In a moment of idealogical clairvoyance, Carter admonished:
This dependence on foreign sources of oil is of great concern to all of us. In the year 2000, this solar water heater behind me, which is being dedicated today, will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy. A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.
In a move no less symbolic, and sharpened by its irony, Reagan removed the system in 1981.
We've happened upon the proverbial fork in the Road, and not taken it.
Today, the US energy portfolio is comprised of 0.07% solar thermal and photovoltaic energy, but the industry shows signs of promise, especially compared to other renewable technologies (see below).
Thin-film technology, the next generation of PV cells, have the potential to reduce production costs by a factor of 10 or more without major efficiency losses. With the volatility of the crude oil market and continued "quick-learn" solar market characteristics due to technological breakthroughs, there may very well be Another Dawn for Solar Power. Currently, the PV market grows by roughly 30% per annum with an associated 0.8 experience factor (a doubling in PV market activity corresponds to an 80% price reduction per peak Watt). With even limited government incentives for PV installations in the form of tax rebates, feed-in tariffs, etc. the market can be catalyzed forward. The Japanese and German governments have been stellar performers in solar energy policy enactments - in Germany, a 350% increase in installed PV Wattage has occurred since 1995. Austin Energy already has such an incentive program: "Austin Energy offers customers one of the country's best solar photovoltaic rebates, at $4.50 per watt. This pays between 45% and 75% of the cost of installing a system."
Carter's words hold all of the relevance of their contextual climate even now and speak to the Baby-Boomer Generation's failure to heed the careful cautiousness of his undertones. The rhetoric found in Carter's Malaise Speech and in Obama's Inaugural Address has brought these issues to the forefront of the public discourse. Now we find ourselves in the midst of another energy crisis, one which is not simply a foreign policy predicament - as perhaps Carter's was, but one of society, environment, and human survival.