One thing I've noticed is that each evening the sun goes down. Also, on the first day out I drove through miles of Kansas windmills standing idle because the wind was calm.
Perhaps you haven't heard of HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current). http://www.siemens.com.au/files/PTF/energy/EnergyCasestudy_advancedTandD.pdf
Essentially, this is a very low-loss method of transmitting electricity over huge distances. The fact that the sun is not shining, nor the wind blowing in your part of the country, is not a problem, as long as the sun is shining or the wind blowing somewhere within a radius of a few thousand kilometres.
Of course, a network of HVDC transmission lines throughout a large country such as Australia, or America, would be an expensive project, but something to consider for the future.
Let's face it, the reason we're now doing fracking, horizontal drilling, and extraction of usable oil from shale is that the price of oil got high enough to make that kind of experimentation and production worthwhile.
If you really believe government research -- government anything -- can be more effective than private efforts by people trying to make a buck then you need to go down to your local post office and look around.
I understand your cynicism about the efficiency of Government-controlled projects and initiatives. We've had a few recent debacles in Australia when a Labour government started handing out surpluses accummulated by the previous Liberal/Conservative government, in order to avoid slipping into a recession during the GFC. It worked, to the extent that we narrowly missed any period of negative growth, but not without a great waste of resources.
One such project was to subsidise the insulation of peoples' roofs, which would reduce the energy consumption of air-conditioners during the hot or cold seasons. The concept was fine, especially considering that the Government had plans to introduce a carbon tax later on, which would increase electricity bills.
The problem was in the implementation. The fibre-batt, glass-wool insulation industry was not geared up to handle the sudden influx of orders for roof insulation. There was not only a shortage of material but a shortage of experienced workers who were able to do a good job. Corners were cut, incompetence prevailed, and a few houses burned down due to the poorly installed insulation material interfering with electrical circuits in the loft under the roof.
I'm not suggesting that the Government throw
money at the problem of devising efficient, alternative, renewable energy sources. That would be wasteful. Rather, I'm suggesting that governments change their taxation regime
in such a way that it encourages private industry to develop in certain desirable directions.
Energy is a very taxable commodity because it's the most essential commodity we have in our civilization. Without energy, nothing moves, nothing happens. Without energy, we all either die or go back to a lifestyle of the hunter-gatherer.
In our civilization, one can't even take a walk down the street without indirectly consuming a few milligrams, or even a few grams of oil, coal or gas which would have been used in the farming, delivery, storage and cooking of the food one ate for breakfast, which gave one the energy, in the form of calories, to walk down the street.
Now my own personal, Nobel prize-winning idea on how best to tackle the problem, is to shift the tax burden away from personal income tax and onto all energy produced from non-renewable sources, such as coal, oil and gas.
The reason why current emission trading schemes and the so-called 'carbon tax' we have in Australia, are unlikely to be effective is because they are so inefficient. They require new bureaucracies to administer and monitor the schemes which are open to abuse and profiteering, and they are also directed at the wrong culprit. Carbon has been demonised, in true religious fashion, when anyone who knows anything about biology understands that carbon is essential for all life. For most plants, the more CO2 the better, up to levels several time the current atmospheric levels.
In order to solve a problem, one first has to identify and understand the true nature of the problem. There's certainly a lot of pollution in the world; smog, sulphur dioxide and particulate carbon emissions from old-fashioned coal-fired power stations without adequate emission controls, many of which are in China; fumes from diesel-operated engines, toxic chemicals poured into rivers, and tonnes of plastic and other rubbish floating in our oceans. These issues should be addressed, but plain old CO2 is not a pollutant. It's a clean and odourless gas which is essential for all life.
In fact, the current world food production, which is truly massive and sufficient to feed a world population at least double the current number of 7 billion, if we didn't waste such a large portion of our food production, has not been achieved entirely through modern farming practices and modern technology. Increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 have undoubtedly helped.
The real problem, as Sobodan has suggested, is sustainability
. The fact that gasoline is so cheap in America doesn't help. It makes it more difficult for the American automobile industry to develop an affordable and viable electric car.
What I propose is a tax on all energy from non-renewable sources, offset by a reduction in income tax and company tax, and VAT or GST. A government needs to raise money for the services it provides. Let that money be raised primarily from a non-renewable energy tax.
However, it's only reasonable that such taxes should not apply to energy that has been used to manufacture goods for export, otherwise the tax would present a competitive disadvantage. Also, the government benefits which are paid to low-income earners would need to be increased, as a result of increased fuel bills.
All enterprising companies which are able to produce energy from renewable sources, such as hydroelectricity, solar electricity, tidal power, wind, and all manufacturers of electric cars and batteries, would of course be given a tax break.
Problem solved. I shall donate all funds from my Nobel prize to renewable-energy research.