According to Bloomberg:  The Way Humans Get Electricity Is About to Change Forever.

Interested?  Click the link!  It’s all about the sun.

(Spoiler alert: for all the good news it contains, it still won’t be enough to avert climate disaster.  So — as the Pope recently noted — don’t think we can rely on technology alone.)

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Of course, this has been a long time coming.

Thomas Edison — who himself knew a thing or two about electricity — famously said, “I would put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

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You  can stop reading right there.

That quote and the Bloomberg link are more than enough.

But in case you have time for nostalgia . . .

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It seems like five minutes ago — though it was 1974 — that I was sitting (petrified!) with the Secretary of the Treasury, asking him why we should not begin adding a dime a gallon to the gasoline tax each year — using all those billions to lower the income tax — thus discouraging the thing we wanted to discourage (oil imports) and encouraging the things we wanted to encourage: work, saving, and fuel efficiency.

As I’ve written here before:

. . . Gas would have risen to the same $5 it hit not that long ago, but the cost of driving a mile would have stayed modest as fuel efficiency soared; and all those trillions of dollars over the years would have stayed in American coffers rather than flowing to our friends abroad.

The Secretary — who was considered a bit of a terror (and who certainly scared me) — gave a long glower, as if trying to figure out how to deal with such a moronic question — and said, “Yes, of course we should!  Everybody knows that.  But we could never do it politically.”

Just one enormous example of a simple, obvious policy change that would have made us far more prosperous today, and very likely safer, with a much stronger balance sheet.

Forty years from now, will we be saying the same of our failure to address climate change?  Or our failure to shift modestly from private consumption (bigger homes, bigger yachts) to public consumption (infrastructure revitalization)?

In the winter of that same year — 1974 (as I’ve also written here before) —

I had a cover story in NEW YORK Magazine about the potential for solar energy.  I knew it was important – OPEC and Mideast oil were all anyone could think about (except Detroit’s executives, who would spend the next three decades in denial) – but I was surprised to learn my piece was going to be the cover. It seemed a bit of a stretch to run the piece in NEW YORK at all, let alone as the cover. What was famed editor Clay Felker thinking?

It turned out he was thinking, ‘Let’s sell some magazines!’

He put a gorgeous model in a bikini absorbing rays on a float in the middle of a swimming pool. In February.

I’m not certain how well the issue sold, but finally, nearly 35 years later [now, in 2015, 41 years later], solar energy is becoming sexy on its own.

You could (for example) have done very well buying First Solar (FSLR) at 24 when it went public a year ago (I missed it); less well shorting a few shares as I did this fall at $160 (it closed yesterday at $281, up more than tenfold).  [Around $51 today, down from a peak of $311, that short doesn’t seem to have been such a bad idea.  But with shorting, it’s really important to gtet the timing right.]

Although this stings a bit as an investor, I’m delighted to think we are finally at the point, or nearly so, that solar panel film can produce electricity at competitive prices.

To say I am not expert in this field would be an understatement on the order of ‘the sun is rather hot.’ But according to this, FSLR’s cost of producing a watt of solar power was $1.16 recently . . . and according to this, a privately owned competitor called Nanosolar has begun selling its panels for 99 cents a watt, which (according to this) it manufactures for 30 cents . . . which puts the cost of solar below the cost of coal.  [Hindsight alert:  Nanosolar, Thin-Film Solar Hype Firm, Officially Dead.]

. . .

THE MAIN THING: CAN YOU IMAGINE?

WE’RE GETTING CLOSE TO A BIG STEP TOWARD CLEAN, AFFORDABLE ENERGY.

Don’t Sell Humanity Short Quite Yet.

Has there ever been a more exciting time to be alive?

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