the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold
The pines and aspen stands look black in the half-light of dawn. A
thick white frost blankets the windshield. My truck's V-8 is reluctant
to turn over; it would rather be left alone this cold morning, I think.
What a bounteous source
of power, this sun! Would that I could pry open
my truck's gas cap and pump it in: fill it up with light, please!
let the engine idle, sending up white plumes of exhaust in the
chilled air, as I wait for the windshield to defrost.
In the meantime, the sun crests the hills to the east and its rays
scatter into the valley. They filter through the limbs of trees and
fall against the windshield. And before the fossil fuels burning in the
V-8 can warm the cab, solar heat has done the job. My view ahead has
minutes since sunrise and already the chill is broken and
the frosted trees are dripping dew. In that time the sun has spilled as
much energy on this Earth as we humans will consume all year.
fact, if all the Earth's fuels -- petroleum, wood, coal, etc. -- were
lumped together and burned at the rate the sun emits energy they would
last, at best, four days.
The promise of solar energy has been homilized since I was in grade
school. By now, 1994, we imagined we'd be driving solar cars and flying
in solar planes. Photovoltaic cells were going to make conventional
photovoltaic cell, a miraculous chip of treated silicon, was
supposed to give rise to the solar age. Expose it to sunlight and its
electrons go crazy, forming an electrical current.
There has been some solar progress. Rooftop water heaters are no longer
uncommon and passive solar construction is a design prerequisite in
Our local power company leased its first
photovoltaic (PV) system
to a remote ranch last summer and it is now supplying energy for
stock watering pumps and household appliances.
Today we have solar-powered calculators and clocks and outdoor lighting
systems. Sales of PV chips have increased dramatically in recent years
and their price is less than half of what it was in 1980. Even so, the
cost of solar power is still several times more expensive than
hydropower or fossil fuels.
Which explains, as I shift into gear and turn down the visor against
the solar glare, why this truck still drives on gasoline.