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Summary:

Wesley Clark addressed Solar Power International attendees on topics of clean energy and national security — and voiced support for a carbon tax.

Wesley Clark, four star general, former presidential candidate and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, told an audience of thousands of attendees at the Solar Power International convention on Tuesday that the U.S. “must achieve energy independence” for the sake of U.S. national security and financial stability. While Clarks says solar is a key technology that can help deliver that goal (and at one point called for solar panels on every strip mall in America), he also pushed for a balanced approach and advocated more controversial measures, such as implementing a U.S. carbon tax.

With almost four decades of experience with the U.S. army, it’s not surprising that Clark highlighted energy through the lens of national security, defense and conflicts with unfriendly nations with abundant oil. Abundant oil is actually “a curse” for countries because it distorts economies, Clark said at one point, and said he has been thinking about energy issues since the start of his career, when he conducted the first pentagon study of the energy crisis.

In Clark’s view, the path forward is a combination of policy and technology gains, and he said both a cap-and-trade system and a carbon tax were looking to be inevitable. Given that imposing taxes is not the most politically-friendly position, Clark was quick to say nobody thinks it will be a substantial tax. Al Gore, whom Clark attributed with making the U.S. realize the size of the energy problem, has also voiced support for a carbon tax.

Clark emphasized a balanced solution to address energy independence (perhaps not as much cheerleading as the solar industry wanted to hear), which would include clean coal, nuclear, and possibly Pickens’ Plan of wind and natural gas-powered cars. Clark said ultimately it should be left for the market to decide the winners.

Clark also pointed out that what is currently available in the solar industry is “first-generation” technology. The industry has better technology and the prices will come down, Clark said, adding “Can’t we do this?” Clark, who became an investment banker and consultant after his army retirement, pointed out that there are opportunities all over the world to invest in solar and energy technology — though Clark’s commitment to country still seems to come first. He ended his speech by saying, it’s ultimately not about profits, it’s about U.S. security and energy independence.

Image courtesy of Wesley Clark for president.

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By Katie Fehrenbacher

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  1. From the text:
    “Clark emphasized a balanced solution to address energy independence (perhaps not as much cheerleading as the solar industry wanted to hear), which would include clean coal, nuclear, and possibly Pickens’ Plan of wind and natural gas-powered cars. Clark said ultimately it should be left for the market to decide the winners”.

    The “Market” is often praised for being so efficient, but I am not convinced that it (the market) always makes the best decisions.

    Immediate financial concerns often weigh heaviest which can obscure other costs keeping them hidden or knowingly ignored.

    Not to mention the effect of political winds on market forces.

  2. Michael O’Connor Wednesday, October 29, 2008

    Straight up talk from a man whose wisdom is born of true experience. The markets always decide the winners, and General Clark’s analysis points to the winner being that energy mechanism which gives the best “value”. Included in this value has to be national security and energy independence, Clark argues, along with KW/$. The solar industry needs to get to 2nd generation, and fast!

  3. Melvin Goldstein Wednesday, February 4, 2009

    Question: question 12 in “Thinking Physics” – page 259
    Inside a warm damp cave completely sealed off from the outside world could life flourish indefinitely?

    Answer: No life forms could flourish indefinitely. In an isolated system, entropy always increases. Life tries to push entropy in the opposite direction. When life is created, entropy decreases in the cave but nature demands a greater entropy increase offset. The cave, being sealed, would mean that entropy would reach its max, thus energy necessary to sustain and generate new life would be unavailable. Maybe we should learn a lesson from this. Available energy is mandatory. Wealth may equate to available energy. If you want to live in a nation that is prospering make sure that its available energy supply is abundant.

    Entropy is one of “Physics Foibles”

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