Climate Change Economy Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader on the Easiest Way to Harness Solar Energy

One use of solar has not received enough attention.
[Harout Arabian / CC BY 2.0}

By Ralph Nader

Solar energy comes to Earthlings in many ways. Ancient Persians used passive solar architecture. East Africans about the same time funneled cool ocean wind through tunnels to cool themselves.

Now at long last, solar energy is outpacing new fossil fuel and nuclear facilities on price, environmental safety, and speed of installation.

One use of solar that has not received enough attention is drying clothes with clotheslines or clothes racks. Before global warming and our climate crisis became a public concern, some local governments banned backyard clotheslines as community eyesores. Fortunately, 20 states have passed “Right to Dry Laws” that allow people to use this simple low-tech and appropriate technology to reduce fuel consumption.

A big booster of hang-drying your laundry is environmentalist Joe Wachunas from Portland, Oregon. Twenty years ago, while traveling as an exchange student in Italy, he learned that only three percent of Italian households owned a dryer. Italians, he noticed, dried their clothes on clotheslines, high-rise balconies, or in open windows catching sun and cross breezes.

Wachunas has competed against dryers, taking only eight minutes longer to hang up a load of clothes than it takes to load a dryer, (not to mention a trip to and from a laundromat). Also, by line-drying, he estimates a savings of $600 a year per family, and your air-dried materials will last longer and shrink less.

As you might think, the great majority of people in the US use a clothes dryer. About 80 percent of Americans use dryers that gobble up more electricity in a household than other appliances (except for refrigerators). These folks will find moving to clean and green drying has many benefits.

Last March, Mary Marlowe Leverette wrote a piece on the Top 10 Reasons to Line Dry Laundry. You can save money, promote energy conservation, give your clothes more freshness, less wear and tear, increase your physical activity, help whiten and disinfect laundry, reduce fire risks (clothes dryer fires number around 15,000 structure fires, 15 deaths, and 400 injuries annually in the U.S. with property losses estimated at $99 million).

There is also the intangible value of peacefulness and harmony with nature when you spend some ten minutes to enjoy the weather. When the weather does not permit, indoor line drying increases humidity in a home during dry winter weather.

Finally, you feel you are making a small difference to protect the environment and set an example in your neighborhood or apartment building. Who knows what good things can spontaneously emerge while chatting with the neighbor or having backyard conversations, uninterrupted by iPhone distractions. The venerable clothesline makes common sense.

Also consider rejecting the crazy leaf blower (See: Shut off the leaf blowers and restore peace to suburbia, by Peter Bahouth) and the noisy gas powered lawn mower – two contributions to pollution and obesity in America. Maybe a gaze at a fluttering clothesline in the sun will persuade some users of these belching technologies on small lawns to pick up a rake and start using the old fuel-free push lawn mower. Such personal choices often lead people to become advocates for broader solar systems.

Rivulets, brooks, and streams make possible the mighty Mississippi River. Billions of people can do their part to usher in the use of more of the sun to help save the Earth from the man-made climate crisis/catastrophe.

Clothespins, anyone?


  1. Energy demand increases every year. Population increases every year.

    Total energy provided by all solar power does not even keep pace with the annual energy increase in usage. At the present growth curve 44% more total energy will be needed by 2050, the supposed net zero goal date. The population will have increased by then at least 50%, although extrapolating the current exponential growth curve would double it by then, I just find that number incredulous.

    C02 atmospheric input has gone exponential. A graph of the Y axis is vertical. We are not slowing it.

    A choice has been made, and is being made ongoing … to sacrifice the planet’s destruction on the alter of unlimited growth on a finite planet.

    Those participating in the compilation of the IPCC reports must be corrupted corporate shills. The planet surpassed 1.5C average temperature increase from what was the original pre-industrial baseline of 1750 on or about 2016. We are now nearing 2C. This is now, and has been, irreversible, abrupt, catastrophic climate change. It isn’t even necessary to read the readily available scientific literature any longer, all that is required is to open your eyes and look about.

    I will be honestly surprised if life exists on this planet beyond 2030. As this civilization comes unravelled, we leave behind 440 nuclear reactor sites which require maintenance, along with their generated waste (which we have never found a solution for dealing with, and now resides in full to the brim spent fuel rod pools at each site) in perpetuity. Our hubris in assuming we could provide that perpetual maintenance is staggering.

    The damage from the evil our species is perpetrating will endure for a geological time scale.

    But by all means a resounding YES, Ralph. Solar is great! And it will boost the ECONOMY!


  2. One of life’s simple pleasures, getting into bed between two sheets that have been line dried.

  3. This is one of the many things US americans need to appreciate. Another is the excessive use of airconditioners-many parts of the world with similar extremes of temperature as the USA use designs which manage to reduce internal temperatures of housing naturally. I have lived in the tropics and have never had air conditioners or used clothes driers.
    The main change the USA needs is to stop assuming everyone is an enemy needing expensive weapons and sanctions to protect us from them. A bit of understanding others’ points of view and even considering that they many even sometimes be right would cut our energy bill by many billions if we tried diplomacy!!!

  4. I do see an increasing number of homes with solar. How long will it take for people to realize how much they could save both monetarily and environmentally if they had solar on their homes. With battery storage improving at a rapid pace, imagine how much pollution would decrease! One might even save enough to buy an electric vehicle!

  5. Imagine that an “all of the above” energy strategy does not include nuclear, natural gas, coal, or oil, and this includes livestock food and fertilizers, but instead active/ passive solar, active/ passive wind power, active/ passive geothermal energy, active/ passive water (hydro) power, and regenerative local agriculture. It will still require generations for us to become sustainable, but there is absolutely no way we will get there with fossil fuels.

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