It's not for nothing that they call economics the "dismal science". It seems to me that the world's attention to macro economics is what stops renewable energy. I don't know if the following analysis is really new or not, but if it's accurate, then as things stand, no renewable energy scheme stands a chance, regardless of the greenhouse effect.
When you procure and install a renewable energy source, like a wind turbine or hot rocks plant, the financial transactions are simple, limited and rather local:
- build the power plant
- operate the plant (pay a few staff, buy some occasional maintenance).
But our globally favorite energy schemes -- coal, gas, nuclear -- all involve mining and massive ongoing exchanges of finance and resources, both human and physical:
- build a mine (which usually includes major new transport infrastructure too)
- build a powerstation
- in some cases build a new refinery
- operate the mine
- transport the ore to the refinery (including operating the transport infrastructure)
- refine the ore to fuel
- transport the fuel to the powerstation
- operate the powerstation
- in some cases, transport and dispose of the ash (which in the case of nuclear is another huge supply chain).
All of these supply chain steps are music to the ears of a macro-economist. They create jobs, they generate profits and taxes, they create whole secondary industries (like railways, ports and shipping).
This is surely why the Howard government prefers nuclear to all the more accessible options, like solar, wind, hot rocks, and tidal.
What sort of really fundamental changes would be required to the economy -- including the very way people think about the economy, especially jobs -- to make renewable energy as attractive as mined energy?