As a podcaster and self confessed IT geek, I subscribe to a newsletter published by Phil Windley titled IT Conversations. It is part of a terrific blog and podcast enterprise of the same name. Phil and his crew have been recording talks, panel discussions and keynote speeches at various IT conferences for several years, providing a great service for people who would never have the time, energy or money to attend all of the gatherings. It is a great way to keep up with the thinking of the leaders in the field.
Not only have they been providing that service, but they have created some great audio tools like The Levelator that have helped me and other podcasters improve the quality of our shows without adding to the cost of producing them.
Imagine my shock and horror – and I am speaking to those of you who have been reading Atomic Insights for a while – when I opened my October 25, 2007 issue of the newsletter and saw this opening:
Phil Windley’s Latest News from IT Conversations…
This week’s newsletter contains these stories:
* Amory Lovins on IT Conversations
* Top Ten IT Conversations Shows for September 2007
If you are new to this blog, you can catch up on why I describe my feeling as shock and horror by simply performing a search of Atomic Insights for the word “Lovins” using that search box up at the top left corner of the page. (It is the blank space to the right of the white B with the orange background, you know, the one that has the words “Search Blog” to the right of it.)
Anyway, I digress. Phil apparently is attracted to Lovins’s message of doing more with less – a message with which I have a particular issue. In the real world, if you want to do more, you need to use more, spend more or work more. That is, of course, assuming that you are not stupid or lazy and that you are not throwing your energy or your money away right now. If you want a bigger car, it will use more fuel, a bigger home will use more electricity, and a longer, faster trip through the air will also use more fuel.
Here is what Phil said about a series of talks recently given by Amory Lovins at Stanford:
I’m cross posting the Lovins lectures on ITC. The first lecture (see part I and part II) is on energy efficiency for buildings. This lecture has been highly rated by SIC listeners and I think ITC listeners will enjoy it too.
The second lecture, on energy efficiency in buildings (see part I, part II, and part III), has also been well received.
Many people I talk to are put off my environmentalism because it seems to always be telling them that they should “suffer” for the earth’s sake. People don’t like that message. One of the refreshing things about Armory’s message is that you can do the right thing by the earth and be better off—more from less. That’s a refreshing message and accounts for a great deal of the appeal. If you’re interested in how good, smart design can result in more comfort with significantly reduced energy footprints, then I think you’ll like these lectures as well.
I provide a different message that, to me, is just as attractive. If you and others take the time to learn the basic physics and chemistry necessary to understand atomic fission and you peel back all of the mythology that has been fed to the world for the past 40-50 years to look at the real record, you will find that there is an almost unlimited source of new, clean, affordable energy that can replace most of what fossil fuel consumption currently provides. It can not only do that, but do it better. It just takes a bit of work to get past the propaganda that has been enabled through the support of the established energy industries that do not like the competition that fission provides.
Phil’s blog accepts comments – after approval – so I entered the following comment. I hope he approves it and engages in some discussion.
Lovins definitely provides an “appealing” message – you can use your energy and have it too. Unfortunately, the real world is governed by things like the laws of thermodynamics, physics and chemistry. The real world has summers, winters, rainy days, sunny days, still days, windy days, floods and droughts.
Lovins has been successfully preaching his message of “negawatts” for at least 30 years, ever since Foreign Affairs published Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken in its November 1977 issue. The article received attention in the New York Times and Lovins appeared before Congress to testify. In the intervening time since that article was published, Lovins has consulted for the government, major energy companies, and energy consumers like Wal-Mart. He has published a number of books and appeared on numerous TV interview programs. In other words, his message is “out there”.
However, the world continues to increase its use of energy. We now burn more than 6.5 BILLION tons of coal each year (up from less than 4 billion in 1977). Oil and natural gas consumption are also up by similar amounts. Electricity use world wide has increased about twice as fast as the use of fossil fuels since 1977. (All can be supported with data available from the thousands of charts, graphs and spreadsheets published by the US Energy Information Agency at www.eia.doe.gov.)
The lure of negawatts is simply a vision or a mirage. It is not working because people want the convenience and comfort that come from using physics and chemistry to do work that would otherwise have to be done by them. As we dream of the world that Lovins describes, where all you need to do to have enough energy is to use less of it, we continue to fill our atmosphere with the deadly waste products of increased combustion.
There is a better way that takes a bit more work and study. We know how to produce massive quantities of reliable, low cost energy using a different physical technique called nuclear fission. That process is far more efficient – if you could power a car using fission, you could achieve real nirvana – the car would go about 760 Million miles on a “gallon” of fuel. (http://www.atomicinsights.com/FTROU/3-06-01.html) We cannot quite do that, but we can and do power cities with a million residents using about 3 kilograms of fuel each day. We also have ships and submarines that can operate for 30 years without refueling.
The very best thing about fission is that the by-products can be carefully retained and prevented from ever reaching the environment. For the most part, these by-products can be recycled into new fuel or other valuable products.
Unfortunately, Lovins and many of his friends do not like fission. I cannot explain why other than to point back to my comment about his activities over the years since his “no nukes, use negawatts instead” message became popular enough to get him employed as a consultant to energy companies, governments and other establishment firms.
Yes, I believe that Lovins’s income sources has something to do with his message about using natural gas and coal as bridge fuels to a utopia that will never come.