A Gusher of sanity
William Grimes reviews Robert Bryce’s A Gusher of Lies in today’s New York Times (free registration required).
Here’s a teaser:
In “Gusher of Lies,” Mr. Bryce, a freelance journalist specializing in energy issues, mounts a savage attack on the concept of energy independence and the most popular technologies currently being promoted to achieve it. Ethanol? A scam. Wind power? Sheer fantasy. Solar power? Think again. For the foreseeable future, which is to say the next 30 to 50 years, fossil fuels will reign supreme, as they have for the last century. Deal with it.
Conflict over energy supplies and other scarce resources is often mentioned as igniting warfare in the 21st century. Apparently Bryce doesn’t discount this possibility, but he demolishes the most popular solutions to achieving energy independence. So if we are going to avoid such conflict, we need to quit deluding ourselves that simple solutions are just around the corner.
March 7th, 2008 23:17
I am not as pessimistic as the author of this book. Those who analyze technology, have the habit of analyzing it in terms of mere extensions of what already exists. And no matter how rapidly what we use become obsolete, that habit persists.
I’ve been repairing heating systems, on and off for over forty years, and could not imagine when I started what I would be working with today.
And I’ve been using portable battery powered devices, and could not imagine what I am using today.
You betcha using corn is not only not effecient, but just plain stupid - But switch grass, grows by itself, neds no irrrigation or care, and can easily be planted on marginal lands totally unfit for any other purpose.
Of simply punch “switchgrass” into Google if you don’t trust wikopedia.
Moreover the ability to store enery is advancing almost as fast as the power of the personal computer. Breakthrorughs, are occuring constantly, stimulated by the growth of portable devices..
If the price of oil hits $150 a barral, then there is 500 times as much oil locked up in oil bearing shale, as in liquid form, and at the above price, it would be economical to refine.
Ultiimately the long term problem is not sources of energy, but to avoid destroying the balance of nature and precipitating ecological disaster - Well, who knows, perhaps there Will be a breakthough in Nuclear Fusion…
I could go on, but will spare you more.
Here’s one last link on wind power.
March 8th, 2008 03:03
“I am not as pessimistic as the author of this book…”
Neither am I. The author’s point that wishing for (mainly emissions-free renewable) energy independence will not magically make it so is well taken, but if we’d grow up I’m sure we could make it happen just as well as we put men on the moon. Trees somehow manage to make solar power work through cloudy days and nighttime just fine, and I heard somewhere that we’re above them on the evolutionary ladder. It may take 30 or 50 years to figure out, but we’d be spending 30 years setting ourselves up for the next 3000.
Tying this in to strategy/policy, for a cause that attracts the uncommitted and drains away enemy resolve and support, I can’t imagine many that are better than “we won’t need to kill or extort you so that we may obtain your resources with which to poison everyone’s air and water anymore.” Or is that not a policy macho enough to wrap with the American flag?
Of course, at that point it would also behoove us to help the Middle East figure out how they’d feed themselves without oil revenue.
March 8th, 2008 20:59
The author of this book is pushing a technically illiterate view.
He might be actually uneducated, but it’s more likely that he’s being paid by corporate gatekeepers to mislead the public.
Wind and solar and biogas are working just fine in Europe and Asia. If the USA decides to voluntarily “embrace the suck” of expensive energy, I will shed a tear for the memory of technically competent Americans like Werner von Braun.
P.S. Thanks for the links, Dave.