1. I didn’t see anything in the link that indicates Lovins’ thinking on nuclear would be moving in the direction you suggest. Looks alot more like Branson is drinking the Lovins kool-aid. Time will tell.

    1. @gmax137

      Which link did you follow? There were several links in the post, one of which was to Branson’s blog recommending that people watch Pandora’s Promise and asserting his position that nuclear is a powerful tool that cannot be dismissed.

      1. Rod

        The first blog link you have in your article is the starting point for my comments.

        It appears like Branson has been swayed by the siren song of Lovins.

        However I find it hard to believe that a global business leader of Branson’s ability would suddenly become a true believer of the Lovins/RMI sound bite machine.

        So I’m left wondering why Branson signed that deal?

    2. I have to say I agree after reading Branson’s statements about solar prices dropping. That is something that Lovins/RMI would say.

      It looks more like Branson is drinking the Lovins flavored kool-aid.

      Lovins has always been very adept at collecting celebrity endorsements and partnerships. This agreement will keep RMI alive, provide Lovins access to yet even more boardrooms and ensure his $750,000+ compensation package remains intact.

      Two questions:

      Is this agreement a true merger of two like minded NGO’s or is this a collaboration based on a specific set of initiatives?

      What does Branson gain from this? His track is amazing. He doesn’t jump into things without having a game plan in place. So what is Branon’s end game?

      I also wonder how Branson will use this agreement during the run-up to the upcoming Paris conference.

  2. These guys are actually looking for help on this. They want clean power. They are looking for bidders. See the link:


    What’s the population of those countries?

    Aruba – 101,000 and growing
    Bahamas -319,000
    British Virgin Islands – 28,000
    San Andres – 67,912
    Providencio – 2007
    Dominica – 72,301
    Granada – 109,590
    Saint Kitts – 45,000

    I didn’t look up Nevis, Saint Lucia, Turks or Caicas.

    With an assumed demand of about 3 kva / person, it seems like the entirety of some of these islands could be supplied by a small reactor or two.

    It should be one that doesn’t take much work, is rugged and probably doesn’t need to be refueled for 20 years or more.

    These guys aren’t in the US and so could snub their noses at the NRC.

    Has anyone ever built such reactors and has a proven track record? Maybe it could be floated in on a ship.

    1. I’ve suggested the nuclear option years ago to the authorities of one of these islands, but they were not ready to consider nuclear at the time.

      As far as I know, the Islanders are still assuming that non-nuclear and cost effective 100% co2 reduction is just around the corner, implying that seriously considering nuclear is a waste of time.

      They are strengthened in that mindset by a cacophony of consultants who have flocked to the islands (and have even set up shop there in some cases) and who busy themselves year after year with perpetually presenting artistically impressive but technically superficial sustainability quickscans, overviews and roadmaps which have in common only a conspicuous neglect of the basic issues of financial and technical feasibility and scale-ability.

      Presumably, a few more years of sustainability conferences and roadmapping will lead to the conclusion that the quickest way of saving some co2 is probably just to stop paying for the travel expenses of these foreign consultants, and start seriously considering the nuclear option. In that area I rather like the idea of providing some of the biggest islands with a small demonstration IFR-type self-sufficient fast breeder reactor power station and a century supply of fuel, thereby creating a truly locally owned and operated co2 free, reliable and cost effective long-term solution to co2 emissions and energy costs.

    2. “Has anyone ever built such reactors and has a proven track record?”

      These small reactor designs all have proven track records: A1W, A2W, A3W, A4W, A1B, C1W, D1G, D2G, S1C, S1G, S1W, S2C, S2G, S2W, S2Wa, S3G, S3W, S4G, S4W, S5G, S5W, S6G, S6W, S7G, S8G, S9G, & S1B.
      Additionally Argentina is currently building a passive safety system CAREM-25, scheduled for completion in late 2017. This may be the first operating natural circulation “new generation” SMR of the scale needed. Hopefully the operational testing will provide valuable information on this concept. I will also add that it is hardly a brand new idea. See: http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2014/02/13/carem-25-carries-torch-for-smr-construction/

  3. I doubt Amory Lovins will be changing his mind anytime soon. His ego won’t let him come around and accept that he’s wrong.

    Island grids sound like a perfect application for SMR’s, Compact, quiet, plenty of water (with some desalinated water for free on the side), 24 x 7 output. Far better than a mountainside of solar panels and miles of offshore wind turbines springing up all over the Turks and Caicos.

    1. @Timothy Wyant

      You may be right. That does not stop me from hoping that Lovins will find a face-saving way to announce that he has reevaluated the nuclear technology possibilities, the incredibly large challenge of slowing the growth of CO2 emissions without nuclear, and listened to the growing chorus of well respected environmental scientists urging people to reconsider their stubborn stance against nuclear that has been based on old understanding.

      1. That would be huge news indeed. But judging from the strength of his antinuclearism I’m not sure his sanity would survive such a u-turn. He is dug in way too deep. Besides, what would be the upside for him from suddenly becoming pro-nuke? Downsides there are plenty. Being pro-nuclear is still a very hard road to travel compared to being anti-nuke although this situation is slowly changing. Nevertheless, I would bet that people like Lovins will be the very last to leave the anti-nuclear camp. Even in a future world powered mostly by nuclear power, they would still be arguing that unreliables are so much better, safer, cheaper, quicker, nicer, smaller, and more effective with sugar on top. That’s their trade, and people don’t normally ditch their trade as long as it sells.

  4. This appears to be good news (not huge news). He’s partnering with RMI on renewable energy projects in Caribbean (primarily reducing dependence on expensive, aging, and unreliable diesel generators in region), and will be expanding efforts in other areas as well (energy efficiency, transportation, and cement).

    Branson is presumably still burning a lot of fossil fuels (or carbon dioxide emitting HTPB or plastics) in air and commercial space ventures, and also has his interests in advanced reactors too (here).

    As a proponent of advanced reactors, I’m not sure why this should preclude his involvement in other advanced technologies as well (and partnerships with organizations that advance his broader interests and goals in technology development, innovation, services, climate mitigation, and more). He doesn’t appear to see these activities as mutually exclusive (and neither does Lovins at RMI)?

    1. @EL

      Correction. Carbon War Room is merging with Rocky Mountain Institute. They have “partnered” on specific initiatives in the past; there is a well-defined meaning of the word “merger.”

      Sir Richard has made it abundantly clear that he supports “non-fossil” energy alternatives and does not seek to limit his toolbox to only officially sanctioned “renewable” energy systems. If wind and solar are the right technology for a specific application, so be it. If emission-free and fossil-free nuclear is the right technology that is okay with him as well.

      Lovins has an easy out; his words for the past couple of decades have not been opposed to nuclear from an ideological point of view. He has dismissed the technology as too costly. If price is his major concern, changing his mind is simply a matter of developing lower cost nuclear systems. As I have been preaching for a couple of decades, that is eminently achievable.

      1. It seems wind and solar have “earlier” revenues than SMRs. It’s still business. Branson is attracted to the Revenues first, and true solutions 2nd IMHO. SMRs will be a cost sink for several years before the solution begins its payoff.

        I agree with you that wind and solar is a diversion, whereby those that benefit from the diversion simply “give it legs”, and let it weave it’s nonsense throughout the social fabric. We see it promoted and discussed even in media outlets where the benefits are not obvious.

        Branson’s not a sell-out, but he is a businessman, and will see the importance of the present value tables even before the value of true solutions to our current climate catastrophe.

  5. Rod – thanks for the post, as always. I’ve started looking at the Ten Island Challenge document and find it vague (of course). I think you should just go ask Sir Richard or someone at the Carbon War Room for clarification and information. I think that you’re a sufficiently known presence to have a good shot at getting a real reply. Or having Sir Richard as an Atomic Show guest. Toujours l’audace!

  6. Question:

    Would this be a part of the world where wind energy really makes sense? I’ve done a few Google searches on the Trade Winds and all of them say these winds blow almost continuously. Here’s one of the links. I hope it works.


    The statement is made that, : “There is no other climatological wind flow system on earth where this continuity exists.” If there is a pretty good capacity factor to be achieved from wind, it could be well suited for the area. There is a history of using wind power in this area for sugar mills. It also looks like the people in the Caribbean are already building windmills.


    This one uses the term “penetration.” Is this capacity factor?


    On the other hand, how do wind turbines do in hurricanes?

    1. @Eino

      Islands located in the path of the trade winds might do well to use them. There are numerous populated islands that are not blessed with access to those winds.

      1. @EP,
        Aruba became ‘independent’. So now other factors than optimal utilizing installed wind turbines play a role.
        Bonaire does better. It is still part of The Netherlands.

    2. @Eino,
      As you can read in your second link, those wind turbines are and will be hurricane proof (I hope, had a small contribution to it).
      For the rest, that page is rather old. So the share of wind will now be substantial more than 33%.

    3. Trade winds are very steady, but they are not very strong. You would need a lot of turbines to capture a small amount of wind if you’re in the trades.

      On the other hand, for small islands where the most likely alternative is diesel, it might make sense, and certainly would if there were a price on carbon.

  7. “Or having Sir Richard as an Atomic Show guest”

    Great idea!!

    Amory is the best debater ever. He has the ability to combine two almost true statements in the same sentence to say something that is not true at all. He has earned a very good living by leading our society down an illogical path. Please do not have Amory as an Atomic Show guest. He is too good at interviews to be given yet another platform.

  8. Seasons Greetings

    Sure like to know who’s holding the shotgun on this supposed marriage. What can Branson possibly gain from Lovins outside expanding a positive image to as many organizations as possible after the SpaceOne black-eye? I’d REALLY like to hear from Lovins’ horses mouth exactly what his take on nukes is here. If he’s warming up zit to nukes then there’s no there there. Better for Branson to spend his time hawking nukes with Gates (if he’s REALLY nuke warm). Around the early 1970’s my relatives in Barbados mentioned proposals of some “TransCaribe” power combine employing reactors based in Puerto Rico, Trinidad and another in-between cabling power to the rest of the Leeward island chain. Just curio news that was lost long ago. For public image/acceptance reasons I’m not warm on sea-based nuke plants; yes, a clever concept but people and media; people will fret that the things are so dangerous that’s the only place to site them outside the moon. It could boomerang against acceptance of land-based plants as well. If the nuclear community isn’t going to mass media promote the virtues of nuclear power, at least don’t gave the media and anti-nukes fodder to further distrust it!

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  9. The problem with Lovin’s view is that it’s simply wrong. Energy efficiency is economically useful and should be pursued for that reason, but energy efficiency has never, will never, and CAN never reduce overall energy demand. Here’s a graph of US energy efficiency, measured in real GDP produced per MTOE of primary energy use:

    Efficiency graph

    … and hey! It’s going up, up, up, as the economy becomes more and more and more energy efficient! Yay! We’re winning the efficiency war!

    And how has our victory in the efficiency war translated into reduced energy use? This is how:

    Energy demand graph

    Ooops. Looking at demand, it’s pretty obvious that overall energy demand has a lot to do with economic growth, and nothing whatever to do with energy efficiency. Since 1965, our energy efficiency has increased by 124%, while our overall energy demand has increased by 43%. Why?

    It’s because of so-called “rebound effects” of energy efficiency, which have been known since the 19th century. When we increase energy efficiency, that saves money, and that money saved is then used to do other economic activities — which uses more energy. In 2011, physicist Tim Garrett looked at the thermodynamics of civilization as a whole. Applying thermodynamic principles, Garrett determined that energy efficiency is directly tied to economic growth, and thus increasing efficiency can never reduce energy demand. It’s physics.

    Which means energy efficiency cannot save us. There is only ONE path forward: we must decarbonize the economy, and rapidly.

    Garrett, Timothy J. “Are there basic physical constraints on future anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide?.” Climatic change 104.3-4 (2011): 437-455.

    1. Hmm… True enough, but I think it was Jevons who also observed that rebound may be minimized by placing an artificial price (tax) on the energy. I think Adams will point out that economic output may be minimized via the same mechanism.

      1. Actually Keith is a key player among the part-time pro-nuclear people on the massive liberal blog, the Daily Kos!

  10. Rod Adams wrote:
    Lovins and I are worlds apart when it comes to our acceptance of the laws of thermodynamics that limit power generation and power consumption equipment efficiency. I accept the reality that 33%-45% thermal efficiency is about as good as it gets for generation without significant constraints on flexibility and I accept the reality that reliability in fluid systems often requires a little more capacity and power consumption than absolutely needed if the system could be run at some kind of unachievable ideal. Lovins waves his hands and declares that accepting these limits reflects a lack of imagination or innovation.

    The best thermal efficiency I know of is a large (~500 MW) natural gas combined cycle plant that converts 60% of the lower heat value of the gas to electricity.

    However, even 33% is not that bad if one thinks about how electricity can be and is used. Take an extreme example — lighting. Direct lighting by gas or candle wax is well less than 1% efficient. Even for gas mantle lamps the efficiency is at best in the low single digits. So one is much better off using that gas to spin a turbine and produce electricity for light bulbs (especially CFLs and LEDs).

    Space heating via an electric heat pump can easily produce a COP of 4 or greater. That more than makes up for the thermodynamic energy conversion losses at the power plant. I once saw a natural-gas motor powered heat pump. Its COP was about 1.3, which just about matches the overall efficiency of the 33% efficient power plant with a COP of 4 electric heat pump. The electric heat pump will be cheaper, more reliable and need less maintenance.

    I have no problem with using the waste heat of (say) an electrical generating plant if it makes economic sense to do so. But it seems that Mr. Lovins is so in love with this concept that he wants to use it almost everywhere, and loses sight with the economics of the whole system.

    1. As a nit, I think Rod’s qualification I accept the reality that 33%-45% thermal efficiency is about as good as it gets for generation without significant constraints on flexibility covers the CCCT case. Not that 60% thermal efficiency isn’t something to crow about, because it is. Whether such plants can ramp fast enough to balance intermittent generation is another question. I know the combustion engineers are working on it, but they probably face some significant fundamental constraints on flexibility.

      Still, your point is well made, as it’s those 60% efficient CCCT’s (and their emissions, and their non-sustainable fuel source) that nuclear must compete with.

      1. The 60% is for a minority of GTs under construction. They are only for the Combine Cycle GTs and more specifically, for the H Frame units from GE (the largest there are…single shaft combined cycle — GT and steam turbine and generator all on the same shaft). All the F-frame units and similiar ones from Westinghouse and other vendors are in the 45 to 50% range IF they are run in combined cycle mode, which many are not.

        1. @David Walters

          The 60% is also a promotional figure for new machines running under optimal conditions that should include the standard caveat from automobile stickers – your milage may vary.

        1. Their “discussion” style is similar to that of a pathological liar. You’re lucky if you can figure out which goal posts they’ve switched. They change subjects facilely while seeming to stay on the same subject. There’s a commenter, named Cyril who seems to be an expert at unwinding their deceptions. I admire his skill at sorting their obfuscations. They’ll pretend to stay on the current topic, while stating irrelevancies from another related topic to avoid being pinned down and put you back on the defensive.

          Doesn’t sound like anyone who posts here regularly, does it?

          Considering how regularly new ones show up and exercise exactly the same style of deception at various levels of ability, I’m convinced the underlying organizations are training these vandals in this “art”. Either that, or wind and solar are particularly attractive to pathological liars.

  11. Two things in the 10 Island challenge that seems to be driving this merger make me cringe. Habitat loss/incursion and the possibility that they will employ biofuels (which isnt necessary bad but can have utterly disastrous environmental results). I dont see enough detailed documentation on the results and I dont trust Lovins to tell the truth. I dont know enough about Branson.

    I dont like this. It doesn’t seem necessarily for either organization when it comes to compatibility. It seems to be more of a manipulative maneuver aimed at media.

  12. Maybe I am looking in the wrong place, but the only mention of nuclear power that I can find on the Carbon War Room’s website is this:


    Hardly a ringing endorsement. And here is more faint praise from the War Room’s CEO:


    My take: Branson may be interested in nuclear power, but the Carbon War Room is not. Thus no tension with the RMI.

    1. @Jeffrey Miller

      Shah’s NPR appearance took place only 12 days after March 11, 2011. His wishy washy comments about nuclear energy at that time are not surprising. Branson’s support for Pandora’s Promise indicates that he feels strongly enough to provide resources. His endorsement recommending that people watch the movie and reconsider what they think they know about nuclear is more important that a three-year old interview of Carbon War Room’s then serving CEO. Shah is no longer part of the organization.

      However, Carbon War Room’s current CEO, Jules Kortenhorst, comes from RMI, founded a biofuels company and worked for Royal Dutch Shell. His established position on nuclear is not good.

      1. Sometimes even as Mr Negative Pessimistic these days I secretly harbor some glimmering particle of optimism on certain issues. That second paragraph totally killed it Rod.

        The company developed a optimal configuration/process for pellet fuel it seems.

        Im firmly in the Media PR show renewable future fabricated “success story” sham corner now. Hopefully I will be proved wrong.

  13. I glanced over at RMI.org to see how they are spinning this, and found an announcement written jointly by Sir RB & Lovins. This seems to be written independently from what’s posted at CarbonWarRoom.com. http://blog.rmi.org/blog_2014_12_16_joining_forces_to_combat_climate_change_and_reignite_the_global_economy This has had zero comments (as opposed to this blog).

    There’s also this video on RMI’s YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOBsmMUEg7g

    These are a bit different from what CWR posted: http://www.carbonwarroom.com/news/2014/12/16/news-rocky-mountain-institute-and-carbon-war-room-merge-strategic-alliance
    I suspect the two organizations still have things to iron out.

  14. Is Amory Lovins looking to retire? This reminds me of some situations I have witnessed in the business world: sell off/merge one entity to/with another, big wig(s) work for about a year, then ‘retire’ with their golden parachute(s).

    1. If there is anyone in the world who does not deserve a pleasant secure retirement, Lovins is him. The beast should have to spend his final days with no electricity, no running water and no manufactured goods of any kind.

      1. He openly admits that he considers cheap, concentrated energy to be a bad thing. How is this not the end of the debate? Why do most people, you and me excluded, feel they have to be nice the morally repugnant toad?

        Humanists should not work to show that Amory is wrong. That doesn’t matter; every major testable prediction he has made has been laughably wrong and this has not seemed to harm his popularity or credibility.

        Humanists should instead attack the core belief that weak, diffuse energy sources are good and energy use is inherently bad.

        Cheap, concentrated energy is the difference between a mother reading a book for her children instead of pounding laundry by hand. It is the difference between quick and efficient cooking and heating and 3,8 million deaths per year from indoor smoke inhallation. It is the difference between safe, clean drinking water with hygenic sewerage services and 1,6 million children per year dying of diarrhea, 6 million cases of blindness or severe disability per year, a variety of parasites and crippling debilities that keep the poor from getting out of poverty.

        Comming out and saying your against safe, cheap, concentrated energy needs to be recognized by the public at large as being as repugnant as pro-genocide or pro-eugenics. It needs to be professional suicide.

        1. @Soylent

          He openly admits that he considers cheap, concentrated energy to be a bad thing.

          Correction. He openly admitted that belief in 1977 and perhaps for a number of years after that. Can you find a more recent version?

          I’ve studied the man’s modern utterances; though he remains confused about whether or not nuclear can be made far cheaper — of course it can — he appears to welcome cheap, accessible power. He’s also confused about whether or not unreliables can provide what he says he wants, but he is certainly not alone in that belief.

          You ask, “Why should we be nice?” My answer – “Being nice works better if you want to accomplish a goal and are not motivated by revenge.”

          1. Rod, I admire your ability to keep your eyes on the ball. I tell my LIttle League’rs that there’s only three things I want them to do. “Have fun. Use two hands. Keep your eyes on the ball.”

            Good advice off the ball field as well.

  15. Nasa’s newly operational Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 first images seem to confirm a rather large direct role in tropical region fires, agriculture and the global carbon budget in addition to the habitat implications of such incidents and practices. ( http://oco2.jpl.nasa.gov/ ). I imagine a lot of new material is about to come out in the next few years on the matter.

  16. Lovins’ hatred of nuclear power is entirely rational if you accept his core values. It will not change.

    In his own words: “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” (Plowboy Interview, the Mother Earth, (Nov/Dec 1977) p.22. )

    Lovins is in the anti-humanist camp. He’s of the same persuasion as Paul Erlich, that giving mankind cheap, abundant energy is like giving an idiot child a machine gun. This also effectively makes him an anti-environmentalist.

    1. @Soylent

      Don’t know about you, but I would hate to be condemned for something I wrote or said in 1977. Even though I am a once-retired grandfather of three, I was not even eligible to vote until the last few days of that year.

      Lovins and the Rock Mountain Institute have been saying for many years that they favor the free market and celebrate what they consider to be a dramatic fall in the cost of “renewables.” Their main argument against nuclear power projects in the past couple of decades has been that they are too expensive and take too long. There is no doubt those two statements are true under current conditions.

      In a merger with the Carbon War Room, whose founder — Sir Richard Branson has expressed his support for nuclear technology development in more than just words — he was an executive producer for Pandora’s Promise and has strongly recommended that people watch and learn from the film — it is possible that the Rocky Mountain Institute will begin to publicly recognize that lowering the cost of nuclear power projects and reducing the lead time required from initiation to completion are initiatives worth supporting.

      Sure, there are plenty of technical improvements that can and should be pursued, but even with today’s well-proven light water reactor designs, there are dozens of political changes that could have a major positive impact without any affect on safety or quality.

      That is a potential outcome that is so favorable that I would be happy to forgive numerous past utterances.

      1. FWIW I suspect that anti-nukes like Lovins are currently banging the “Nukes Cost Too Much” drum because it has conveniently appeared in the last decade to be banged (thanks to their own past efforts in hindering nuclear development and implementation).

        If nuclear ever threatens to become more competitive again, they’ll switch back to the older myths like “Not Enough Uranium”, “No Insurance For Accidents”, “All Radiation Is Dangerous”, “Nuclear Power Is Nuclear War”, “One Nuclear Accident Could Kill Us All”, “We Don’t Need Nuclear”, “Nuclear Is A Burden For Posterity”, etc.

        Anti nukes have only stopping using the old myths because the “cost” myth is good enough, for now, imo.

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