A wind farm in Palm Springs, California, February 9, 2011. 
Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

The world faces a daunting array of energy challenges. Oil remains indispensable to the global economy, but it is increasingly produced in places that present big commercial, environmental, and geopolitical risks; greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere; and the odds that the world will face catastrophic climate change are increasing. These problems will only worsen as global demand for energy rises.

Environmental advocates and security hawks have been demanding for decades that governments solve these problems by mandating or incentivizing much greater use of the many alternative energy sources that already exist. The political reality, however, is that none of this will happen at the necessary scale and pace unless deploying clean energy becomes less financially risky and less expensive than it currently is. This is particularly true in the developing world.

A massive drive to develop cheaper clean-energy solutions is necessary. Indeed, many claim that it has

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