Karl Smith -- Assistant Professor of Public Economics at UNC-CH & Blogger at Modeled Behavior
Climate Change has evolved into a political wedge issue in the United States. Part of the unfortunate fallout of this is that fossil fuels and renewables are viewed as competing tribal camps. One is either in the "drill-baby-drill" camp or in the solar power and plug-in hybrid camp.
An honest accounting, however, shows that these two energy paradigms are strongly complementary. Fossil fuels in general and oil and gas in particular provide ready sources of energy to support strong global growth.
A wealthy planet provides a large marketplace in which to recoup R&D costs from solar and battery research. And, completing the circle, more rapid solar development cuts down on long term emissions and the most troubling effects of climate change.
Some analysis suggests that photovoltaic generation of electricity could reach grid parity in 75 percent of the world's markets by 2020. As an economist, my tendency is to think physical scientists are underestimating the speed at which PV could overtake fossil fuels in the production of electricity.
As costs for the underlying technology fall, the incentive to lower the associated installation and infrastructure costs accelerates rapidly. A rapidly falling cost curve also provides enormous incentives for producers to rapidly establish dominance in the distribution channel.