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October 9, 2015 | Vice President Joe Biden Speaks Out in Defense of Solar Energy


Mahatma Gandhi famously said, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." This quote accurately described India's struggle against the British Empire, but it also describes the path solar energy has taken in America. Solar has gone from something ignored, to something deemed ludicrous and impractical, to a genuine threat to long-held fossil fuel interests. America is currently in the fighting stage regarding its energy future, and according to Vice President Joe Biden, those who are trying to stifle the growth of solar power are, "on the wrong side of history."

A Fight For Choice

On Wednesday, September 16th, the vice president spoke at an event at Solar Power International (SPI). In a speech filled with passion, Biden decried the special interests he viewed as attempting to control the market, skewing it in their favor by using influence and money to prevent green energy from competing. According to the VP, fossil fuel companies had been the top source for energy for so long that instead of embracing green energy and expanding their repertoires, they're digging deep into their bank accounts to try to block alternative energy from getting a foothold. Given that fossil fuel companies like Exxon have backed climate-change denying research, and attempted to make solar and wind power illegal in many jurisdictions, green energy still seems to be winning the fight.

"We want to give every American a choice, an energy choice on what they want to use, no matter who they are or where they live," Biden said during his speech. "This isn't a government mandate; it's the market working."

The March of Solar Energy

Green energy, and solar in particular, has grown astronomically while President Obama has been in office. At the time of Biden's speech there were roughly 734,000 homes with solar panels installed on the roof, and at the beginning of Obama's presidency that number was 66,000. Total photovoltaic capacity in the United States surpassed 20 gigawatts in the year 2015, and the costs of solar panel installation have fallen by over 50 percent.

The White House isn't taking credit for these events, but that doesn't mean Obama's administration hasn't helped. In 2009, for example, the government invested over $90 billion in green energy (particularly solar and wind power) through the Recovery Act, and as of 2015 the White House is trying to persuade Congress to make many of the tax incentives and funding programs permanent parts of the law. Despite the crush of fossil fuel lobbying, Obama and Biden have been trying to do their part to help green energy grow.

Biden threw the latest punch for green energy during his speech. According to the vice president, a new government program will be putting up roughly $120 million in order to support and grow clean energy programs across 15 states. The money will be going to fund expansion of existing green energy projects, breaking ground on new projects, and providing grants for green energy research. The goals of this funding are to increase the amount of clean energy that's available and to help advance technology so that tomorrow's costs are even lower than today's.

What Will Tomorrow Bring?

While the Obama administration is making some big steps toward increasing the progress for green energy in America, there's a question of how long that strength is going to last. Very few of the programs which have been established are part of the permanent law, and they could easily be revoked by the next person who takes the White House. So the real question is, where will solar energy sit when it comes to the next administration's priorities?

Watch Vice President Biden's entire speech here.