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July 30, 2008

The 93 million-mile-away Energizer Bunny

Actually, all energy on planet earth, excepting geothermal and energy from cracked atoms, is solar. Our planet is, and always has been, powered by the sun. There would be no plants, animals or weather without it. 

Fossil fuels are aptly named, since that’s exactly what they are. Coal, oil and natural gas are the remains of plants and dinosaurs — plants that grew because of photosynthesis (and rain), animals that ate those plants or ate animals that had eaten those plants. 

Wind energy is currently groovy. Wind? It’s the movement of higher-pressure atmospheric gases into zones of lower pressure. All that movement is powered by the sun’s atmospheric heating. 

That stack of firewood in your garage? Sectioned plant parts, nothing but stored solar energy. Even a waterfall is solar energy, since it results from rain falling at an altitude above it, and since that rain comes from our sun-powered weather. Stick a turbine generator in the waterfall and electricity (because solar energy has been converted into the mechanical energy of falling water, which turns the turbine connected to a generator) zaps out the wires on the other end. 

Our lives have always been solar-powered. We’re driving solar-powered cars right now. We have solar-heated homes right now. It’s just that, at this point, we need to remove the middlemen and pass the savings onto us, the living things that share our planet and the planet itself. —F.B.