Badges? We don't need them to pursue clean energy

Mexican character actor Alfonso Bedoya delivered what may be one of the most frequently misquoted lines of all time.

The movie in which he delivered it is "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" and stars Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston. Bedoya played an unnamed bandit, listed in the credits as Gold Hat.

But in my mind he stole the movie with the line, "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges."

To some degree, those of us toiling away to make clean energy a viable and stable industry share a lot of similarities with Fred Dobbs, Bogart's character in the 1948 film. Dobbs meets up with the grizzled prospector Howard, played by Huston, down in Tampico, Mexico about 1925.

Together they go off in search of gold.

Clean energy gold rush

Sounds familiar. The gold this time around is the free energy around us on a daily basis. There's enough gold in them thar hills, I mean solar energy emanating from the center of our system to provide more than enough energy the world could consume. We just have to find the means to harvest that energy without breaking the bank and do it cheaper than we can by either digging coal out of the ground or sucking and processing crude oil.

No problem. Dobbs did find his gold. But bandits, most notably Gold Hat, and the realities of the desert made realizing that dream difficult. Of course there was the greed. I watched the scene in which Dobbs turns crazy for his riches with horror. I was a kid with my friend Torg in the University of Alaska's Schiable Hall on a crazy cold winter night in Fairbanks, wondering how it could be hot any place in the world.

The treasure in the case of clean energy is right in front of us. I found this bit of data at "All of California's electricity can be produced from 200 square miles of sunshine; 128,000 acres of desert land." The author of the piece helps the reader visualize that space by saying Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam, covers more than 200 square miles.

Challenge can be met

That's pretty straightforward math. The challenge is harnessing that energy, storing it for use during evening hours and creating an energy grid able to adapt to the ebbs and flows of a renewable energy reality.

It all boils down to innovation and know how. The April 2012 report, Beyond Boom & Bust, says the only solution is "to drive innovation and cost declines so that clean energy technologies can ultimately thrive on their own in American markets without subsidy."

The cost of fossil fuels is assisting that quest. So is climate change. But it can't be done without help.

Innovators wanted

Clean energy does have heroes -- adventurous types, who like Dobbs go out in search of riches. Art Rosenfeld comes to mind. He's father of the Rosenfeld Effect, which refers to how installing efficiency basically pays for future energy uses. As a member of the California Energy Commission, he applied the ground-breaking policy to the state and enabled it to save enough energy to avoid having to build far more electrical generation plants.

Another standout is Amory Lovins, chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, who has packaged his ideas for a fossil-free future in his latest project, dubbed "Reinventing Fire." The concept is to divest the economy completely of crude oil and coal by 2050, using private enterprise to do it.

There's also sustainable energy advocate and writer Al Weinrub. He argues that decentralized energy, or putting renewable systems in as many places in a community as possible, generates wealth, spurs economic revitalization and helps adapt to climate change.

And there are many thousands more, people like Pete Moe, who helped organize the energy efficient auto segment of Fresno Earth Day 2012, or Connie Young, who convinced me to answer potential questions after the screening of "Your Environmental Road Trip." The documentary chronicles a group of friends going to every state in the Union to find the most interesting clean energy innovators. (Shameless plug: The event is planned for 6 p.m. April 21, a Saturday, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 2672 E. Alluvial Ave., between Chestnut and Willow avenues, in Clovis.)

Credentials come with results

This all boils down to that infamous line of Bedoya's. When Gold Hat is taken to task by Dobbs for not having any credentials, he takes offense. After all, he wants the prize as much as Dobbs.

Heck, we all do. Being able to see the Sierra in summer would be phenomenal here in the San Joaquin Valley. Currently, a thick haze blankets that view. I'd prefer cleaner air and an unabstructed look at the mountains naturalist John Muir routinely hiked in and thought of as beautiful.

I was inspired to write this post by Jim Beaver of who wrote hundreds of bios on obscure actors, honoring their work and illuminating for fans like me the people behind celluloid memories. Beaver's research revealed the man behind the line, a guy who had the same dreams as the rest of us, pursuing a better life.

Alfonso Bedoya, Gold Hat

Here's some of Beaver's entry: Bedoya "achieved his greatest success in U.S. films. He was born in a tiny village in Mexico and he had a nomadic upbringing, living in numerous places throughout the country including, for a time, Mexico City. He received a private education in Houston, Texas as a teenager, but dropped out and roamed about doing an assortment of jobs. His family, however, brought him back to Mexico City, where he subsequently found work in the struggling Mexican film industry.

"He appeared in many Mexican films before director John Huston offered him the role of Gold Hat in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). Bedoya stole the scenes in which he appeared as the smiling cutthroat and delivered the famous line about not needing any 'stinking badges.' He made a number of popular films in the U.S. in the next nine years, but a drinking problem destroyed his health. He died at the age of 53," the same year Bogart died.