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A Plan to End U.S. Dependence on Foreign Oil and Slash Greenhouse Emissions
By Peter Koeppel

Scientific American, in the January 2008 issue, has outlined a brilliant plan to end U.S. dependence on foreign oil and slash greenhouse emissions through the use of solar energy. The plan demonstrates how solar power plants could supply 69 percent of the U.S's electricity and 35 percent of its total energy by 2050. Understanding and supporting this plan could be critical to our businesses and our lives on this planet, so that's why I've devoted this column to informing you about this program.
The potential of solar energy is enormous. The energy from sunlight that strikes the earth in just 40 minutes is equivalent to the total global energy consumption for an entire year, according to Scientific American. In the U.S., we have an a tremendous potential resource; 250,000 square miles of land in the Southwest, which are suitable for constructing solar power plants and where there is an abundance of solar energy. Producing solar energy is almost pollution free. The Scientific American plan reduces greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 1.7 billion tons a year and calls for replacing gasoline vehicles with plug-in hybrids, refueled by the solar power grid, which would further reduce emissions by 1.9 billion tons a year. By 2050 carbon dioxide emissions would be 62 percent below 2005 levels.
The cost of solar energy from this project would be equivalent to today's rates for conventional power sources. The plan calls for the federal government to invest more than $400 billion over the next 40 years. Although the investment is substantial, it is less than the U.S. Farm Price Support program, according to Scientific American. Once the infrastructure is built, solar plants use very little fuel and the price of sunlight is free, which will save billions of dollars a year.
The solar plants would replace 300 coal-fired power plants and 300 natural gas plants and all the fuel they use. The plan would eliminate all imported oil, easing our trade deficit and securing the nation's energy future, according to Scientific American. The program would also create three million new domestic jobs related to building the solar components.
The authors of the Scientific American plan note that the greatest obstacle to implementing this type of program is not technology or money; it is a lack of public awareness about solar power's incredible potential. I believe it will take someone like Al Gore or a president with a vision like Kennedy had to put a man on the moon, to sell this plan to the American public. Now that you're educated about the vast potential of solar power, I hope your desire for energy independence and reducing greenhouse gas emissions will encourage you to support a national solar plan. Backing this type of initiative will reflect positively on our industry and help improve the lives of everyone on the planet.
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