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Badges? We Don’t Need Any to Pursue Clean Energy

Badges? We Don’t Need Any to Pursue Clean Energy

Mexican character actor Alfonso Bedoya delivered what may be one of the most frequently misquoted lines of all time.

The movie in which he delivered it is “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and stars Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston. Bedoya played an unnamed bandit, listed in the credits as Gold    solar energy   Hat.

But in my mind he stole the movie with the line, “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges.”

To some degree, those of us toiling away to make clean energy a viable and stable industry share a lot of similarities with Fred Dobbs, Bogart’s character in the 1948 film. Dobbs meets up with the grizzled prospector Howard, played by Huston, down in Tampico, Mexico about 1925.

Together they go off in search of gold.

Clean energy gold rush

Sounds familiar. The gold this time around is the free energy around us on a daily basis. There’s enough gold in them thar hills, I mean solar energy emanating from the center of our system to provide more than enough energy the world could consume. We just have to find the means to harvest that energy without breaking the bank and do it cheaper than we can by either digging coal out of the ground or sucking and processing crude oil.

No problem. Dobbs did find his gold. But bandits, most notably Gold Hat, and the realities of the desert made realizing that dream difficult. Of course there was the greed. I watched the scene in which Dobbs turns crazy for his riches with horror. I was a kid with my friend Torg in the University of Alaska’s Schiable Hall on a crazy cold winter night in Fairbanks, wondering how it could be hot any place in the world.

The treasure in the case of clean energy is right in front of us. I found this bit of data at amercianenergyindependence.com: “All of California’s electricity can be produced from 200 square miles of sunshine; 128,000 acres of desert land.” The author of the piece helps the reader visualize that space by saying Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam, covers more than 200 square miles.

Challenge can be met

That’s pretty straightforward math. The challenge is harnessing that energy, storing it for use during evening hours and creating an energy grid able to adapt to the ebbs and flows of a renewable energy reality.

It all boils down to innovation and know how. The April 2012 report, Beyond Boom & Bust, says the only solution is “to drive innovation and cost declines so that clean energy technologies can ultimately thrive on their own in American markets without subsidy.”

The cost of fossil fuels is assisting that quest. So is climate change. But it can’t be done without help.

Innovators wanted

Clean energy does have heroes — adventurous types, who like Dobbs go out in search of riches. Art Rosenfeld comes to mind. He’s father of the Rosenfeld Effect, which refers to how installing efficiency basically pays for future energy uses. As a member of the California Energy Commission, he applied the ground-breaking policy to the state and enabled it to save enough energy to avoid having to build far more electrical generation plants.