Amory Lovins suggests additional areas of agreement between us
Amory Lovins understands that high quality blogging requires interaction between the author and the people who take time to make comments. He actively engages with readers after he publishes posts on Forbes.com. He even visits here and engages on occasion. I admire that and enjoy the opportunity to spar with a famous person whose views are so different from my own.
Our most recent interaction on Forbes includes several different comment threads on the same post, but one of those has been especially interesting to me.
I started it with the following statements inside one of my comments.
There are few areas of agreement between Amory and I. The primary one I can think of is that we both put distributed clean power generation near the top of our list of items worth developing and deploying.
He adamantly opposes my favorite proven, specific technology. I fell in love with distributed nuclear energy systems more than 40 years ago. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity of living off of the grid with all of the power we ever needed and most of the power we ever wanted. (I’m a Tim the Tool Man fan; “more power” is always welcome.)
He responded with the following.
Amory B. Lovins
I do have opinions. They evolve over time, because as a scientist I’m perpetually skeptical. (I began in the early 1960s thinking nuclear power sounded like a good idea, until I learned more. Fifty years later, I’m not convinced that another 180˚ turn is justified.)
However, I also think that arithmetic is not an opinion. My blog is rich in facts. If it errs in facts or logic, I hope you’ll specify where.
Rod, I appreciate your acknowledgement of an area of agreement, and suspect there are more, such as the value and virtue of (a) using energy efficiently and (b) designing, building, and running the grid resiliently so it’s invulnerable to failures caused by accident or malice.
Here is how I answered his comment.
@Amory B Lovins
You’re batting .750 with your additional areas of agreement. I’m very supportive of resiliency investments. As my then 4-year old daughter once told me when we were experiencing yet another Saturday morning power outage (long story)
“I never want to live any place where there’s no power.”
On using energy efficiently, I’d say we probably half agree and half vehemently disagree. I’m a technologist by degree and by professional experience. I like smooth running, quiet, powerful machinery and appliances that perform their assigned tasks without wasted effort. That is what I consider to be efficient operation.
I very much dislike treating “energy efficiency” as the prime objective. As the ideal Carnot cycle math demonstrates, the most energy efficient machine requires an infinitely large heat source and heat sink with working fluid flows that are very slow in order to minimize frictional losses.
Real machines have other design constraints that require some sacrifices in “energy efficiency.” Heat sink size might need to be smaller than ideal in order to fit into the space allowed. Heat sources might need to run at a cooler than ideal temperature in order to allow large step increases in material costs as limits are reached. Lighting that appears to be energy inefficient in a hot climate might be quite efficient during winter heating months AND provide cheaper, higher quality light.
Finally, I don’t ascribe to the idea that one should drive the absolutely most “energy efficient” automobile. I like having extra power under the hood and having extra seats and luggage space in case I have a carpool or simply want to fit all of my grandkids in with their car seats for a few trips each year.
I don’t yet own one, but I also love power boats as well as sailboats. They serve different purposes, but power boats burn up a lot of fuel that I don’t really “need” to use. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure there is plenty more where that came from, especially if we stop wasting so much on power generation, industrial heating and ship propulsion.
I, too have strong opinions and express them freely. I base many of them on 35 years worth of professional experience, including having actually operated and designed nuclear power plants. I’ve operated just about every other kind of power source you can imagine (except geothermal and OTEC). Hands down, the safest, cleanest, and coolest power technology I’ve ever operated was the S5-W reactor on the USS Von Steuben. (I never had a chance to operate one of the even cooler, newer models that the Navy program has produced. I also have never had a chance to operate an Adams Engine, but perhaps I will in about ten more years. I’m still patiently waiting for the TRISO fuel qualification process to completed.)
Because of my first hand knowledge of nuclear power plants, I remain perplexed by why a smart guy like you have such a jaundiced view of nuclear energy.
I do know, however, that instead of actually completing a formal degree program that would give you credentials as a scientist, you dropped out to take a paid staff position with David Brower’s then nascent Friends of the Earth.
That organization still brags about the fact that its very first campaign was aimed at trying to stop Diablo Canyon’s initial construction.
FOE still likes to tell its creation story of how David Brower led a split from the Sierra Club because it was not sufficiently strong in its opposition to nuclear energy. The part they don’t remember or don’t like to talk about is the fact that the man who provided the initial funds to begin campaigning against nuclear energy was Robert O. Anderson, the CEO of the Atlantic Richfield Co.
At the time, 1969, ARCO had made some huge finds after substantial exploration investments in Alaska. Unfortunately, that oil was stranded because it needed to be able to command prices that were 3x the market price for oil in order to finance the construction of the delivery infrastructure.
Halting the development of nuclear energy in California was one part of a multi-pronged strategy ensure that there would be sufficient demand to support that kind of pricing.
By my way of thinking, you have at least an historical conflict of interest. You worked for a number of years for an organization with a vested interest in not allowing Diablo Canyon to compete with oil and natural gas.
Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights
I’ve been engaged in an email discussion with Damon Moglen, the man listed as the media contact for the FOE press release bragging about its historical relationship with Diablo Canyon.
That’s worth sharing as well. (People who work as media contacts understand that anything they write back to a media inquiry is fair game for quoting.)
June 21, 2016 9:15 PM
Dear Mr. Moglen
I noted with interest that FOE has reminded readers of your press release about the Diablo deal that FOE’s first agenda item in 1969 was fighting the plant’s initial construction.
The release mentioned David Brower, who formed FOE after leaving the Sierra Club. It failed to mention who provided the initial funds for FOE’s first campaign. Do you know who that was?
Brower was a famous activist, but he wasn’t independently wealthy enough to fund his new group.
June 21, 2016 10:27 PM
Hello Mr Adams, thank you for your note. No, I do not know who that was that funded Brower in 69?! I was 7 and would not become a devoted anti-nuclear activist and organizer until I graduated from college in 84. Please share… Sincerely, Damon
June 22, 2016 1:17 PM
The donor was Robert O. Anderson. He was the founder of the Aspen Institute. In addition, he was the CEO of Atlantic Richfield Co. ARCO, one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies.
In the late 1960s, ARCO was holding onto an exploration project in Alaska that looked like a lost cause. There was lots of oil, but extracting it and getting it to market needed oil prices to be more than 3 times higher than the prevailing $3/barrel.
I was only 10 and a resident of South Florida in 1969, so I don’t have any first hand knowledge either.
However, my English teacher mom bequeathed a love of learning, reading and history. My electrical engineer dad gave me a love of numbers, and the 1973 oil price spike taught me to distrust oil and gas company executives.
Finally, my service as a nuclear submarine engineer officer taught me that we discovered an energy source clean enough to run in sealed buildings before Jan 17, 1955.
Publisher, Atomic Insights
So far, Damon has not responded to the information that I shared. I’ll let you know if he does.
PS: In Amory’s first comment quoted above, he makes the following statement:
However, I also think that arithmetic is not an opinion. My blog is rich in facts. If it errs in facts or logic, I hope you’ll specify where.
I should have reminded him that I’ve already done exactly that, a bit higher up in the comment thread on his blog.
Rod Adams 2 days ago
I listened to the press conference that the parties to the agreement to divide the spoils of closing Diablo Canyon held yesterday.
There are a few fine points that your post does not touch.
1. PG&E’s model for the future cost of operating Diablo Canyon indicated that the cost per kilowatt hour was going to double as a direct result of CURRENT state renewable portfolio energy policies. That was going to happen because the company would be forced to LOWER the amount of power it could produce from the plant in order to meet the state’s requirement of producing 50% of its electricity from qualified renewable energy sources. Capacity factor dropping from current 92% to 50% virtually doubles the price per kilowatt-hour since costs are essentially fixed.
In 2015, PG&E produced about 58% of its power from either qualified renewable, large hydro or nuclear sources, but the new state law is silent about nuclear and large hydro as emission free sources.
2. The agreement DOES NOT specify replacement of Diablo Canyon’s 17,000 GW-hrs/yr of emission-free electricity. It only requires two “tranches” of energy efficiency and renewable energy procurements before 2031 that together total just 4,000 GW-hrs. I know you consider yourself a math wiz, but it takes amazingly creative figuring to say that 4,000 is even remotely close to 17,000. It’s less than 25%!
3. PG&E could not confirm NRDC’s savings estimate. They repeatedly stated that they had no idea what the total cost of the decision was going to be, just that it would be less than continuing to operate Diablo Canyon under a scenario where they had to keep operating less and less each year. Again, that reduced operation has NOTHING to do with plant aging or reliability and everything to do with a state law that forces the company to buy unreliables instead of using its own nuclear power.
4. Your summary of Tony Earley’s resume left out one important feature that made him eminently qualified to sign this deal on behalf of PG&E stockholders. He was the Chief Counsel for LILCO when that company negotiated a bailout from the state that protected corporate investors while leaving Long Island ratepayers holding the liability for Shoreham.
Please explain how this situation is supposed to save taxpayers, ratepayers or our common environment. It had better serve as an example for all of the rest of the states to avoid at all costs.
Rod Adams Publisher, Atomic Insights
It’s great that you two are discussing this important topic!
FWIW, what I would like Mr. Lovins to explain is whether he still stands by what he said a few decades ago, in 1977:
“If you ask me, it’d be a little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it. We ought to be looking for energy sources that are adequate for our needs, but that won’t give us the excesses of concentrated energy with which we could do mischief to the earth or to each other.” — Amory Lovins
Ever since I first saw that quote (taken from an interview with Mr. Lovins in 1977, with Playboy Magazine), I’ve been fairly suspicious about anything Mr. Lovins writes about clean, cheap, abundant energy. Since Mr. Lovins has stated that he regards clean, cheap, abundant energy as disastrous, how can we trust that Mr. Lovins is honestly working to report on – let alone promote – clean, cheap, energy?
Isn’t it likely that Mr. Lovins is doing his best to *prevent* the development of cheap, clean energy, since he regards said as disastrous? And isn’t it possible that this is precisely why Mr. Lovins dislikes nuclear power so much?
If Mr. Lovins would revisit his 1977 statement and explain if anything has changed in his opinion on cheap, clean energy since then, I’d like to know about it!
Call me cynical, but if Lovins hasn’t “altered” his vindicated amusement — er, view — this late in the game with NPPs shutting down left and right and antis breaking out champagne, I say pass up this Mother Theresa challenge and try to convert others more receptive sitting on the fence about nuclear.
I’ll say it again. I never debate people expecting to change their minds. I engage in public debates with people who have strong opposing views to mine as a way to influence the audience.
I’m pretty confident that when they read or hear both sides, do some independent thinking, observe the world around them and strengthen their questioning attitudes that I’ll attract a majority to the truth.
I still object to Lovins embellishing his public persona by claiming status as a “scientist”. I know you have looked into this and published your findings on your blog back in 2006, but many here may not have seen that. Lovins “received” an M.A. (not M.S.) from Oxford “by virtue of being a don”, which to me does not sound like the traditional manner of having earned a degree by satisfactory completion of a prescribed course of study. Further, most scientists I have known usually hold a Ph.D., which goes considerably beyond the M.S. requirements.
“a person who is trained in a science and whose job involves doing scientific research or solving scientific problems”
Degree, degree – he don’t need no stinkin’ degree (or badges).
The key phrase in your definition is “who is trained in science.” Yes, there is no need for a degree granted by an accredited college or university. Many great scientists in history did not have formal degrees.
They did, however, receive training from other people who were already scientists and had expertise in doing scientific research or solving scientific problems. Often, that training was in the form of a lengthy apprenticeship involving years worth of laboratory or field work.
Although science has plenty of room for “self-taught” knowledge development and refinement, it is difficult to imagine how one can actually become a scientist without some formal teaching and mentoring during the formative portions of the career.
I’ve researched Amory Lovins and asked him directly about the training he received. I’m willing to accept an unconventional answer, but so far, the answers have not been forthcoming. I’ve also read a great deal of his work – certainly not all of it. He is a prolific writer whose been publishing for at least 40 years.
I might have missed the books or articles that document his “job involving scientific research or solving scientific problems” using the scientific method. He’s written a ton of policy commentary and what amounts to “visionary” or futuristic stuff about engineering or technology choices, but I’d like for someone to point to articles or books that show that he is (or was) a practicing “scientist”.
From Edison to Jobs, many great innovators and thinkers did not have degrees. http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1988080_1988093_1988082,00.html
For many entrepreneurs the linear model of sitting in classrooms and pumping knowledge into their brains for later use is highly suboptimal. Your long apprenticeship hypothesis is just that, an unsubstantiated hypothesis. Neither Jobs nor Edison had college degrees nor extensive internships yet they are among our most influential technologists. Rod if your positions are strong then you don’t need to go on a degree witch hunt in an attempt to discredit the other guy. Your arguments should stand on their own.
Did Edison go to college? https://www.nps.gov/edis/faqs.htm
Young “Al” Edison went to school only a few months. His teachers thought he was very slow. Afterward his mother taught him at home. He then taught himself by reading constantly and trying experiments in the basement. He never attended any technical school, college or university. In later life, he said that his mother was the person most responsible for his success.
Edison had strong opinions about education. Most schools, he believed, taught children to memorize facts, when they ought to have students observe nature and to make things with their hands. “I like the Montessori method,” he said. “It teaches through play. It makes learning a pleasure. It follows the natural instincts of the human being . . . The present system casts the brain into a mold. It does not encourage original thought or reasoning.”
In fact degrees and reputation are sometimes misused. Consider your use of BPA wind power to discredit the concept if aggregating wind power to reduce intermittency. BPA, you are aware of this I assume, is highly intermittent in comparison with other regions. It has among the worst duration curves of any economic wind sites in the country. And while the BPA service territory is quite large, the actual area for viable wind power is very small. On an energy basis it is a great region for wind and with the ample hydro resources it is well equipped to moderate the unusually high swings in wind production https://i1.wp.com/i130.photobucket.com/albums/p278/BruceMcF/EV/Western_Electricity_Regions_Duration_Curve_zps794f1da4.jpg
I have a huge amount of admiration for both Edison and Jobs. I appreciate the fact that you called them “influential technologists” because that is exactly what they were. Wozinac and Gates are also prime examples. As a matter of fact, that is what I believe I am, though I have not achieved anything remotely close to the success of any of those people yet.
My problem is that the vast majority of the people in the world who hear the word “scientist” are not thinking of tinkers, entrepreneurs, engineers or applied technologists. They are thinking of people who have spent a lot of time in classrooms and laboratories with learned people priming their brains with a body of knowledge, techniques, ethics and professional practices that go along with being a professional scientist.
Every government agency and company that I know of has human resource requirements that must be met before someone can be hired into a position with scientist in the title. (I spent four years in the headquarters of the human resources department of the Navy. We called it OPNAV N1 – Manpower, Personnel, Education and Training.)
My reason for pointing to Lovins academic record is that I believe it is evidence of resume inflation because he has been calling himself a scientist (or a physicist) for more than 40 years. He tells people that he was educated at Harvard and Oxford, two very prestigious schools that offer widely respected degrees, but until about 2006, he wasn’t very transparent about the fact that he dropped out of both schools rather early in the normal degree progression process.
Finally, I use BPA wind power simply because it is the only large system I know of that publishes near real time graphs that show the relationships between supply and demand with details about each contributing type of power source. If you know of others, please share them with me and I will use them as well.
No one questions that you can be an achiever without a college degree. The exception I take in this case is the use of a claimed degree as a vehicle for influencing public opinion. Once that is done, it is fair game to check out the validity of the claims. If the information is sketchy, or ambiguous, or likely to be misconstrued by those unfamiliar with an institution’s or country’s academic pedigree process, and that misunderstanding or incomplete knowledge is used to embellish an otherwise weak academic background, then legitimate criticism can be made of that tactic. We’ve had examples of that right here on Atomic Insights. For awhile we had a nuclear critic posting as Dr. John ******, Ph.D. The question was raised as to the redundancy in using a title and then degree letters. It’s like saying Dr. Dr. So-And-So. That appeared to be an attempt to bolster his opinions by appeal to authority, which is a logical fallacy.
Dr. John Dudley Miller, PhD actually did earn a PhD from Harvard. His use of both Dr. and PhD might have been a little redundant, but at least both were true.
However, he was guilty of a bit of resume embellishment that is not dissimilar from claiming an unusual sounding degree from an unfamiliar educational system.
He repeated claimed to have been trained as an Engineering Officer of the Watch on two different nuclear power plants. The claim was factual, but it implies a lot more than it actually meant. Only people with detailed knowledge of the Navy’s nuclear power training and personnel assignment programs would be suspicious enough to try to find out what the claim was hiding.
Here’s the rest of the story:
Was John Dudley Miller a nuclear engineering officer in the US Navy?
Wozinac actually finished his degree program eventually.
At this point Lovins has established himself. Work coming out of RMI is well documented as one would expect of a scholar so to me it appears much more to be looking for a way to discredit and ‘take him out’ due to who the messenger is rather than what the quality of the message is. Except for purely academic pursuits credentialing rapidly becomes irrelevant as a person proves themselves in their discipline. If Lovins misled 30 years ago, his bad. But apparently he got the message as his Forbes blog bio starts off by stating “I’m an American physicist and honorary architect, Swedish engineering academician, former Oxford don, and Harvard and Oxford dropout. ” The same credentialing is likewise acknowledged at the RMI web site.
The fact that Lovins has established himself does not negate the credibility or integrity issue associate with buffing up a resume.
There have been a number of well publicized cases of resume inflation that took decades to uncover, resulting in the person climbing to positions of responsibility based on the initial false impression.
Very smart people have been known to get impatient with the process of building a career and have taken short cuts. They can often spin a pretty convincing tale and develop plenty of contacts and followers who have confidence in the stories they tell and prescriptions they offer.
Sometimes, they end up having to pay the piper when others recognize that the dog they’re selling “don’t hunt.”
Readers who are not as deep into this topic as I am might be interested in reading one of articles written about Lovins during the time he was being introduced to the world as an energy guru.
Amory Lovins: Energy Analyst and Environmentalist
He has established himself only as consistently, ridiculously wrong.
Or did you purchase a hydrogen hypercar last year? According to Lovins, they’ve been in showrooms for 10 years now.
I did not question the validity of Miller’s degree, although I thought it somewhat foolish of him to do the Dr.-Dr. thing, as if replication adds weight. For someone who is supposedly so self-proclaimed smart, it is a silly mistake. Anyway, his academic training gives him credentials as a psychologist.
So far as nuclear experience, your historical post describes it as “light”, which I guess is true given what I read in that thread. He claims to be a “nuclear reporter” (whatever that is), but his “reporting” seems more like propaganda and advocacy than dispassionate reporting.
He probably was doing it out of habit. Psychologists have the dicey situation that they are part of the medical field but they are not MDs and yet psychiatrists are MDs. There are important professional distinctions between what psychiatrists, psychologists and other counselors can claim and services they can offer. So the distinction matters and most habitually refer to themselves as Dr. First Last, PhD.
No, Clayton, that’s not how it works.
You do that, you look like a pompous idiot.
I guess in today’s PC world-gone-mad, self-identification and proclamation becomes reality simply by word of mouth. Wake up one morning, say you “feel” like a woman ” (even though you’re not), self-identify as that, and go and use the women’s restroom, thereby stirring a national controversy and wasting months and years of time and billions of dollars to debate and resolve, when thw whole time all you had to do was look at the DNA coding. So maybe you wake up one morning and decide to call yourself a “scientist”, even though you have no formal education and training as such. But you can go out and write a ton of papers and influence energy policy worldwide by both what you say and what you say you are.
To be honest, I am reluctant to go down that road. You’ll have millions of snake-oil salesmen proclaiming their way is the way and that it is so because of the “credentials” as a “scientist”. I place more weight on those who have demonstrated ability to analyze data and synthesize ideas and policies based on a background of doing precisely that, in an open, accepted, and proven environment (i.e., earning a degree from an accredited institution). That said, it is not impossible that such individuals (those who hold degrees) can be wrong, and that we would disagree with them based on analysis and reasoning of our own. At least then the process will play out in a way that appeals to vague and scanty credentials are avoided. I grant that experience is also a valid component of credentials even though you get no degree for it, but such experience is generally documented and verifiable (e.g., serving on a nuclear submarine as an engineering officer, or holding an SRO license for a power reactor).
OK … so now I’m confused. If you decided to call yourself a “scientist,” which bathroom do you get to use? 😉
LOL. Well, he might demand his own bathroom, maybe with rose petals floating in the toilet water.
I grant that experience is also a valid component of credentials even though you get no degree for it, but such experience is generally documented and verifiable e.g., serving on a nuclear submarine as an engineering officer, or holding an SRO license for a power reactor
“energy advisor to major firms and governments in 65+ countries for 40+ years; author of 31 books and 600 papers; and an integrative designer of superefficient buildings, factories, and vehicles. He has received the Blue Planet, Volvo, Zayed, Onassis, Nissan, Shingo, and Mitchell Prizes, the MacArthur and Ashoka Fellowships, the Happold, Benjamin Franklin, and Spencer Hutchens Medals, 12 honorary doctorates”
Quotes are supposed to be on the first paragraph above.
I’m not impressed by honorary degrees, which are basically worthless. Same for “medals” and “prizes” from advocacy groups or institutions founded strictly to advance one point of view. Those generally aren’t worth the metal they are cast from. As far as “advisor” to various firms and governments, hell, anybody can claim to do that with a little effort. Shoot, even the work I have done along those lines makes Lovins look like small potatoes. But I don’t claim it as some sort of validation for my particular views, just that I have done a job for someone willing to pay me. That’s neither here nor there. And publishing a boatload of books and articles that say basically the same thing is pretty much of a non-starter in terms of credibility. My point above was to reinforce the earlier posters’ points about people like Edison and Jobs and Faraday, people who may not have had a degree but nonetheless had a real record of concrete achievement, something that goes beyond publishing reams of articles in marginal journals, or “advising” some group here or there about some issue you have already staked a claim to and are pushing a viewpoint rather than creating something new and useful.
It’s interesting that this time around that when Mr. Lovin’s published his usual “fact” filled anti-nuclear article, the only positive comments received have so far have been his own self-published rebuttals to negative reviews despite the article being viewed over 21K times.
Years past it would have been a number of echo chamber comments along the lines of: “Yeah way go Dr. Lovins, that’s the way to show the big bad nuclear companies who are slowly killing us”. Even in the Forbes forum, any number of Lovins’ true believers would have provided positive commentary.
However, Mr. Lovins now finds himself on the receiving end of questioning individuals who are more experienced in power plant and grid operations and are now beginning to fight back. As usual though, he falls back onto his own reports that are filled with data points which are used to weave a fog of facts that make it appear he is speaking an undeniable truth that is equivalent to gravity. It is a purposeful tactic since it makes a debate difficult allowing the speaker to keep shifting to a new data point after the previous data point has been called into question.
For example, I see that he has referenced his own report from 2013 that uses Koplow’s analysis from 2011 published through the UCS as PROOF that nuclear power receives more in subsidies then wind and solar combined by declaring the Price-Anderson Act a federal subsidy for nuclear power. That falsehood has been driven to ground repeatedly, but Lovins will continue to confuse the issues with a fog of self-published data points as long as he can.
The fight for to keep Diablo Canyon open is getting interesting.
Amory Lovins is basically the Duane Gish of the energy debate. He throws out a long string of assertions and “evidence” which allows little time for rebuttal in a debate format, and leads to a lot of TL/DNR in an internet forum setting. Its fine to buttress your arguments with valid references to other works, but when all you do is reference your own work, it becomes more modus ponens than persuasion.
Lovins called himself a scientist. I don’t follow. Did he finally get a degree somewhere?
The wording that was on the Rocky Mountain Institute said that Lovins “received an Oxford MA (by virtue of being a don)”. I’ll be the first to admit that I have no idea what that means precisely. It would seem simpler just to say “He earned an M.A. in physics” from wherever. In any case, evidently he has a Master of Arts, supposedly in physics.
Whether or not that qualifies one as a “scientist”, I don’t know. I have earned graduate degrees from two separate universities of traditional, residence-type format (no on-line credits). In none of these did anyone claim the title of “scientist” without having a Ph.D. in one of the approved degree programs. But I suppose in this age of self-identification, one can claim to be just about anything and not be challenged for fear of being labeled some kind “-ist” or “-ic”.
No. Lovins doesn’t even have a real undergraduate degree. He is a college dropout.
Which seems weird to me because every graduate school I know of has the requirement of an earned baccalaureate. So I don’t see how one could claim to hold an M.A. in something without a bachelor’s degree preceding it.
That’s because Lovins’s MA is an honorary one — just as honorary as his nine or so “PhD’s.” It was given to him by Oxford to meet one of their obscure rules about who is allowed to belong to one of their special clubs.
Personally, I don’t think that Lovins was ever part of a genuine graduate program at Oxford, since it would have been surprising for him to have been accepted without an undergraduate degree. I think that he just knew some influential people and just hung around for a while, perhaps helping out in one of the labs or something.
If that is the case and he is passing himself off as having earned through passing a course of study an M.A. in physics, either by outright stating it or by not correcting the record if people assume it (erring by omission), it is treading close to professional fraud. For the record, I’m not saying he is, because it is still not clear to me how Oxford “awards” degrees whereas here they are either earned or honorary degrees, but I have to wonder in any case why someone in the public eye would risk embarrassment and exposure simply for some sense of ego satisfaction. Because if that isn’t the reason, we can infer what the true motivation might be.
He’s not lying. He has accurately described himself. It is sketchy, however, that how he represents himself is very easily misinterpreted, particularly by the vast majority of the public who have no knowledge whatsoever of the peculiarities of British academia, but none of this matters, because the lies he tells in the stuff that he writes and sells completely dwarf any ambiguities about his educational background (or lack thereof).
Lovins’s audience does not read and admire him because of any of the credentials that he might or might not have. They listen to him only because he tells them exactly what they want to hear. He could claim to have once been the King of France, and they wouldn’t care one bit. They just want a confirmation of what they have always believed, repeated with some impressive jargon-sounding gobbledygook thrown in and backed by the reputation of a professional-sounding “institute.”
The guy has been selling snake-oil for 40 years now. You don’t last that long without being good at the game. The predictions he made in his seminal paper are laughable now, but nobody cares. He has moved on, and by being patient, he can now start claiming victory for every nuclear power plant that is being closed prematurely today.
Well, then, I have an issue with someone who takes advantage of sketchy information or impressions to somehow present himself as something he is not, even if he does not come right out and say it in so many words. Kind of like claiming to have held a “Senior Reactor Operator” license, without saying that it was for a 10 watt research reactor and not a power reactor, knowing full well the impression would be left that it was for the latter. I have been in this business a long time and I have seen this trick played over and over again by the other side to dupe the public into thinking there are all these “experts”, maybe even some from our “own side” (e.g., a former SRO) who now speak out against us. Sure, a lot of people don’t care anyway, they could just as well be hearing the same thing from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and still believe it, but there are many who will be “impressed” by the claimed expertise that isn’t legitimate.
That’s Arnie Gundersen. He’s the topic of a different post.
Actually, Gundersen has been the topic of numerous posts here, but I think this is the specific one that you are thinking about.
I know. I used it as an example of misdirection without “lying” in the formal sense. It was not my intent to take the thread off-topic.
I was also intrigued about the wording of the claim on the RMI bio of Lovins. Here is a quote from the post I just a little more than ten years ago about his academic career.
The phrase above “awarded an Oxford MA by virtue of being a don” still intrigued me, so I wrote to the information office at Oxford to see if they could explain it to me. Here is a quote from the reply email that I received on March 15, 2006:
Thanks for your message.
Due to the restrictions imposed by the UK Data Protection Act we can’t discuss the details of an individual’s academic or employment record without their permission. In general terms, though, members of academic staff are awarded what is known as the MA by Special Resolution to allow them to become members of Congregation, the University’s governing body, if they fulfil all the necessary criteria other than being a holder of one of the qualifying degrees (usually an Oxford doctorate or an Oxford MA). I should explain that the Oxford MA is awarded to holders of the Oxford BA (Hons) seven years after they first become members of the University, and is not awarded as a result of following a course of postgraduate study. Our Masters degrees are known by different titles eg MSt, MSc.
I hope this helps.
University of Oxford Information Office
At many schools “members of academic staff” includes teaching assistants, tutors, lab technicians, etc.
@ Rod Adams
Yes, your historical post came up when I searched for “Amory Lovins academic record” or something like that. It is still a little fuzzy to me how someone could be awarded an advanced degree from a place like Oxford without having passed a course of study approved by a faculty committee. That is how it is done here, and while here is not Oxford, it is still puzzling why they would muddy the waters of their degree-granting process by allowing those who don’t qualify by passing a normal course of study to claim to hold a degree from such a prestigious place.
Here was my addition to the comment section. A little long but when dealing with Lovins it takes a lot of words to battle the fog of data points.
Interesting spin of the Diablo Canyon situation Mr. Lovins,
First, from my read of Mr. Adams’ comments, he was not necessarily accusing the chairman of PG&E of anything. His comment was discussing PG&E’s reply to a question regarding SB 350. PG&E appears to have been working to keep Diablo Canyon open by lobbying to have SB 350 move away from limited focus on just wind, solar and small hydro to a low-carbon emissions plan which would allow credit for existing large hydro, nuclear and other low to no-carbon solutions that industry could bring into operation beyond wind and solar. A solution, which by the way, is the correct path since that path does not destroy capital investments in low-carbon, long-life generation sources while requiring additional capital (i.e, direct tax subsidies paid to the wind/solar developers) for the politically preferred solution of wind and solar.
A low-carbon emission plan is much more suitable to meeting the needs of reducing GHG since wind and solar require natural gas plants in hot-standby mode to maintain grid stability based on foreseeable technical trends for the next 10-20 years (i.e., operational storage on a utility scale is a good 10 years away). Therefore, a net decrease in carbon emissions is either nonexistent or limited depending on the primary generation source being removed. For example, if coal is being replaced with a wind/solar/natural gas combo, a shift to lower carbon emissions is more likely than a true elimination of emissions. However, in the case of Diablo Canyon, the wind/solar/natural gas combination will actually lead to a net increase in emissions once the full generation capacity of Diablo Canyon is replaced even after accounting for the reductions that might occur due to a focus on energy efficiency.
In my opinion, it will be difficult to measure the long term impacts of energy efficiency in this specific situation considering the fact that any soft energy efficiency measures taken now are really supposed to last the 30+ years Diablo Canyon would be in operation with a license extension, if we were to undertake a one-to-one accounting exercise 30+ years in the future. So I tend to discount energy efficiency as a limited impact and time dependent approach towards reducing GHGs when viewed over a multi-decade timeline. By all means we should look to increase energy efficiency to stretch out all our natural resources, but true accounting of the overall impacts of the energy efficiency approach becomes difficult when trying to tie the positive effects of increased energy efficiency to the closure of one power plant.
Instead of addressing the true issue of whether or not we should be moving away from a wind/solar focused policy to a more suitable policy of low or no-carbon emitting generation sources, which was the intent of Mr. Earley’s comment, you continue to push the wind and solar solution as the only solution when there are other alternatives. Such as accounting for existing large hydro and nuclear generation as well as allowing new small reactors. Germany is now tacitly admitting the wind/solar “solution” has technical and financial challenges that are creating grid security and stability issues. Hence, their recently initiated national discussion regarding curtailment of additional wind and solar generation sources and their planned decrease in subsidies to wind and solar developers.
I agree with Mr. Adams comment that Diablo Canyon is being closed down, not due to true economics, but due to policy induced issues as lobbied by people who have donated or funded various organizations such as FOE, NRDC and even your own organization RMI. Their lobbying efforts have been to continue to push a wind/solar solution exclusively, versus a no-carbon or low-carbon solution to reducing GHGs.
Additionally, the Price-Anderson is not a subsidy to the nuclear industry. It is a liability insurance plan that is funded by nuclear utilities for accidents. The insurance fund is funded at approximately $14 billion, none of that being taxpayer money. If and only if a sufficiently severe accident occurs requiring additional disaster relief funds will Congress determine if taxpayer money will be used to clean up the accident. The invocation of Price Anderson funds from Congress is not immediate nor it is guaranteed, it must be requested of Congress. The fund has been successfully used several times, with the most notable being TMI where $73 million was paid out, none of that being taxpayer money.
Contrast that with the approximate $5 billion per year that is paid by US taxpayers in wind and solar subsides. Every year. Approximately $5 billion. That is a lot of taxpayer money for a generation solution that only provides at most 10% of our national generation needs on a good day since wind and solar are weather dependent. By some accounts the figure was $12 billion in 2014 alone. If true, then that even further drives the point that wind and solar are not a long term path to GHG elimination if the industries themselves need between $5-12 billion per year plus highly favorable state and federal regulations to stay afloat.
That level of taxpayer funding also calls into question any analysis that supposedly compares per kwh pricing. Billions in taxpayer incentives drives down both the development and short term operational cost of wind and solar thereby fundamentally altering economic analysis of power generation. Combine that with low growth profiles and laws limiting utilities to politically correct generation solutions, it isn’t a surprise PG&E is going to shut down Diablo Canyon. In some respects, they have no choice due to politics. This is purely a politically driven decision to meet the handcuffing requirements that SB 350 and other regulations are imposing on PG&E.
You can continue to reference Kopolow’s anti-nuclear subsidy analysis as if that is final source on all things related to energy subsidies. However, there are now more questioning people out there as this issue of GHG becomes more serious. Mr. Shellenberger’s change of opinion on this debate is a good example of the changing times. Ms. Rachel Pritzker is also a welcome addition to the discussion of nuclear power being considered as a critical component of a low-carbon generation system.
I suspect Mr. Kopolow’s analysis will receive a higher level of scrutiny and be discounted due to his singular focus on wind and solar solutions as is popular in the community both you and he operate within. One reason is the subsidy levels discussed above. An analysis written in 2011 using data that is 6-8 years old as proof in 2016 that nuclear receives more in subsidies is becoming a dated argument when wind and solar are receiving $5-12 billion per year. If correct, the $12 billion figure means that the federal government has basically funded the cost of one Vogtle in 2014 alone. So your argument regarding excessive subsidies to nuclear is beginning to have a shelf life as is Mr. Koplow’s anti-nuclear subsidy analysis.
As time has progressed, we now have more data points and viewpoints to consider instead of the dipole nuclear/antinuclear argument that has been going on for decades. The next generation of environmentally concerned advocates appear to be entering a questioning phase regarding a strict two phase solution (i.e., wind/solar development combined with elimination of nuclear) to the GHG issues. That is a good thing from my perspective.
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