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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Making the grid griddier

Whew. Intense week of finishing up finals-type classwork. One more 20-page paper to write this weekend and I'm done.

While procrastinating, I ran across this really smart article on distributed power generation. It's one of those essays that pretty much says a bunch of things that you already know, but puts them together in a way that makes a lot of sense and changes your perceptions.

The basic idea is that implementing renewable energy production on a home-by-home basis is actually feasible and affordable compared with the traditional generation options that we're considering, that it can make operation of the electricity grid much more efficient, and that it can reduce the risk of catastrophic outages.

This seems like the perfect thing for a Democratic presidential candidate to seize upon for his/her platform. People are mad as hell right now about energy prices, but there's also a lot of resignation that we can't do anything because, say, eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels isn't feasible. A candidate could put forward a positive vision like distributed generation and describe actual government programs that could get us there. You could require all utilities to provide "smart meters" within, say, 5 years, with some government subsidy. You could provide a direct government subsidy toward the purchase of equipment related to home generation. You could require all hybrid cars to have a plug-in supplement option so that people could use their new home generation capacity to help power their cars. The candidate could describe exactly what reductions in dependency on volatile fossil fuels we expect to achieve in 10 years and how it would benefit individuals and the economy. (And as Thomas Friedman says [repeatedly, like everything he says], it would also position America to be at the forefront of what is sure to be a future boom in green technology.)

Anyway, I think something along these lines would be really awesome -- what the Democrats need is positive, feasible visions to solve problems that Republicans have only been able to offer platitudes on. Energy policy is a really good opportunity for this, especially if Democrats can manage to say something more sophisticated than the current, extremely juvenile stance of many that amounts to "High gas prices really DO suck! And it's all the oil companies' fault. Republicans are in league with the oil companies!" Come on guys. I realize that gas prices have a unique ability to drive people into a blind rage that incapacitates rational thinking, but with a little ingenuity we can harness this political energy in a more positive direction.

Okay, I didn't mean to rant that heavily...

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