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Solar Power versus Trees

Solar Power versus Trees

3 Mins
January 22, 2013

I am a critic of subsidies for green technologies. I don't think it is at all certain how efficient technologies like solar and wind power will ever become. I certainly disagree with President Obama's view that we must all be forced to subsidize his favored environmentalist projects .

That said, I recently investigated getting solar power installed at my home. It's a principle of Objectivism that justice demands that one stand up for a better political system, including economic freedom. But it is also a principle of Objectivism that self-interest allows one, in a mixed economy, to take advantage of locally beneficial distortions and public projects. It's not wrong to attend a state university, for instance, as long as one stands up for private education.

So it was that a representative of Solar City visited my home recently. Solar City has an innovative business model that makes solar installation like signing up for an alternative energy supplier (with a monthly bill rather than having to finance a major building project oneself).

The verdict: solar power won't work for my house, despite the substantial subsidies my state puts behind it. One major reason: I have too many large trees. They cast too much shade. (I have no more trees than most houses in the northeastern city where I live.) For best results, the 100-year old oak in my back yard, and some others, would have to go.

The irony was not lost on me . Solar power is anti-tree! That's the paradox of “green” technology for you. It stands to reason, though: trees live by photosynthesis. The photons they use cannot be turned into electricity by solar panels. So in all the forested parts of the world, we can have solar power—if only we will chop down most of our trees!

Perhaps solar power will only work for people who live on open plains and in deserts. But the lesson here is that all human activities have costs. All impact the “environment.” Greenies will need to decide which is more environmentally-friendly: solar power or forests.


The Individualist's Guide to Progressive Change by Will Thomas

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Light up the World for Humans by Ed Hudgins

Progressives: Are they for Progress?  Webinar by Will Thomas

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