Michael Eckhart, the president of The American Council on Renewable Energy (who’s retiring after many years of wonderfully effective service to us all), served as the emcee of the Renewable Energy Finance Forum West 2010. At one point, he attempted to put the concept of “one trillion” into perspective for the audience. A million seconds is two weeks; a billion seconds ago, it was 1970; a trillion seconds ago, it was 30,000 BC.
A poignant example came up in a story about the difference between the Chinese commitment to renewables versus our own here in the US. One of the presenters had recently fought hard to get a matching $1 million grant from the DoE under the ARPA-E program, and was thrilled that we had bested the other contestants in this victory, but he heard the news as he happened to be in China, talking to an associate who had recently received the equivalent of several billion dollars. “We’re talking days and weeks; they’re talking decades and centuries,” he said.