A Free-Market Energy Blog

Energy Postmodernism: Obama Today, Amory Lovins Yesterday (645-page powerplant rule to nirvana)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- June 4, 2014

All good things to all people. That is how the Obama/EPA Power Plant Rule is being sold this week in the U.S. and around the world.

Lower prices, more jobs, greater security, accelerated innovation. New for old, cleaner for dirtier. Better air and less ailment.  Take the disadvantages of rationing carbon dioxide in U.S. power plants and assert just the opposite. Get others to echo for a ‘shared narrative.’ Think energy postmodernism of wish, want competitive intermittent renewable energy.

Say it is a free lunch. Better yet, say it is a lunch that we are paid to eat.

And all this for a better future. “This is something that is important for all of us,” Obama stated in regard to the proposal. “As parents, as grandparents, as citizens, as folks who care about the health of our families and also want to make sure that future generations are able to enjoy this beautiful blue ball in the middle of space that we’re a part of.” Save the Planet!

Never mind the infinitesimal climate effect of incremental emission reductions. (Do some simple math here assuming that power plant emissions are 38 percent of the U.S. total. I get a year-2050 temperature reduction of .005 degrees centigrade, and a year-2100 averted warming of .009.)

Never mind that the proposal flunks any sort of a cost/benefit comparison. And what about the Rule’s ‘government failure’ costs–the costs of devising, implementing, revising, and lobbying even if it were done by angels?

Back To Lovins?

The master of deceit and misdirection brings to mind the wonderful road of ‘soft energy” by the father of today’s conjure, Amory Lovins. Some 37 years ago, he presented his case in romantic, something-for-everyone packaging.

As he told a congressional subcommittee in 1977:

A final feature of the soft energy path that I wish to commend to this committee as politicians is that it helps to avoid conflict between constituencies by offering advantages to all of them; jobs for the unemployed, capital for businesspeople, environmental protection for conservationists, increased national security for the military, opportunities for small business to innovate and for big business to recycle itself, savings for consumers, world order and equity for globalists, energy independence for isolationists, exciting technologies for the secular, a rebirth of spiritual values for the religious, radical reforms for the young, traditional virtues for the old, civil rights for liberals and states’ rights for conservatives. [1]

As someone who has studied energy and politics for several decades, this Lovins quotation is about as wildly postmodernistic as any I have ever read.


June 2, 2014, was Black Monday for energy and climate realists. What to do?

One is to keep on fighting. In time, we can show the great middle that Obama is a political con man in energy and climate as he is in so many other areas.

Another thing to do is to remember Ayn Rand’s advice in such circumstances: “Never think of pain or danger or enemies a moment longer than is necessary to fight them.” [2]

Still hit the open road this summer, enjoy some Big Marlo music, and do whatever else makes you happy.

[1] Amory Lovins, quoted in William Lanouette, “A Latter-Day David Out to Slay the Goliaths of Energy,” National Journal, October 1, 1977,  p. 1532.Quoted in Bradley, Capitalism at Work: Business, Government, and Energy, p. 251.

[2] Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged.


  1. Amy  

    Thank you Mr. Bradley, I think you may have been speaking directly to me there at the end. I have to read this 645 page nightmare for my work and have been extremely depressed all week. The 2030 standard that Florida has to meet (740 lb CO2 per NET MWh) is lower than a new gas fired (one on one) combined cycle plant can typically do (a little over 800 lb CO2 per GROSS MWh). I don’t know what else to say except that 15 years certainly isn’t long enough to get a bunch of nuclear plants permitted and constructed. One of EPA’s compliance options is “demand side efficiency improvements”. That is obviously a code word for direct regulation of end users of electricity. We are really on a path here! You are right that we all have to fight this while trying to continue to enjoy the good things in life….


  2. Ed Reid  

    Calculating long term warming changes to three decimal places is ludicrous, particularly based on the potential ranges of warming provided by the IPCC. It is not even plausible to calculate percentage reductions in atmospheric CO2 concentrations from what they might otherwise have been, because to do so you must assume ceteris paribus globally, which is a totally unsupportable assumption; or, use some equally unsupportable assumption regarding the future actions of the remaining global actors.

    I understand the desire to demonstrate the miniscule nature of the impacts the President’s policy would have on global warming, global climate change, global climate weirding, etc. However, using your insignificant digit generator to do so lends credence to the EPA position, which it clearly does not deserve. Identifying an avoided temperature increase of 0.009 C against the background of natural climate variability is beyond our current understanding.


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