I'm in the middle of what seems an interminable debate with a few friends who can't handle the idea of anthropogenic climate change. As I look at the various scenarios, I realize that China and India are just about as locked into the fossil fuel future as Americans are. And thus we face a stupidity
end game ... in which all the major countries say, well, we can't change because it would screw up our own economy. We'd have to retool and that's expensive.
But China seems to have more money than India to go out and secure oil for their own future, as they are out-bidding just about everyone else (example
). So if India wants to move out in front to power its economy, especially transport, then ingenuity (as opposed to business-as-usual, BAU) has to play at least some role.
Germany did this with renewables (solar, wind) and guess what harm came to them? They developed the most powerful solar industry in the world, with only half the daily sunlight of southern California. They are treating the USA like a third world country -- exporting complete solutions to the USA, buying USA solar manufacturing companies, enticing USA companies to relocate in Germany, etc.... A clean sweep!
You say that you will start doing solar in earnest when it can compete without subsidies. Germany didn't keep on looking; their champion Herman Scheer proposed a different point of departure
Fossil energy not only threatens massive environmental and social disruption through global warming but, at present rates of consumption, it will run out within decades, causing huge industrial dislocation. Even before then, the conflicts and imbalances it causes in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world's economy will be frighteningly exacerbated.
But let's say I buy your argument -- that we should wait until it competes. Then I would suggest looking for the solar "killer ap" which works today without subsidy.
How about this, then? A solar system with a 4 year payback, without subsidy:
It is the solar highway: a continuous solar system 2 meters wide = 300 kW/km = 500 kW/mile. Not on roofs, which are often shaded by trees and cluttered with HVAC equipment, but alongside existing roadways. A solar system providing power for a transportation system which is 10X better along at least a half dozen metrics compared to the automobile ... and even 10X better than public rail transit along several of those metrics. I presented a paper on this in Stockholm at the end of 2007.
The calcs are here, assuming Sweden's lower level of solar but higher price of fuel. (You can change the assumptions for India. It will only get better than the 3.8 year payback I calculated for Sweden.)
Development of this technology is ramping up in Sweden, the UK (an installation is nearly complete at Heathrow Airport), and elsewhere.
China is buying oil rights and building cars. India is too. Utter insanity.
Which shall it be: engineers or soldiers?
Which countries will be the first to move beyond oil?