Desertec solar thermal proposal to generate 10-25% of Europe, ME, and North Africa's energy by 2050: estimated $550 billion dollars. Estimates are always low, so let's double to 1.1 trillion. Divide by 43 years = 25 billion per year (actual estimate 12.5 billion per year) Let's assume a similar item could be constructed in the American deserts.
Raising U.S. fuel efficiency by 10 mpg in 10 years should reduce imports by 15%. Not knowing what percentage of energy production is imported versus domestic, let's halve that to say the overall effect is to decrease consumption 7%. Estimated cost: $100 billion. Always low, so double it and divide by the 10 years - $20 billion a year. (This cost should be offset by lower gas costs later, but let's ignore those to make a worst case scenario.)
Wind. OK, these numbers took some time to find. The largest online wind farm in the U.S. has 421 turbines producing 735 Megawatts of power a year. That's roughly 1.75 MWs per turbine. Moreover, the U.S. produces 11,600 MWs of power per year, which is supposed to be about 1% of U.S. energy consumption. If we wanted wind power to produce 10% of the U.S. energy supply, we would be generating 116,000 MWs a year. At 1.75 MWs per turbine, that would require a total of 66,285 turbines. To make my life easier, I'm going to pretend that we have to build all of these from scratch. The Wind Energy Association estimates about 1.5 million dollars per industrial turbine, so... about 100 billion dollars. Then if we wanted to do this in 10 years, it'd be about $10 billion a year. To be pessimistic, let's say $20 billion.
Time to add
Massive solar network: 12.5 billion a year for say 15% of U.S. energy needs
Increase fuel efficiency: 20 billion a year to reduce energy consumption by 7%
Increase wind power: 20 billion a year for 10% of the energy needs
That's $52.5 billion a year to get one third (32%) of U.S. energy needs off of fossil fuels, even doubling every number I calculated and getting absolutely zero return on investment, which is obviously completely false.
Let's be a bit more aggressive.
Wind power to 20%. But if you do it in 20 years instead of 10, the per annum cost is the same. (It would actually take longer, but that reduces per year cost, so...) That brings us to 43%.
These numbers are obviously a bogus economic forecast as some costs come and go, the projects finish at different timeframes, etc., but I think they will make my point. I just want to get a very basic, basic take on the amount of money involved.
Now according to the Boston Globe, one Congressional Office estimates the cost of the Iraq war at $2 billion a week. At 52 weeks per year, that's $104 billion. Almost twice my (already doubled) estimate of the costs of reducing fossil fuel dependence by 43% in 20 years with only three mechanisms.
My point is actually not that the Iraq War is evil. You are all welcome to make that decision or not as you please. My point is actually that you hear over and over that the costs of doing anything about global warming and carbon emissions is so huge that any aggressive plan to combat it will drag destroy the world economy. And yet we are already spending double the amount I've forecasted and our economy is doing okay. I'm sure there's a drag of all the Iraq war spending, but our economy can basically handle it. Spending $52.5 billion a year is not going to destroy our $13.3 trillion dollar a year economy. Instead, it's a matter of thinking it's worth doing. Is it? Would you pay more taxes to do it? If not, what would you cut?