Bailed-out Automakers Should Build Solar Power, Not Cars
               Levin Nock      November 2008     Copyleft CC-BY v...
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Autoworkers for Solar Equipment Manufacturing


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Federally subsidized autoworkers should build renewable energy equipment instead of cars. This would enhance the security of their jobs, and of our nation's future. Manufacturing solar thermal equipment is very, very similar to manufacturing cars.

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Autoworkers for Solar Equipment Manufacturing

  1. 1. Bailed-out Automakers Should Build Solar Power, Not Cars Levin Nock November 2008 Copyleft CC-BY v2.0 If automakers receive federal loans and subsidies, the money should be tied to a fundamental redirection of the industry. The government-sponsored autoworkers should build renewable energy equipment instead of cars. In particular, solar thermal electricity generating equipment and solar domestic hot water systems are made of steel, glass, wiring harnesses, metal tubing, engine blocks, small electric motors, and microcontrollers—almost like cars, but with less plastic. Autoworkers already know how to build this stuff--they just need appropriate designs and tooling. Building fuel-efficient, hybrid, and electric cars will address a few problems, such as CO2 emissions, other air pollution, and dependence on foreign oil. At the same time, it will make other major problems worse, such as traffic casualties and congestion; ongoing suburban sprawl; water pollution from street runoff; new toxic materials to recycle or dispose; and epidemic obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression from a lack of exercise. New cars depreciate rapidly, draining ever more wealth from consumers who are already reeling from the economic depression. During the current credit crunch, when auto loans are very difficult to find, very few consumers can afford new cars anyway, whether the cars are gas guzzlers or high-tech miracles of efficiency. Building renewable energy equipment for distributed power generation will address problems such as CO2, air pollution, dependence on foreign oil, high utility bills, and an overburdened power grid. It will enhance local resilience, economic prosperity, and hope for a better future. If the automakers seize this opportunity to shift some of their production into renewable energy equipment, then their businesses and their employees will be well-positioned for prosperity in this changing economy. But if they just build more cars, then they’ll probably need more bailouts later. If the government subsidizes autoworkers' salaries, then those autoworkers should do something that’s really good for the country, such as building durable renewable energy equipment. Whether it's rooftop equipment for residential and commercial solar hot water, or stirling engines for concentrating electric power plants in the desert and prairie, this would be a significant investment in the economic wellbeing of the autoworkers, the automakers, and the country. Compared to hybrid and electric cars, an investment in renewable energy infrastructure will payoff in more ways and solve more problems, without making other problems worse.