Ian McEwan on Obama & the planet: He can shine like the sun | News
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Friday, November 14, 2008

Ian McEwan on Obama & the planet: He can shine like the sun

Posted by on Fri, Nov 14, 2008 at 1:11 PM

The author, in a palliative Wall Street Journal column, sees a bright future if Obama will move decisively on renewable energy sources -- move like the wind, and the sun:

The technologies are developing at speed, but the basic ideas have a simple allure. Consider just one form of solar energy. An alien landing on our planet and noticing how it was bathed in light would be amazed to learn that we believe ourselves to have an energy problem, that we ever should have thought of overheating or poisoning ourselves by burning fossil fuels or generating plutonium. Sunlight falls on us in a constant stream, a sweet rain of photons beyond counting. On average, 1,366 watts for every square meter of the Earth's surface. A single photon striking a semi-conductor releases an electron, and so electricity is born, right out of sunbeams. These are the photovoltaics that Einstein described and for which he won a Nobel Prize. If you believed in God, you might say this free energy was His greatest gift. Let there be light! If you did not, you might say, how auspicious are the laws of physics. As is often pointed out, less than an hour's worth of all the sunlight falling on the Earth would satisfy the whole world's needs for a year. A fraction of our hot deserts could power our civilization.

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