Paul Kulas
Valley Voices

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May 1, 2014
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Vail Daily column: Alternative energy gives us freedom

There’s a piece in the April 27 New York Times covering how the Koch brothers and the right are fighting net metering — “The Koch attack on solar energy.”

Recently the government, cable companies and carriers have stepped up their efforts to eliminate net neutrality.

Big oil and utility companies see solar as a threat to their business model. They should. Solar is following the path of Moore’s Law — costs are falling and capacity is doubling every two years.

The U.S. installed 4,751 megawatts of solar PV in 2013, up 41 percent over 2012 and nearly 15 times the amount installed in 2008. Twenty-nine percent of all new electricity generation capacity added this year in the U.S. came from solar — with seven states getting 100 percent of their new generation from solar.

Net neutrality means all traffic over the Internet is treated the same. Without net neutrality, the carriers and cable companies can give preference to their Internet traffic over others. They can charge others higher fees for access. If net neutrality is eliminated, then it threatens to take us back to the days when there was one phone company.

Companies like Google, Apple and Netflix have changed things. Businesses operate at lower costs. Consumers don’t need cable — all that’s needed to watch shows is an Internet connection. Carriers, cable and media companies are threatened if net neutrality stands.

The same thing is happening with alternative energy. Solar, solar thermal and traveling-wave reactor are all lower costs to produce than energy derived from fossil fuels. Alternative energy puts energy in the hands of consumers, provides big savings and creates good jobs. Right now, solar energy alone employs over 146,000 people in the United States.

Entrepreneurs love to solve big problems. There’s no bigger problem facing us right now than climate change. It won’t be long before solar panels will charge electric cars and fully power the home. If a neighborhood is connected, then power will be shared. In this model, the consumer is in charge of their power.

But it also means a big drop in revenue to oil and gas and utility companies. It’s why they’re spending billions in deceptive advertising and forming Super PACs to funnel money to oil and gas friendly politicians.

So it’s easy to see why the Koch brothers and the right are doing all they can to slow down alternative energy. Or, why the cable companies and carriers are trying to stop net neutrality.

It’s not about you or me. It’s about their money and their power.

They’re attacking. Stop the Affordable Care Act before people see that it’s working. Block immigration. Change the voting laws to gerrymander districts and make it harder to vote. Build more prisons and perpetuate the caste system.

You would think that the right and big business would support this tectonic shift in energy and communications. Both link to freedom and liberty. Instead, they’re fighting it.

They want us to believe that solar/alternative energy isn’t viable. If they do own up to alternative energy, then they tamper it, spinning oil and gas as where we should focus while alternative energy is being “developed.”

From The New York Times piece I referenced:

“The coal producers’ motivation is clear: They see solar and wind energy as a long-term threat to their businesses. That might seem distant at the moment, when nearly 40 percent of the nation’s electricity is still generated by coal, and when less than 1 percent of power customers have solar arrays. (It is slightly higher in California and Hawaii.) But given new regulations on power-plant emissions of mercury and other pollutants, and the urgent need to reduce global warming emissions, the future clearly lies with renewable energy. In 2013, 29 percent of newly installed generation capacity came from solar, compared with 10 percent in 2012.”

I started my first technology company in 1990. Alternative energy is a far greater economic opportunity than the Internet and it’s ready today. In fact, I believe it’ll make the Internet seem small, comparatively.

Those that I’ve talked to who don’t believe in alternative energy seem to do so primarily for two reasons: religion or politics.

The Bible has plenty of verses telling us to care for what God gave us. God wouldn’t approve of us destroying the land he gave us. God gave us brains.

People think that by supporting alternative energy that’s supporting Obama or Democrats. George W. Bush did more for alternative energy than Obama has so far. Richard Nixon created the EPA.

I’m not a Democrat. I’m not an Obama or Al Gore fanboy. For me, this has nothing to do with politics. It’s about freedom. It’s a moral issue.

I can’t ignore science, data or the truth. When I look at this from the viewpoint of doing nothing versus making changes with benefits that scale, it’s a no-brainer.

Alternative energy puts me in control. It means clean air, food and water. Small business. It means a better world for children. Net neutrality allows the little guy to compete against big business.

Imagine if all new development in our valley was built on alternative energy, or if all new homes in Haymeadow produced more energy than they used. Imagine if most eateries here were farm to table or beyond organic. Or if you saw more bikes than cars in the summer. Imagine if people around the world watched videos about our valley — a healthy and strong economy, not so dependent on tourism. A valley not about haves and have nots — but economic opportunity for all. This is free marketing that can’t be bought. It would do way more for our economy than some shopping center.

The valley’s economy is a akin to an hourglass of sand turned upside down. It’s based on a tired idea that somehow second-home owners always save the day.

What if the science, which is overwhelming now, is right? What if the temperatures rise and the lower snowpack is gone in 15 years? What if it’s too hot to play golf, or there’s no water for the golf courses? What if our water is contaminated from fracking? If you think the last housing crash was bad, then wait till you see how much your house is worth when the water is contaminated from fracking, Vail is closed and no wants to move here because there’s no skiing or golf.

Do the leaders up here have a backup plan, just in case the science is right? If so, would you please tell us about it, so we can submit comments?

Vail’s green initiatives amount to nothing more than greenwashing.

It seems to me that most leaders up here or those in positions of power operate as if things will always be the same — “It’ll snow, don’t worry. Those climate change people are all wrong, liberals who voted for Obama. Solar is for hippies. It’s Vail. We’ll be fine. Pray for a Republican.”

There’s two choices.

You can continue to believe that anything connected to Obama or Democrats is somehow wrong.

But if you’re wrong, then that means they were right. Climate change led to global chaos; big business took over our country. The children all asked why, in God’s name, we didn’t see this coming.

Or, you can look at this objectively. Remove Obama and the Democrats from your thinking. Remember. I’m not a Democrat. If they’re wrong, then the worst that’ll happen is you put your full support behind alternative energy and small business. You helped create good paying jobs, a stronger valley, a stronger country, you left the world in a better place than when you found it. You did what the Bible says. The children thanked you.

Entrepreneurs aren’t waiting. Neither should you. You have the power.

By the way, what ever happened to that shopping center up here that was supposed to create lots of jobs and do so much for us?

Paul Kulas lives in Eagle.

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The VailDaily Updated May 2, 2014 10:54AM Published May 1, 2014 05:21PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.