A 100% renewable power system could have been bought and paid for – instead of the Iraq War


American leadership skills in Iraq

Wind energy expert Paul Gipe reported this week that – for the amount spent on the Iraq war – the U.S. could be generating 40%-60% of its electricity with renewable energy…

The war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion through fiscal year 2013, according to Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. That’s trillion, with a “t”. Including future costs for veteran’s care, and so on, raises the cost to $2.2 trillion.

Because the war was financed with debt, we should also include a charge for interest on the debt. The Iraq war’s share of cumulative interest on the US debt through 2053 will raise the total cost of the war to $3.9 trillion…

…If we want to develop an integrated system that will replace the mix of fossil fuels and nuclear power we use today, we will need a mix of renewable resources as well. Ideally, we would develop our wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass resources simultaneously. However, it is wind and solar that will provide the bulk of new generating capacity. So I’ve simplified this analysis by only considering a mix of wind and solar…

Based on a conservative estimate, the US could have built between a quarter-million to nearly a half-million megawatts of wind energy, and 300,000 to 600,000 megawatts of solar capacity.

For comparison, today there are only 60,000 MW of wind in the US, and a paltry 7,000 MW of solar.

If we had invested the $2.2 trillion in wind and solar, the US would be generating 21% of its electricity with renewable energy. If we had invested the $3.9 trillion that the war in Iraq will ultimately cost, we would generate nearly 40% of our electricity with new renewables. Combined with the 10% of supply from existing hydroelectricity, the US could have surpassed 50% of total renewables in supply…

…Unlike the war in Iraq, which is an expense, the development of renewable energy instead of war would have been an investment in infrastructure at home that would have paid dividends to American citizens for decades to come…

Moreover, given that war is very harmful for the economy, the costs of the Iraq war including the drag on the economy raises the price tag well above $6 trillion. So 100% of renewable energy funding may be realistic.

It is ironic, indeed, that the Iraq war was largely about oil. When we choose subsidies for conventional energy sources – war or otherwise – we sell our future down the river.

Unfortunately, selling our future down the river doesn’t bother the bottomfeeders in Congress or the White House a whole boatload of heartache. While I differentiate between Republicans and Democrats on many social issues, when the question is one of war – especially one which profits truly “important” corporations – our elected officials fall over one another in the rush to Armageddon.

We debate the differences between “stupid” and just plain “ignorant” a lot on the Web. Fact remains that the average American – for whichever excuse – rarely has the backbone or independence to challenge war cries from on high. While reticence may appear after a few thousands kinfolk are sentenced to death along with tens of thousands crippled for life, it takes a mighty heap of dead bodies to get my fellow Americans to reconsider the glory of war deemed crucial by priests, pundits and politicians.

This counterpoint of the common good versus dedication to death and destruction is only an exercise in semantics and logic until and unless the voters of nation declare truth and progress more important than, say, parades for mission accomplished.

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