National Geographic : 1981 Feb 28
strengthen the dollar by keeping tens of billions of dollars in the U. S. We could make our personal life-style more secure by providing assured energyfor jobs, homes, and cars. In short,we could strengthen both our military security and our economic security. In the development of syntheticfuels the need is for government promotion, not preemption. The government can help by supporting researchand demonstration projects. The private sector alone should undertake commercial-scaleplants, with the chance to succeed or fail at its own risk. The energy industry confronts a bold challenge. Given the opportunity to invest responsibly, we will provide America with energy enough to keep her strongand secure. Our national objective must be increasedenergy self sufficiency without environmental retreator economic dislocation.Given the determination,the courage, and the vision, the people of the United States can continue to enjoy the advantages of an industrializedsociety. Amory B.Lovins FRIENDS OF THE EARTH HOW MUCH energy do we need? Just enough to do each task, balancingthe cost of getting more energy against the cost of wringing more work from what we already have. Investing in this way over the next 20 years could reduce energyusein theU.S.bya quarterand nonrenewablefuel use by nearly half-with a two thirds increase in gross nationalproduct, unchanged life-styles, and more jobs. Like someone who cannot fill the bathtub because the hot water keeps runningout, we need not a bigger water heater but a plug. Cost-effective plugs can double the efficiency of industrialmotors, triple that of lights, quadruple that of household appliances, quintuple that of cars, and increasethat of buildings tenfold or more by making them so heat tight (but well ventilated) that they need little heating or cooling. What kinds of energy do we need? The kinds that will do each task at the least cost. The special tasks that justify using electricity-the costliest form of energy-are only 8 percent of all energy uses, but are met twice over by today's power stations. Still more electricity would be grossly uneconomical for the other 92 percent of our needs (heatingand vehicular liquidfuels). Thus debating which electric power station to build is like shoppingfor brandy to burn in your caror Chippendalesto bum in your stove. Compared with efficiency improvements, any new power station is so uneconomical that we would save money by never operatingit! No wonder the marketplace has rejected nuclearpower. Where can we get our energy? Active and passive solarheat, passive solarcooling, liquid fuels from biomass wastes, existing and small-scale hydro power, and wind can meet virtually all long-term energy needs for the United States, GreatBritain, West Germany, France,Japan-indeed, every country yet studied. Available renewable sources are not cheap, easy, or instant, but they are cheaper, easier,and faster than synfuel plants or still costlierpower stations. These best buys-efficiency improvements, followed by "soft technologies" (renewable sources)-arealso the fastest oil savers. Just weatherizing buildings and replacing inefficient cars could eliminate oil imports by about 1990. Consider: During 1973 78 we got twice as much energy capacity, twice as fast, from efficiency improvements as synfuel advocates claim they can provide at ten times the cost. In 1979 about 97 percent of U. S. economic growth was fueled by energy savings, only 3 percent by new supply. Nuclear power, after three decades and vast subsidies, is delivering about half as much energy as wood. Millions of individualactions in the marketplace are outpacing centrally planned supply programs by nearlyforty to one. Economic and political advantages have already spurred thousands of communities to start implementing a soft-energy path from ALBERT MOLDVAY pathfrom the bottom up: Washington will be the last to know. Energy is neither too complex nor too technicalfor ordinarypeople to understand although it may be too simple and too politicalfor some technical experts. In short, as Lao-tzu advised: "Leaders are best when people scarcely know they exist, not so good when people obey and acclaim them, worst when people despise them. Fail to honor people, they fail to honor you. But of good leaders who talk little, when their work is done, their aimfulfilled, the people will all say: 'We did this ourselves.'"