Electricity is not magic. Okay, it is a lot like magic. I mean, if someone from the 17th Century were to step into a time machine, hit a switch and step out in the year 2011, they would look at all of our electrical gadgets and say, “That’s magic!” They’d be wrong, though. Of course, you’d have a hard time convincing them of that and don’t even bother telling old 17th Century Man that that time machine isn’t some witch’s alternative of transportation. (My other car is a broom.)The point is that all the energy everyone uses, all around the world, whether it is in the form of electricity for our devices or gasoline for our cars or wood for burning in the fireplace, all of it shares one non-magical source: the sun.Fine, you’re right, smarty pants, nuclear energy doesn’t come from the sun. But what is the sun if not one giant nuclear reactor? Nuclear energy is just our best shot at imitating sun power.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that electricity produced by hydroelectric dams doesn’t come from the sun. Ha! You’re forgetting about how all that water flowed to the dam in the first place. It fell as rain or melted from snow, right? All the water that moves around on this planet is constantly hitching a ride on a sunbeam – from cloud to ground to stream to reservoir to spinning turbine and back to cloud again, every drop of water has its ticket on the Water Cycle Express punched by the sun.
Impressed? Shocked? I didn’t even have to go to electrician school to know that one.
So if all this energy comes from the sun, why is it that the biggest energy consumer is the good old USA? Sure, the United States gets its share of sunshine but there are plenty of places that the sun smiles on much more than here. Any place where there is more desert than beach, you can bet that place gets more sun than the United States. The thing about energy, though, is that it is transportable and if you have the means (wealth) to pay for infrastructure to transport energy and if you have the means (again, wealth) to purchase energy then you can be the energy sucking champion of the world. USA! USA! USA!
All this leads to the obvious question: why not get energy directly from the sun, thereby leveling the playing field? Magic, right? Great idea! Of course, like all great ideas, somebody already thought of that one. They even gave it a name, Solar Power. Yes, if the technology were developed and distributed so that Solar Power could be used by everyone around the world, energy would suddenly be much more, well, democratic. And Global Warming? Fuggitaboutit! Of course, if that were to happen, those who control the infrastructure of our current energy production and delivery systems might find themselves going door to door selling vacuum cleaners or looking for work in, say, the food services industry.
So it’s left to the rest of us to push for Solar and other renewable power sources like wind and geothermal. Do we have a chance against the power powers that be? Depends. Do you believe in magic?