A free-market energy blog
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — Lovins, Amory

James Hansen Smacks Renewable Energy (“The Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy”–and Lovins as dreamer)

“Suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”

Climate and energy alarmists war with reality. And now and again, the incentives line up for a particular alarmist to blow the whistle on some aspect of the governmental ‘cure’ to their problem. The incendiary Joe Romm, for example, trots out free-market-type arguments against carbon sequestration and nuclear (both too expensive).

Hansen on Cap-and-Trade

NASA scientist and uber-climate-alarmist James Hansen informed the climate policy debate in 2009/2010 with his blistering criticism of CO2 cap-and-trade. “The truth is, the climate course set by Waxman-Markey is a disaster course,” he said. “It is an exceedingly inefficient way to get a small reduction of emissions. It is less than worthless….”

Joe Romm complained against Hansen’s “needlessly (and pointlessly) provocative attacks” as being “filled with right-wing and left-wing myths — and very little understanding of the basics of either this bill or cap-and-trade systems.” But California’s rethink of a state-level cap-and-trade program suggests that Hansen’s concerns of a highly political approach to mitigating carbon-dioxide emissions was on the mark.

Regarding international climate-change action, Hansen also called out

The fraudulence of the Copenhagen [Summit] approach – ‘goals’ for emission reductions, ‘offsets’ that render even iron-clad goals almost meaningless, an ineffectual ‘cap-and-trade’ mechanism – must be exposed. We must rebel against such politics-as-usual.

And now Renewables ….

Most recently, Hansen turned his attention to just what wind and solar in particular could do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reverse out the human influence on climate.

Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit (Hansen, WG3 and Green Kool-aid) has analyzed Hansen in the context of the IPCC’s amateurish pro-renewables report; I simply reproduce significant parts of the Hansen’s July 29, 2011, critique.

          James Hansen on Renewable Energy

There is a consensus that renewable energies need to be part of the solution to the energy security and climate matters.  But we must be realistic about their contribution.  So now let’s look at the progress of renewable energies after several years of strong government incentives.

Renewable sources [in 2009] provide 10.7% of the electric energy.  But … almost two-thirds of this is hydroelectric.  Wind has grown to almost 17% of  the renewable energy, so it is approaching 1.8% of U.S. electricity.  Solar power is only 0.2% of the renewable portion or 0.02% of electricity.

[Globally] … in 2008 … renewable energies provide 19% of electricity, but most of the renewable energy is hydroelectric.  Wind provides 1% of global electricity and solar energy less than 0.1%….

Renewables may be small, but they are growing rapidly, exponentially, right? [Data] reveals that growth of electricity in the past two decades in the U.S. has been mainly from fossil fuels…. [Read more →]

August 22, 2011   5 Comments

Remembering the Birth of Conservationism (Part II: Amory Lovins’s “Soft Energy Path”)

[Editor note: Part I on energy conservationism examined Richard Nixon's price control order of August 1971 as the birth of peacetime conservationism , with shortages leading to mandatory allocation law.]

A tract for the energy-shortage times was a 1976 essay in Foreign Affairs by Amory Lovins, the 29-year-old energy representative of the U.K. environmental group, Friends of the Earth. In “Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken?” Lovins coined the term soft energy paths to differentiate energy conservation and decentralized renewable technology from the “hard” path of central-station power plants fueled by oil, gas, coal, or uranium.

Neo-Malthusians such as Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren sang his praises, and the article became the most reprinted piece in the history of Foreign Affairs. Lovins was soon testifying before the U.S. Congress and advising President Carter on the proposition that the least-cost energy option was not to produce energy, but to save it.

Unlike S. David Freeman of the Ford Foundation Energy Project (see post yesterday), Lovins, an Oxford don, specialized in the technical minutiae of energy and wrote, footnoted, and argued his opponents into despair, never mind how hypothesized and obscure his engineering-grounded pontifications were from demonstrated market preferences. Lovins became the most talked about energy guru in the world during the crisis period, with a deceptively simple message that less was more. To critics, however, Lovins was “selling a dream without presenting the bill.”

Lovins held a deep-rooted suspicion—even phobia—about the energy market. “It is hard to think of any current energy technology in extensive use that does not hold the potential for serious long-term environmental risks—risks which may today be wholly unsuspected,” he warned. From this premise came his worldview, later dubbed whole systems thinking, that saw current energy usage—thus production—as a massive market failure. “We must devise a science and a technology of energy impact analysis so that we can make energy a critical variable in all policy decisions, rather than leaving it to emerge de facto from decisions taken on other grounds,” he wrote in 1975. “Boundary conditions on the energy inputs are now needed.” This message was new to the United States energy debate, although the “small is beautiful” theme of E.F. Schumacher was already popular in Europe.

Lovins’s first order of business was to push for a short-term phase-out of nuclear power—a signature issue for Friends of the Earth. Lovins feared that the rapid depletion of oil and gas would segue to super-abundant coal and nuclear—a bad transition and worse long-run lock-in to him. Lovins wanted “transitional technologies that use fossil fuels briefly and sparingly to build a bridge to the energy-income [energy-renewable] economy of 2025.” However wrong this would turn out to be, Lovins would fare better with his second aim: full-scale deployment of conservation technologies to reach a “realistic long-term goal” of “modest, zero, or negative [energy] growth” per unit of output. [Read more →]

May 3, 2011   7 Comments

Energy as the Master Resource: Where Left, Right, and Center Agree

“A reliable and affordable supply of energy is absolutely critical to maintaining and expanding economic prosperity where such prosperity already exists and to creating it where it does not.”

- John Holdren, “Memorandum to the President: The Energy-Climate Challenge,” in Donald Kennedy and John Riggs, eds., U.S. Policy and the Global Environment: Memos to the President (Washington, D.C.: The Aspen Institute, 2000), p. 21.

Julian Simon (1932–98) is an inspiration to many of us here at MasterResource. Indeed, this blog is named for Simon’s characterization of energy as the master resource. In honor of Simon, I have reproduced some quotations from the vast literature on that theme.

The primal importance of energy is recognized across the political spectrum as the views of John Holdren, Paul Ehrlich, and Amory Lovins attest. Affordable, reliable energy is thus the starting point for public policy debate. And oil, gas, and coal are the backbone of energy plenty, as even politicians are realizing now that government-forced energy transformation (energy rationing) is under debate.

“The future belongs to the efficient,” it has been said. And the foreseeable future belongs to the carbon-based energies.

Here are some quotations, beginning with Julian Simon’s classic. [Read more →]

July 3, 2009   4 Comments