Last night I stayed in Crystal City after my day job to attend a talk given by Amory Lovins Winning the oil end game. The talk was based on his book by the same title which is available at http://www.oilendgame.com/.
Most of you who read this know what I think about Lovins, his mathematics, and his virulent anti-nuclear attitudes. I have to admit that he has some reasonable ideas and some well founded concerns about the dangers of continuing dependence on oil. Knowing that the audience that he faced last night has a strong representation by members of the military and the defense contracting world, he did a good job in explaining how important it was for safety and security of fighting forces to reduce the logistics tail associated with delivering oil based fuels to the battlefield.
His proposed solutions, however, left me wondering if he realizes just how much benefit they will provide to the oil and gas industry if followed.
Essentially Lovins told the audience that there are free lunches, Santa Clauses, and Fairy Godmothers just waiting to provide us with all of the energy services that we need if we would just invest more into “ultralighting” our vehicle fleets, insulating our tents, and using dispersed energy sources like natural gas cogeneration, wind and solar. He talked about space age composites, plug in hybrids, and driving at reduced speeds to improve fuel economy.
He also spent about 15-20 minutes telling us that we should get rid of all of the world’s nuclear power plants in order to ensure that there is no potential for hiding a weapons program in a peaceful nuclear energy program. He also implied that we should somehow exorcise nuclear knowledge so that no one has the knowhow for building weapons any more.
Not surprisingly, I challenged him with some questions. He spent a lot of time in the early part of his talk discussing the need for endurance on today’s type of battlefield, where speed, mobility and agility are simply not enough. That gave me the opening to describe how nuclear submarines have been able – since the 1970s – to operate without refueling for 15 years, and how modern submarines can now operate for their full design life on a single core. When I began my question, I slowly and clearly introduced my self as the founder of Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. I then asked him to explain why he is so adamant about his opposition and why he does not understand that there have been technological advances in the nuclear field that have overcome the technical basis for most of his objections.
He answered by once again claiming that all nuclear projects are supported by central planners without private risk capital – I shouted back reminding him that I told him what I was doing when I introduced myself – and he described his respect for the culture of the Navy Nuclear Propulsion program. He then said it was too bad that that culture had not spread into the commercial nuclear power industry. (I do not think INPO (BTW – sorry about the indirect nature of that link, INPO apparently only maintains a members only web site.) or others would completely agree with that assessment.)
He then got me even more fired up by condescending expressing a belief that it was too bad that so many smart and dedicated people had wasted their lives on learning about a dead end technology.
I suppose he believes that we smart, dedicated, devoted, passionate, well-educated, well informed, and creative people have all been duped. I suppose I would be happier if I had meandered through a couple of years at Harvard, dropped out and gone for a hike in the woods for a year or so, and then somehow found myself at Oxford. Perhaps I would have learned more about energy if, instead of serving as the Engineer Officer on a submarine (after completing all of the required training and education) I had dropped out of Oxford and begun wandering around England and writing about energy under the sponsorship of Friends of the Earth.
(You can find out more about Amory Lovins’s background at Amory Lovins’s Academic Career,)
Perhaps I would know more if I ran an $8 million dollar per year enterprise whose income comes from consulting with major corporations like Shell, Chevron, Wal-Mart, and with well run government agencies like Rumsfeld’s Department of Defense.
I don’t know. Perhaps you all could help me figure out whose ideas have a better chance of actually doing something about oil consumption – mine or Lovins’s?