Sunday, January 8, 2012

Hippie News * Stuff, Jan. 16, 2012: Soft Energy

About 35 years ago, a woman about my mother's age, appeared at my newspaper desk in Santa Fe with a disturbing tale about the coming, inevitable changes which loomed on our energy horizons like storms at sea. It was 75 or 76, not long AFTER the first gas shortage, of '73, and the issue had already faded in Public Mind.

She told me of her son, who had a book coming out which foretold how crises in cost, price and sustainability of our current fuels--which he called "hard" energy--would threaten the whole productive economy of the planet.

The proverbial two roads diverged, her son said in his book, and there was a clear opportunity to implement necessary reforms. The alternative, she said, was sensibly called a "soft" energy path. And her son, Amory Lovins and his bride, Hunter were going to be coming to NM for a visit and wouldn't I--meaning, of course, me--like to do a story about them and it?

But the gas crisis of '73 hadn't hardly touched me, a callow, know-it-all, cocky veteran, recent college-graduate, and world traveler, and I blew it off. I still kick myself at the recollection, because, of course, the Lovins' were absolutely CORRECT! The path we're on leads to disaster.

One of the consequences of hard energy which we DO NOT usually see revealed appeared in reports recently that the "hard" oil industry was in effect threatening to blackmail brave Sir Barry and Lady Clenis into peremptorily approving the proposed oil/slurry pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico--where it my more easily and more profitably join the international flow of fungible oil supplying energy (above all else) profitably for the people who "own" the resource, to an increasingly energy-ravenous world.

Apparently, the decision is still on hold, until after election day. But you can imagine how the exchange might have gone, between an some Oiligarch's gunsel and an Energy Dept, or Interior Dept flunky:
"Psst. Hey! Boy! Yeah you! Tell yer Bosses to approve the pipeline. Nice little deal you got goin, here. It'd be a SHAME if gasoline went to $7 bucks a gallon a week before election day, wootnit?. Knowwaddamean, boy?"
The Oiligarchs won't abandon their monopoly until the last dollar is squeezed out of the last possible barrel of oil, and fashioned a NEW monopoly, too. And they won't stop drilling til they've processed it ALL...

And what the current economic slow-down shows is that there isn't ANY interest out in the "private" sector for the kind of investment which would bring "soft" energy into the mainstream.

These are the vicissitudes of the 'hard' energy path we're on...

Amory Lovins, who with then-wife Hunter, went on to found Rocky Mouontain Institute, in '76 published that book, called "Soft Energy Paths." Check it out at the link on the bottom of the screen. Maybe, if we are VERY VERY lucky, it is not yet too late.

Hell, we can even get energy from the tides, at the beach, hippies...

Back to you in hippie-central, Winstone...

(Run this URL at least the last minute or so, please:
Rocky Mountain Institute,


One particularly thorny problem, if you stop and really THINK about it, is the challenge of completely REFITTING the whole, complex, interwoven "grids" which took the last 100 years to build, without tearing it down before the new infrastructure is in place to replace it. At some point, there will be redundancy, and economic forces--private reluctance and public gridlock--to constrain the expenditure of much capital on investment in alternative, "soft" energy solutions, especially while there is still so much unamortized 'capital' in the "cheap" energy infrastructure.

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