A Father’s Day Conversation: What Happened To Renewable Energy?

After reading Laurie David’s inspiring, informative, and thoroughly enjoyable new book, The Family Dinner, it validated the importance of engaging in family dinnertime discussions.

My nest is mostly empty, so my husband, Ted and I generally eat without our kids (who live in another city). Ted is an environmental planner, and many of our dinnertime conversations are eco-driven.

As Laurie says in her book…“Dinner Spreads Love”

Ted passionately looks at the big picture and long-term consequences. I passionately focus on day-to-day green actions. He puts together documents that are big enough to sit on. I write snippets for blogs that you could tuck into your pocket. Our approach is different, but we are generally on the same page.

It was excessively hot in the Northeast last week, and Ted announced that we should probably eat something that we don’t have to cook. The mere mention of not lighting up the gas stove brings out the eco-geekiness in me and I start the discussion…

Ronnie: What happened to renewable energy? I thought solar, wind, and geothermal were going to make a clean sweep over the power companies and offer homeowners real energy solutions for the future. Was that just a fantasy?

Ted: If we don’t kick our fossil fuel habit, our children will pay the price of our excess. Diminishing oil reserves and worldwide demand will price us out of the market, and climate change will force some out of their homes. There may be 30 to 50 years of oil left, and loads of coal, but burning 100,000 years of “buried sunshine” each year has created an imbalance in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – the main cause of global warming. Lest not forget, natural gas that needs to be extracted by hydro-fracking – that is known to contaminate wells and pollute the air. The sun is estimated to continue to shine for at least 5 billion more years. This is the time to harness the sun and capture the wind. It’s even getting more affordable. We should behave responsibly to our kids and keep exploring alternatives.

R: Doesn’t the world already employ renewable energy practices?

T: Right now only about 13% of the world’s energy is renewable.

R: I read that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the world can get 80% of its power from renewable sources by 2050. The report claims that if a “full range of renewable technologies were deployed,” we could attain this truly clean power goal in under 40 years. Wow, this sounds responsible, right?

T: Yeah, I read that too. The Rocky Mountain Institute goes even further. They say that it would be profitable to displace oil completely over the next few decades. By 2025, the annual economic benefit of that displacement would be $130 billion. Investing now in renewable energy can also help poor countries develop, particularly where large numbers of people lack access to an electricity grid.

R: Just think of what an awesome deal clean energy production would be in terms of health benefits and economic savings. Power the world…Save the poor…Clean water and air for all!

T: Not so fast. There’s a minor glitch: our elected public officials have to enact policies that promote green power…and people need to be given the tools to adopt it. The US is the world’s biggest energy consumer, and our politicians are not on the same page. While we are asking our congressmen to clean up the air and the water, we also need to also tell our local elected officials they can do more. I work with non-partisan planning boards. New development should be subject to smart growth principles. Even while that’s happening, conservation pays. Energy-efficiency is still the cheapest form of energy available today. It is a prerequisite to investing in renewables. Before we can even envision a world powered by wind and sun, we’ve got to remember that conservation and reducing consumption across the board should be our first priority.

R: Hey, Happy Father’s Day, Ted…I love sharing these dinnertime conversations with you!


Grace Adams
Grace Adams7 years ago

To help the poor, we need to get renewable energy into the electric grid. The electric utility companies will make a profit on it. That can't be helped. There is no way the poor can scrape up the money to invest in renewable energy. Unfortunately, that is what poverty is all about.

Ameer T.
Ameer T7 years ago

America spent 7 trillion on wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan acording to the Washinton post. if this money was spent on renewable energy instead, the whole world would have shifted to renewable energy. Not only would there have been cleaner planet but America would have raked in billions of dollars each year in royalty reciepts from the rest of the world.
addiitonally America would have gone down in history as the saviour of this planet when it was in power not the destroyer it chose to become instead.

Instead now there are budget cuts, shut downs, more debt, more wars, no social security, no employment and a bleak future.

Krishna Chandra M.

Need of the Hour - Renewable Energy

ana p.
ana p7 years ago


Bernard Cronyn
7 years ago

Continued here………Even the big bad oil barons, judging by their web sites, acknowledge the finite nature of non-renewable fuels and it is logical in their long term interest to invest in alternatives with the first to “pull the rabbit out of the hat” being the clear winner. No rabbits yet from them! Long before the oil barons, at the end of the 18th century Malthus pointed out the finite nature of resources on this planet and that to continue increasing world population without responsibility would end in disaster. In the 70’s Paul Ehlrich refined those thoughts with his I = P x A x T formula that pointed out that Impact on the environment (including resources) was increased by human Population, its Affluence and its bad Technology and that reducing the effect of PAT was the only way to reduce Impact. Obviously Affluence would not sell and Technology takes an awful lot of time and money to turn around; both being in short supply. The majority on Earth still believe that leaving the largest possible personal DNA footprint behind is more important that long-term survival so no hope there and no one wants to listen to Malthus or Ehlrich anyhow. I sincerely hope that the Citron-Fink’s are right and that Malthus, Ehlrich, the science and I are wrong and that a miraculous alternative energy solution awaits us with a happy ending.

Bernard Cronyn
7 years ago

It is important for families to gather together and discuss issues; so can we join in the energy debate? I wish I could afford to live in the energy saving way of the Citron-Fink’s (www.econesting.com ) but I cannot. Neither can many who live in city apartments, rented accommodation or houses where bye-laws would hinder energy saving methods. Right now, in 2011 a credibility gap exists between the possible renewable energy scenarios of the future and the reality of today and no amount of “Greenwash” will close it. Present practicable renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and water all suffer from limitations of efficiency, opportunity and real cost. Solar-electric panels for example barely scratch 17% on a sunny day and are only affordable if you are wealthy and have somewhere to mount them. Wind is great if the wind blows and the high maintenance costs do not faze you and again the large solar farms in Spain are battling to stay financially afloat. For the last 30 years we have had stories about methane from waste with zero footprint towns – so far the reality is limited success on a small scale and let us not wax too lyrical about hydroelectricity (remember the Hoover dam) that was going to save the world with clean energy 50 years ago….contd.

Aoife O Mahony
Aoife O Mahony7 years ago


Rosie Lopez
Rosie Lopez7 years ago

thanks for sharing

Michael C.
Michael C7 years ago

John D, Here is a fact that i believe you are unfamiliar with:

A single solar module is capable of producing up to 18 Xs more energy than what took to produce the module itself.

When you burn the same amount of coal, it is gone, you need more.

Hopefully, that helps to clear that up for you, now get out there and start installing a system on your Home. You would hate to be the last one on your block, right.

Michael C.
Michael C7 years ago

Our home has been fully solar powered 30 years. Was it expensive, sure. But, we never viewed it as an expense, as an worthwhile investment.

Imagine this: 30 years and not one electric bill, just required that we make an investment, we could not lose, and we didn't.

The price of our system, which has seen some changes and additions over the years, still stand to be about 4 X more than you would expect to have to invest today.

Would we do it again, sure, but it would be a lot more fun starting today than then, given todays LOW prices. The equipment today is state of the art technology, an each day, it gets better.

Most of our cooking has been done in a solar oven, actually we have 5 different types, the sun is your only fuel. Food cooks just about as fast as an conventional oven but we don't need to fuel it.

For our vehicles, we have been producing our own fuel for nearly 15 years, BioDiesel and it is not that difficult. We have taught , hundreds, perhaps a few thousand people over the years. We never kept track of the numbers but a lot of people came through our doors and in most case, we taught for free. It tends to get the message out there a little faster.
We only charged where the student intended to produce fuel as a business.