Even the most ardent defenders of fossil fuels are forced to concede that the energy they provide comes at a steep environmental cost. That's why many activists insist that we leave fossil fuels behind entirely and switch to greener energy sources like wind and solar power. The problem with making that switch is that none of the alternatives to fossil fuel have been economically viable. Furthermore, such alternatives have not been available on the scale necessary to replace traditional fuel sources.

The good news is that there are promising signs that this may be changing.

SolarCity, which established a presence in Utah with its installed solar panels at the Utah National Guard Building and the Olympic Skating Oval, announced that it is establishing a regional headquarters in the Beehive State that is expected to create 4,000 new jobs over the course of the next 10 years. In addition, VivintSolar, a similar company that operates out of Lehi, anticipates adding another 3,000 jobs in the solar industry over the same time frame.

Brendon Merkley, SolarCity's executive director of customer operations, praised Utah's "wonderful business climate" and noted that not only will this expansion have a positive environmental impact, it will also "save money at the same time," which he rightly notes is "the best of both worlds."

It's also a frank acknowledgement that a move away from fossil fuels is far more likely when the transition is in the economic best interests of the public at large. Currently, Utah only receives roughly 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources, mainly because such energy is far more expensive than fossil fuels, and often requires government subsidies in order to make it affordable for consumers.

Indeed, the state of Utah is providing almost $37 million in tax credits for these two solar companies as incentives to create these jobs. That's a bargain, since it won't require any direct revenue from state coffers and will increase economic activity that will result in greater tax receipts down the road. But while tax credits are not direct subsidies, they are evidence of the reality that renewable energy sources still aren't quite ready to stand on their own.

Debate over energy use usually includes a good deal of vilification of "Big Oil" or other such forces. Such demonization is designed to shame people into abandoning traditional fuel sources, and, for the most part, it's both ineffective and unnecessary. The vast majority of people would be more than happy to use alternative fuels if they were both abundantly available and cost effective. When it comes to green energy, people respond to the carrot much better than the stick.