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Wed Mar 21, 2012, 04:06 PM

Thom Hartmann: Germany to Make History With Alternative Energy



Here's a "tale of two cities" - or two countries, actually. Germany and the United States. One country is preparing for a future in which their children will breathe clean air and lead the worlds economy - and the other is preparing for a future in which their children will choke on polluted air - and fall behind the rest of the world in the global economy. Can you guess which is which? Germany just announced a $260 billion investment in new energy - that's 8% of their GDP - with a goal of getting 80% of their nation's energy from wind and solar. This is the largest investment in energy that Germany has made since World War 2 - and they're even making this investment right in the middle of the financial crisis sweeping Europe - because Germany "gets it."

No nation in the history of the world has ever cut its way to prosperity - just look at Greece. So Germany knows that the only way to get out of this crisis - is to GROW their way out of it - to come out in the end of it a better, stronger, and wealthier nation - through government investments in the future. Germany is going to build offshore wind farms - covering an area six-times larger than the size of New York City. They're going to put up thousands and thousands of miles in new power lines to modernize their energy grid - enough new smartgrid power lines that, if they were stretched out in a single line, would reach from London all the way to Baghdad. And, prompted by the Fukushima disaster in Japan last year - Germany is shutting down 17 nuclear reactors supplying about a fifth of all the electricity in their nation - and replacing those reactors with the wind farms and solar panels they're now building.

German leaders know this is a big gamble - and that sacrifices will need to be made to make it work - including higher taxes on the wealthy and temporary higher energy costs for consumers. But they're moving forward with the plan - because ultimately - it's in the best interests of their nation to do so - and most importantly - in the best interests of their future generations as well. So the question we should be asking ourselves right now is...what is the United States doing to prepare for a future in renewable energies? Tragically - not much. Last month - President Obama put forward a budget that included massive increases in renewable energy to make the United States - like Germany - 80% powered by renewables by 2035.

That budget unfortunately was declared "dead on arrival" by Republicans in Congress. And today - Republican Budget Chairman Paul Ryan released his budget that includes massive cuts to existing renewable energy programs - calling out President Obama for "reckless spending on uncompetitive alternatives." By "uncompetitive alternatives" Ryan is referring to things like wind and solar - which would be cheaper today than nuclear, oil, or coal if the government subsidies for those dangerous and polluting energy sources went away. But Ryan keeps in place the government subsidies for nuclear, oil, and coal - he only wants to get rid of anything that may encourage solar or wind. Ryan said his plan would "promote policies aimed at RELIABLE energy." As in - we know oil burns - it's reliable - so let's keep investing in it until there's no more left. Not only that - while Germany will build windfarms that dwarf Manhattan - Republicans in Congress are still hell-bent on extending the Keystone XL pipeline to transport last century's energy source of fossil fuels across our nation.

And each time progressives - and President Obama - push for new investments in green energy - they're met with unanimous Republican filibusters in the Senate - and outright rejection in the Tea Party-controlled, oil-soaked House of Representatives. Calls to "invest, invest, invest" - are met with calls to "drill, baby, drill." And when it's pointed out that these investments are crucial to the prosperity of future generations - Conservatives simply say, "we can't afford to make a better world for our kids. Screw 'em." So how the hell can Germany - which is footing the bill to bailout the rest of Europe - afford it then? The answer is because everyone is working together in Germany. As Peter Terium - the CEO of Germany's second-largest private energy company - RWE - said, “The German energy transformation is as challenging as the first moon landing. It’s a huge challenge we’ll be able to master only if everyone works together.” That's coming from one of Germany's biggest coal barons.

We can only imagine what our nation would be capable of if OUR coal and oil barons at Massey, Exxon Mobile and Chevron - were to put aside their thirst for more instant profits - cut back on their lobbying for more and more oil subsidies - and actually work with all of us to invest in the future of America. Since when did our national pride - and desire to leave a better planet and nation to our kids - get replaced by the singular goal of maximizing profits for today's CEOs? The really sad part is - we had the jump on Germany more than 30 years ago - when President Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House - and introduced a comprehensive energy plan to get America off its addiction to foreign oil and on to renewable energies.

Two years later - Reagan moved into the White House - took the solar panels off the roof - and scraped Carter's energy plan. Reagan committed our nation to sucking on oil for the next three decades - and for thirty years, Republicans in Congress have killed any attempt by Democrats to put forward plans for a clean-energy future. And so we stand here today - still choking on pollution - still drilling for more oil - and falling behind nations like Germany, Denmark, and China when it comes to new energy investments. Human history tells a story of empires collapsing when they failed to prepare for a new energy revolution - from wood to coal to oil - to now renewables. And without a truly revolutionary investment in new energies - the United States will suffer the same fate in the coming years

The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann on RT TV & FSTV "live" 9pm and 11pm check www.thomhartmann.com/tv for local listings

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