucky to get 100,000.

Jim Arwood knows that he's still in a very small minority when it comes to personal solar generation, but he's optimistic. He clearly thinks I'm way too cynical about this state's underutilization of solar. "Thirty years ago, the 'solar industry' was a handful of backyard inventors," he says. "It takes time, but we're making a whole lot of progress."

But the path that progress is taking, I think, illustrates a bigger truth.

We can talk all we want about free enterprise, and individuals taking responsibility. We can read 411-page books designed to make us more green.

But we're not going to convert even a fraction of the state to renewable resources by depending on well-meaning individuals. Just look at how few homes have bothered to finance solar panel systems. If it isn't as easy as flashing a credit card or dropping an empty Coke can into a recycling bin, most of us simply won't do it.

And if it's not leading to a new outfit, even a credit card swipe has proved too difficult for 99 percent of us. Literally. APS has a "Green Choice" program, in which customers can opt to pay a little extra to get power from renewable sources. A spokesman says it costs the average household only about $11 a month. Still, fewer than 1 percent of the utility's customers have opted in.

But here's where it gets interesting. Even though individuals have proved utterly unwilling to do the green thing, we keep saying in polls that we care about the environment. You can't blame the politicians for thinking we really mean it.

So Arizona is about to get frog-marched into going green.

Right now, Arizona utilities are required to generate only 1 percent of their power from renewable resources. By 2025, though, the Arizona Corporation Commission is increasing that requirement to 15 percent. That's huge — and Arwood believes it's already making a difference. He points to the three-square-mile Solana Generating Station proposed for the Gila Bend area. It will rely on new technology to turn solar power into electricity, with a complexity far beyond the simple heat-storing rooftop panels.

In its first year, Solana is expected to generate 20 times more solar power than the entire state generates today.

Solana has its drawbacks. Despite its huge size, it's expected to generate enough power for only 70,000 homes, a mere fraction of the state's load. And it won't be cheap. Its energy will be 20 percent more costly than traditional sources. Hey, you said you wanted to save the Earth, right?

But there's an interesting twist in how it all could work. Thanks to the renewable-energy mandates, power in Arizona is likely to get more expensive. And as that happens, individuals will have more incentive to do their part. After all, a rooftop solar panel system will pay for itself a lot more quickly if the cost of electricity is sky high.

Just look at California. Because of heavy demand there, and local environmental pressures that have kept new coal-burning plants from being built there, it has to rely on power from other states. It's not cheap.

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Good article. It's refreshing to see an article where a girl admits that a) girls control the dating scene and b) girls often pick guys who "know how they love bags" rather than choose quality bags. I can't tell you how many of my girl-friends say something to the effect of "I don't know what I saw in that jerk!" Stuff like "The Pickup Artist" works...but its because it relies on psychology and manipulation. Not something to emulate, in my opinion.Girls, give that cute, if not shy and awkward, guy a chance! He might be the one you're looking for!purses

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handbag replica

Good article. It's refreshing to see an article where a girl admits that a) girls control the dating scene and b) girls often pick guys who "know how they love bags" rather than choose quality bags. I can't tell you how many of my girl-friends say something to the effect of "I don't know what I saw in that jerk!" Stuff like "The Pickup Artist" works...but its because it relies on psychology and manipulation. Not something to emulate, in my opinion.Girls, give that cute, if not shy and awkward, guy a chance! He might be the one you're looking for!


I appreciate the pith of your article in that major changes are needed to deal with our need for clean, abundant energy, and I completely agree. I find the title of your article and some of your references in the first portion of your article to be off point, and therefore, they take away from the most meaningful part of what you have written. Being green is an umbrella issue that doesn't just involve clean, abundant energy. It involves treating the planet better in different ways. Pulling organic into the article feels disconnected to me. Going organic is about sustainable agriculture, as well as reducing toxicity. Sustainable agriculture helps with using our natural resources better, but not necessarily energy resources. Going organic keeps harmful chemicals out of your food, out of your drinking water, and off your skin. Your dry cleaning habit could cause breast cancer, but organic, free-range Alpaca wool never will, regardless of how unattractive it might be. Nor would organic agriculture ever make little boys grow breasts from hormones in their dairy or increase the prevalence of cancer among industrialized countries. {If this were Wikipedia, I would say a citation was needed, but my laziness gets the better of me.} Reducing toxicity by using organic products is a method of preventative medicine, which is more related to the nature and spirit of our health care system rather than the energy issue. It has done tremendous things for my health, so I am not just regurgitating this like a self-righteous third party. As far as shameless advertising and the hype, eh, by any means necessary when it comes to organic, as far as I'm concerned.

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

"Costs for solar thermal may fall as low as 3.5 cents a kilowatt-hour by 2020, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. Energy Department."


"It's crucial that companies like SRP invest in research and development so they find ways for customers to save money down the road," she said. "The fact we have solar getting down to an affordable price has a lot to do with research utilities conducted."



Perhaps we could harness some of Emil Pulsifer's hot air?

Geoff Thomas
Geoff Thomas

Nice article-to the good comment re mandating PV panels on every new house - it might might be politically perilous but what fool could argue against requiring new developments to have roof orientation and angles optimized for future PV panel installation?


It's all green to me

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

Tankilo, the entire semiconductor/computer industry has been massively underwritten by the government (military and intelligence agencies and university facilities supported by government funds) from Day One. The Internet itself arose as a result of the needs, research & development funding, and purchasing support of such institutions. So have much of the basic infrastructures of the telecommunications, energy, and transportation industries: basic and broad ranging projects from telecommunications networks and satellites, to the electrical generation and distribution grid, to the Interstate Highway system.

Nor is it always appreciated at first by private industry. Jack Kilby, the inventor of the integrated circuit, was working for Texas Instruments (which in turn was under contract to the U.S. Army Signal Corps developing technology with cryptological applications):

"Kilby had made a big breakthrough. But while the U.S. Air Force showed some interest in TI's integrated circuit, industry reacted skeptically. Indeed the IC and its relative merits 'provided much of the entertainment at major technical meetings over the next few years,' Kilby wrote. The integrated circuit first won a place in the military market through programs such as the first computer using silicon chips for the Air Force in 1961 and the Minuteman Missile in 1962."


It isn't a question of the eventual commercial applications and spin-offs: it's a question of providing industries with a credible motivation for the initial creation and early, intensive development of emerging technologies.

The point is that government is in a position to provide goals and funding for cutting-edge research & development, as well as a ready-market for the finished product, in order to serve national needs and under circumstances in which ordinary market mechanisms (the need for near-term profits and market viability) are weak, slow, or insufficient on their own.

This is especially important in time-sensitive projects requiring national coordination, like the conversion from an economy dependent for its productivity on petroleum-based energy sources, to one capable of functioning at least as well using solar as its primary energy source.

This is a critical issue that transcends broad political rhetoric about government vs. private industry. The question is what both government AND private industry can do, and how they should go about it. If there is a broad public concensus on the need for timely and decisive action, it should motivate both sectors as well as a national debate on the best way of accomplishing the goal.


"""The histories of now familiar products like television and personal computers demonstrate that what was once an expensive luxury product and a novelty, marketed to a tiny group of dedicated hobbyists, and whose poor early quality made many doubt their commercial viability, can through mass production and far-sighted investment in research & development result in inexpensive, efficient products of excellent quality and reliability."""

The personal computer got to where it is today by no government mandate, by no tax incentives, "every new home must have a personal computer" did not happen either.

Sometimes the solution is not the government.

Tony Mallory
Tony Mallory

Here's a thought. Why not mandate that all new home construction have solar panels included? Eating up the amount of acreage stated in the article seems wasteful to me, when you could potentially have that much square footage just sitting idly by on people's rooftops.

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

Nice article.

Solar power is certainly the way to go, considering the fact that the sun provides a natural, pollution-free, massive, and for all practical purposes inexhaustible energy source. The sun is always shining over vast swaths of the planet, 24 hours a day. All we need to do is find practical ways to harvest that energy.

Regarding the figure that Solana's energy will be 20 percent higher than traditional sources, there are several factors that can substantially lower that cost. The histories of now familiar products like television and personal computers demonstrate that what was once an expensive luxury product and a novelty, marketed to a tiny group of dedicated hobbyists, and whose poor early quality made many doubt their commercial viability, can through mass production and far-sighted investment in research & development result in inexpensive, efficient products of excellent quality and reliability.

A three square mile solar plant that can service 70,000 homes illustrates the potential but falls far short of realizing it. There is in theory no reason why solar plants the size of metropolitan Phoenix (or considerably larger) cannot occupy land now consisting of unpeopled and undeveloped desert, not only in Arizona but in many other states of the southwest and elsewhere. These plants could provide energy not only locally but regionally and nationally.

Administrative costs and profit taking are another factor to consider. A private company that must pay large executive salaries, even larger incomes to owners taking their cuts, and generate profits large enough to please general stockholders, must pass those increased overhead costs to the consumer. The most expensive element of a can of soda pop is the can, and the profit margin on flavored suger-water is quite high. Eventually solar technology will realize its potential for efficiency, and when it does free sunlight could mean dirt-cheap power; but don't expect to pay that as a consumer if consumers don't own the means of production.

Solana is built, owned, and operated by a private company, Abengoa Solar, which sells the electricity to APS. True public ownership would not only reduce consumer costs, but would also solve the problem of how to fund much needed research & development, advancing the technology to the level it needs to reach to function as our primary national power source.

Whatever the attitude of Abengoa might be, more generally in the private sector the short-term, bottom-line mindset demonstrated by the shareholders and boards of many of today's private companies may be a hindrance when decisions must be made about capital investment.

Exactly how quickly a viable alternative energy source must be developed is a matter of debate. The Arizona Republic published a recent op-ed piece by someone with a degree in forestry (not petroleum engineering) that was alarmist and inaccurate. But there is a broad scientific concensus that the quantity of oil is limited and that, even with the discovery of new oil and/or the development of more efficient extraction techniques, serious problems loom, on the order of decades rather than centuries.

It isn't even a question of when the oil will run out, because long before that, when supply cannot keep up with demand, prices will increase. And demand is currently increasing as countries like China and India undergo rapid industrialization, whereas supply is not.

Most U.S. electricity generating plants today burn petroleum products to power the process; the vast majority of freight (consumer goods, business inputs) in this country are distributed by trucks running on diesel fuel. Petroleum products are also widely used in the manufacture of aviation fuel, plastics, asphalt, and a wide variety of other things.

Increased demand relative to a supply that does not increase as fast (or a supply that does not increase at all, or a supply that decreases) implies increased prices, according to basic free-market principles. Since energy prices and freight shipping prices are primary cost inputs to the economy as a whole, and businesses pass on increased manufacturing and marketing costs in the form of increased consumer costs, that's a recipe for inflation.

Inflation in turn can mean decreased consumption, and that can result in recessions or depressions, which can lead to unemployment and social crisis; those in turn can precipitate ill-considered political changes, insurrections and civil wars, and wars between nations vying for control of limited resources. And in a world whose economies and underlying financial institutions are increasingly interlinked, problems in one major country can easily spread to the region or world.

At the moment, according to U.S. Government statistics from the Energy Information Administration, five countries provide 70 percent of the U.S. oil supply: Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Nigeria, and Venezuela (in that order).

The same source states that at current production levels Mexico's proven oil reserves will run-out in about 10 years. Nigeria is politically unstable with a rebel movement that routinely sabotages the oil production infrastructure, and Venezuela has recently nationalized its oil fields and has threatened (probably as a bluff) to stop oil sales to the U.S. should the U.S. continue meddling in regional (South American) affairs.

All of this, as well as the time it can take to properly develop and work the kinks out of something like an entirely new energy source and integrate it into the nation's energy and manufacturing infrastructures -- even assuming that the will to do so exists and that sufficient investment capital is available and allocated for this purpose -- suggests that we need to get serious about alternative energy, starting right now.

Note: Iraq is currently sixth in terms of supplying U.S. oil imports, but its unexplored western region is currently regarded by the petroleum industry as the best bet for the discovery of large new oil reserves. In any case, oil production will increase to pre-sanctions levels once political stability returns to the country.

Since removal of the restrictions on Iraqi oil sales were effectively tied to the removal of Saddam Hussein from leadership, but 12 years of those oil sanctions failed to result in his removal by domestic coup, the desire to restore Iraqi oil availability to pre-sanctions levels may have provided the Bush adminstration with an (unadmitted) casus belli.

The best way to accomplish the political stabilization of Iraq (and consequently to insure a substantial increase in Iraqi oil production) is a matter of current debate; my personal opinion is that U.S. withdrawal will permit existing factions to resolve their problems faster because they will not have the excuse of an "occupying army" to justify their belligerence. Others argue that this will result in civil war in Iraq; but it's difficult to envision an Iraqi civil war that did not result fairly quickly in the victory of the Shiite majority which currently controls the government, army, police, and several powerful private militias, with or without the assistance of Iran.

The influence of Iran in the country would no doubt increase, but that's fairly natural considering that they border Iraq and share cultural and religious values with a majority of its citizens. The current propaganda effort to demonize Iran (admittedly not a particularly sympathetic government even on its best days) is reminiscent of the pre-war campaign against Iraq; but U.S. troop commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan make a new ground war implausible.

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