Alternative Energy

In 2010, the world generated on the order of 21 petawatt-hours of electricity (1).  Of this, 4.3 petawatt-hours (20%) was generated by the United States:

In 2012, Apple sold 125 million phones and 58 million tablets, yielding sales of $150 billion dollars (2).

The current cost of solar power is around $125 per megawatt-hour (3).

If the world had chosen to invest in solar cells instead of smartphones, 5.6% of the world's electrical generation capacity - 28% of the United State's capacity - could have been converted.  This is a single year of a single company's sales.

The direct financial cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are subject to some debate (4,5), but it definitely comes to at least one trillion dollars: $1,000,000,000,000.  At 6.5x Apple's 2012 sales, that's over a third of global generation - enough electricity for the United States and the close-second consumer, China.

I have also heard (references please, energy people?) that current-generation offshore wind power is as little as one-half the cost of solar.

On the bright side, these numbers at least make me feel like sustainable power generation on a grand scale is within reach.  The technologies will keep improving and costs will continue to drop.

But man... priorities.

This post researched and prepared by Brandon Curtis; follow him on Google+
(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electricity_production
(2) http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-57540705-37/apples-fiscal-2012-in-numbers-125m-iphones-58.31m-ipads/
(3) http://www.economist.com/node/21532279
(4) http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2011/12/15/what-did-the-iraq-war-cost-more-than-you-think
(5) http://costofwar.com/