Clean Power cost of war solar

Published on April 8th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


For Price Of Iraq War, US Could Power Half Country With Renewables

April 8th, 2013 by  

From Le Grist (yes, I took it upon myself to change their name):

Discussions of how to respond to climate change often involve Very Large Numbers — the needed investments to transition to a fully renewable energy system are in the hundreds of billions. The brain sort of shuts down when it encounters numbers like that. They are too big to fathom. The one thing that does seem true about them is that nobody’s ever going to spend that kind of money on anything. Right? It seems hopeless.

So I always enjoy it when someone comes along to provide some perspective, a comparison that can give us context and help us see the numbers afresh. Today, wind analyst Paul Gipe asks, how much renewable energy could we have gotten from what we spent on the Iraq War?

The total cost of the Iraq War, including future costs to care for veterans, is $2.2 trillion. If we include the interest we have to pay on the debt we used to finance the war, that figure rises to $3.9 trillion by 2053. (See Gipe’s article for sources and details.)

For David Roberts’ full piece, check out: For the price of the Iraq War, the U.S. could have gotten halfway to a renewable power system.

And also check out Paul Gipe’s piece, linked above.

Notably, we’ve published similar stories in the past. For example, see this excellent reader post from 2011: Cost of War.. Spent on Solar Power Instead.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • ComradeRutherford

    The primary purpose of the Iraq and Afghan ‘Wars’ were to redistribute wealth using the mechanism of war profiteering. That $4T is now sitting in various off-shore bank accounts stolen from We, The People.

    The Conservatives used war to transfer the wealth specifically to prevent it’s being used for improving the lives of the citizens whose wealth it was.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I don’t buy that for a moment. Wars no longer create net profits.

      The desire of oil companies to get access to Iraqi oil very likely played a role, but overall wars hurt economies and lower corporate profits.

      The Iraq War did cost us a lot of money but the large amounts of cash which went missing were, in fact, Iraqi cash that we had confiscated and were returning to the Iraqi government.

    • Ross

      Getting the political consensus to go to war against relatively weak foreign adversaries is far easier than getting it for a structural change affecting a deeply embedded and broad domestic vested interest group like fossil fuel polluters.

  • But at least the Republicans got those WMDs!


  • The companies that profit from wars influence lawmaker decisions… It always goes back to that…


    • Bob_Wallace

      Wind and solar are becoming large businesses. They will influence lawmaker decisions as well.

      We already see this happening. This last fund round we saw Republican governors from red/conservative states lobbying for continued wind subsidies.

      • Those first steps are the hardest. Inching into phase 2. 😀

  • jburt56

    You could have installed 10 kWp of solar on every home in the US for less than the cost of the wars so far.

  • There’s a big difference here between INVESTING in renewable energy and EXPENDING life and treasure on a war. In the first case we obtain energy assets that will pay for themselves and generate clean energy dividends for decades to come. War on the other hand leaves us with a lagacy of shattered lives and a mountain of debt that will never pay for itself. Roughly speaking, it’s like the difference between buying a house to raise a family in or burning one down.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Well put.

      And investing in renewable energy keeps on paying dividends for, essentially, forever. Once we get the first generation of renewable capacity in place it will give use the power we need to build the next. We won’t have to pay a fossil fuel cost ever again.

    • Apparently the psychopaths and arsonists who infest our government don’t get the distinction.

  • Maybe a good way to get a handle on these large numbers is dividing them by population numbers. Taking 315.6 million in 2012 from Wikipedia, $3.9 trillion amounts to around $12,350. Spread over a couple of decades, that’s actually not ever so impressive.

    The corollary is of course that with a measly $12,350 spent until 2053 (which is about $309 per year and person), the results explained by Gipe could be achieved, not even counting future massive reductions in capacity prices.

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