Why do you suppose Jimmy Carter had solar panels installed on the roof of the White House first thing when he moved in? If you answered he was a nuclear engineer and understood free energy from the photoelectric principles when photons from the sun collided with orbiting electrons in silicon atoms you would be right. Carter knew that these photons knocked millions of electrons out of orbit as sure as the sun rises each day, and rendered them collectible and storable in batteries as electric current. To wit, electric energy. Carter also knew that an inverter would be necessary to change the direct current in the batteries to alternating current if he was going to use this stored electricity to power his television set so he could watch the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather. Or maybe he could make himself a peanut-flavored salad dressing in his blender with his free electricity born of his ingenious curiosity. Or his computer or washing machine.
Why do you suppose that 4 years later when Reagan moved into the White House that he had Carter’s solar panels taken down? Why, with no moving parts they would have just sat there on the roof collecting electricity, helping the taxpayer out a little bit by reducing the light bill at the White House. So, what kind of statement was the Great Communicator, the Gipper, trying to make to us the American people? Are we to believe he did not want free electricity?
Meanwhile, it warms my heart to know that sometimes we do get a president like Carter, an intellectual, a science-minded leader. Takes me back to the days of Thomas Jefferson. Ever notice all the scientific instruments in Jefferson’s study at Monticello? Brass optical instruments like sextants, telescopes, and all the busts of the great scientists of his time, Bacon, Newton, Copernicus, perched up on his walls? It is obvious that Jefferson held them in the highest esteem. As you stroll through Jefferson’s home, you can see all the scientific evidence of his experimental zest for discovering new methods of growing plants in his step-gardens that followed the natural contour of the land. Sun dials everywhere. It does something for us Americans who care to pause to look at the man and into the character of who he was, a true citizen of the world, an engineer, and astronomer, a statesman, a human being who sets out to better understand the mysteries of the universe. And yes, a person dedicated to the betterment of mankind through curiosity and caring.
Ever read the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury? It is about burning of books by oppressive governments in a future world. The title suggests that paper books burn at a temperature of 451 degrees F. In the splendid movie version by the same name, Oscar Werner plays a fireman whose job is not to put out fires, but to collect and burn books for the futuristic state in which he lives. It is a tender movie in parts as denoted by quotes such as:
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
Carter made life better by placing the solar panels on top of the White House. He was a leader. Reagan took them down to make life less. He was a book-burner. A suppressor of the common good for Americans searching for equilibrium after Reagan borrowed and spent over $3 trillion that still is a part of our $15 trillion National Debt. Some legacy, Ronnie. All you did was to shift trillions of dollars of wealth over to the deep pockets of the filthy-rich Military Industrial Complex cronies who helped elect you. Pretty good work for them, especially in peacetime, eh, Gipper? I mean, it ain’t easy to sell hammers for $500 a pop in the first place, right? And selling a million of them in peacetime is like selling freezers to Eskimos, don’t you agree? Good salesman, Reagan. A wink and a nod and a smile will do it every time. Especially when you got God, Falwell, and the Moral Majority on your side.
So here we are today, and it’s 2012 already, about August 1 at this writing. Yesterday, ABC News told the world that the largest blackout in the history of the world just occurred and there were 100s of millions of people with no power from parts of Europe, India, the Middle East, Africa, and etcetera. Jesus, did the world really need to see the lesson in such graphic, stark reality? Such a loss of power worldwide points to an antiquated electrical grid system that is inefficient, broken down, and just plain old. When I heard the news, I first thought of when Reagan with all the stealth of a night burglar, had the solar panels taken down from the White House as one of his first acts as president. Could the world really be flat?
So why is the world electrical power grid so out of date? Why is it so susceptible to failure and million-human brownouts of no power for days? And is the day coming when the grid will fail to where the next brown out will become a permanent black out?! Back to coal oil lanterns and candles anyone? Horse drawn carriages, maybe?
Upon hearing the latest blackout news how many Americans were reminded of Ronald Reagan removing Jimmy Carter’s solar panels from the White House when the Gipper became president of the United States? How many citizens of the world are aware that Germany, a nation with very few sun-days is the nation leading the rest of the world in solar power? How many humans know that Germany has the most up to date, modern electrical grid in the entire world? It would be a good thing to hire Germany out as a consultant in green energy so that our own grid doesn’t fail tumble down on our heads someday. How would we Americans fare without electricity for days, weeks, or even months? Can anyone say Katrina? Like in Hurricane Katrina?
But let’s talk briefly about how Germany solved its electrical grid problem and turned it into the most modern, efficient grid in the entire world. First, Germany owns its own electrical company. A few years back, the government electric company was charging the equivalent of 15 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity. The German government came up with a brilliant idea. Let the people build Germany a brand new grid and let them share the wealth by government incentives. It was simple. Germany told the people, the villages, and the communities that if they would erect their own solar panels in accordance with good established engineering specs that the German Electric Company would pay the German people who hooked new solar panels up to the national electric grid for all the electricity generated above and beyond what they used themselves. The excess electricity created by the new solar panels would go onto the grid and become the property of the German Electric Company. This principle is called Net Metering. All excess electricity generated would be paid back to the people at the rate of 55 cents per kWh. That’s right, 55 cents per kWh!! Such a deal. No wonder the German grid was built in record time. In a market where the Electric Company was selling electricity for 15 cents per kWh, 55 cents per kWh was unheard of as a price going back into the pockets of the industrious Germans who helped build the most modern electrical grid in the world at a break neck speed.
Imagine that. So with your newly-constructed village solar panel system, you and your village get all the power you need for yourselves and your neighbors for free. FREE. Nothing is free, you say. Okay. But the carrot of paying the people an unheard of price of 55 cents per kWh for electricity generated from the new grid helped defray the costs of solar panels with a good profit going into the pockets of the German people to boot. Everybody won. Such a lucrative incentive! No wonder the Germans built this brand-new electric grid and build it post haste. In addition the German Electric Company (again owned by the German Government) provided enough incentive for the people to more than pay for the construction costs of such a mammoth project, including hooking these new panels up to the German National Grid all over Germany.
Of course as time passed, the Electric Company reduced the 55 cents per kWh to 45, then 35, 20, until back to parity with the going rate of 15. As the price fell the German people who were building solar panels knew they were in a race against the clock. Brilliant motivation. Brilliant government concept. No need for the Germans to worry about black or brown outs in the future. The German Electric Company could weed out old parts of the inefficient grid at will. They are set. And the people are enriched by the experience of people working together to make something good. And for the common good.
Later in Part II we will take a little trip in our imaginations to Mani, Yucatan, MX, where in 1561 a Spanish priest called in all the Mayan codices (books) to be burned as instruments of the devil. It not only destroyed almost all the recorded history of the Mayan culture, but it rendered the human race stupider for all we could have learned about Mayan astronomy, mathematics, the things dear to Carter and Jefferson. Certainly not Reagan. He bended to the stupid superstitions of Jerry Falwell, his Moral Majority and Pat Robertson’s greedy fruitcake beliefs on his way to becoming a Billionaire (Praise the Lord). Reagan seemed to have suffered a lack of scientific curiosity. Wonder why? Maybe he thought solar panels to be the things of the devil, you think?
Note: Mani, Yucatan, Mexico, Site of massive book (foldout Mayan codices) burning in 1561