Solar Water Heaters
The solar water heater has been a staple in places like Tel Aviv since I can remember. Few residents (except in the high rises) actually use electricity to take a hot shower. But for some reason, this technology has been completely unused here in the States, so much so that it is difficult to even find a solar unit. But in an example of how regulation can jumpstart innovation and technology, Hawaii has issued legislation requiring all new homes to have solar water heaters starting in 2010. But watch. The effect is immediate. European companies are already ramping up production and plans to sell in the U.S. U.S. companies will follow by rolling out their own lines of solar water heaters.
My point? Alternative energy is inevitable. But allowing the free market (including all of the impediments imposed by anti-clean energy lobbyist) to drive alternative energy may take too long. The government can accelerate the process by tailoring legislation to require solar cells on new houses or electric cars. Even just passing legislation that starts requirements several years out would have an immediate impact on the availability and prices of these technologies.