I am replying to myself to mention that the inventor of the string trimmer, George Ballas, died this June. He was one of those guys who kept charging after new ideas: I had the pleasure of exchanging e-mail with him some years ago. I wish I had come up with one of those "simple, effective, and useful" ideas, like his for the string trimmer.
There is an even bigger obstacle to the "average Joe" adopting "green energy" technologies...the HOA. I see articles in the paper all the time about a particular energy-efficient house design, or add-on tech...from PV to simple passive aspects which require almost cost-less overhangs, orientation, etc. I look at this stuff and the engineer in me says, "Neat! Clear benefit. Let's do it." Then I think about the HOA and the builder. Builder is not going to allow that to be built in this neighborhood (or any other they are workin on...they are a production line, and will only build a few designs in any given neighborhood). If for an existing house, the HOA is not going to approve it - because it looks a little different. Lord save us from the cookie cutters...
Government is not competent to select winning companies or products, that is why they should not do it.
If they must spend my money this way (contrary to popular belief, the government has no money of their own, they are spending my money), how do you expect these people, who's biggest accomplishment in life is winning a popularity contest, to select the "right" companies to enrich?
Only the free market can competently select the right companies.
I wouldn't necessarily go that far. My position is that people won't go back to chopping wood for their heating system, and using a septic tank instead of the sewer system. Federating the utilities that way is not what I would consider a smart way of going green.
On the other hand, that's not to say that the utilities, and our personal transportation, can't evolve. They can. In some cases, such as sensible electric cars (not relying on just a battery for energy source), the consumer would even benefit with simpler mechanical systems to worry over.
Totally agree with Bob. There has to be a good enough reason for change. Till the time the ownership and maintenance is going to rest eventually with the user, Solar is not going to succeed. There are too many lines of thought which pull one away from sacrificing something for a green tomorrow - Who knows if the earth is really running out of fossil fuels anytime soon? While, this may be a bit preposterous, I think any shift away from the conventional sources of energy would not be possible till the big oil/gas companies feel they've milked their oil investments enough. There is just too much money invested in Oil for any technological breakthrough to make them obsolete. Don't see this happening for next fifty years at least.
Bert, your observations on human nature are pretty much the same as mine. People will do a thing as long as it has some obvious benefit: economic or emotional or some other perceived value. If the trouble is too great, they pass. Personally, I don't care if the world runs out of gasoline anytime at all after roughly 2050: it just doesn't matter to me. Nevertheless, I don't pour it out on the ground, and if the mileage of one of my cars starts to drop, I find out why. The engineer in me, who says "you'll be dead by 2050" tells me not to worry about gas for people who aren't even alive yet: the same engineer tells me not to waste a resource for no good reason. Most people won't agree with this, but that's ok: I don't insist that they agree. ;-) But your point is quite right: no one is going to do the "green" thing in the long haul unless it provides some sort of benefit.