"Every five days the sun delivers to Earth the energy equivalent to all the fossil fuel reserves in the world."

The sun, author Stayton reminds his readers, belongs to no one. The energy it produces is freely given to all of Earth’s inhabitants. In this attention-grabbing treatise, he seeks to demonstrate how we can use that gift in a way that would benefit each individual, not only with energy but also with money. He illustrates exactly how this might come about by creating a future fantasy in which he is the central character.

In this well-conceived example, it is 2099, and the author, born in 2050, has been collecting dividends from solar power most of his life. The process begins at his birth when his parents sign him up for a 10-kilowatt section of photovoltaic panels at a local solar farm. The solar cooperative assigns the panels to his parents in the form of a loan that is paid in full by the time the child is four years old; at that time, his parents begin reaping profits from them. When he reaches age eighteen, our hero himself begins to reap those profits as a co-op member. The funds will help him live modestly while attending a free state university—free because the solar energy scheme has freed up money formerly used for welfare programs that are no longer needed. Although he never owns the panels since he can’t take them away for his private use, the author and his family will keep enjoying the financial benefits of their community use as long as he lives.

Naturally, this scenario will raise many questions in the minds of readers. Stayton has been diligent in addressing these. For example, he notes that by 2099 in his scenario, fossil fuels will hardly be used at all, and though solar energy will be more expensive, the price to consumers will be offset by the dividends they receive as “their” panels generate energy for an entire region. He projects the proliferation of solar panel farms, some of which already exist, along with new farming methods—using solar panels to shade certain crops, for example—to offset the problem of land use. He believes both liberals and conservatives will be in favor of this radical makeover, asserting that “even those who didn’t believe the science of climate change” would be in favor of the plan because of the economic benefits accruing to all on an equal basis.

Stayton is a convincing advocate for his far-reaching ideas. He is a physicist and author as well as a software expert. The format of this book is simple. Part A lays out the possibility of future solar energy development, making it easy for a reader to grasp even without great technical expertise. Part B delineates the current facts that support that development, giving cogent examples, including a wide-ranging, open-minded exploration of the thorny concept of a universal basic income (UBI), which has yet to be adopted in any country but is under discussion almost everywhere. He resists the notion that solar energy dividends would be a form of tax, arguing that they would not be collected or distributed by government. He provides a useful appendix regarding potential costs for those who wish to crunch the numbers and a solid list of other reading resources. Stayton’s thought-provoking, well-researched work has the power to draw the attention of anyone, of whatever political persuasion, who is seriously interested in global energy issues and their implications for our future.

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