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York University
Natural Science
NATS 1760
Darrin Durant

NATS 1760 DARRIN DURANT/ JAMES ELWICK Monday, February 11, 2013 EXCERPTS FROM SOFT ENERGY PATHS; TOWARDS A DURABLE PEACE (pg. 241- 249) Amory B. Lovins 1.1 TECHNOLOGY IS THE ANSWER! (BUT WHAT WAS THE QUESTION?)  Where do ‘energy needs’ come from? - Recent growth rates of population and per capita energy use are projected upwards and whatever technology are required to produce this projection get automatically accepted, with no thought on how long the system can last once the projected levels are attained - There is no such thing as enough; energy use is either desirable or inevitable  Politically; it is unworkable- most people are on the receiving end of the operations, they treat enterprises with a lack of enthusiasm because they directly perceive the prohibitive social and environmental costs  Extrapolative policy seems technically unworkable; richest and most sophisticated countries lack the skills, industrial capacity and managerial ability to sustain such rapid expansions of untried and unforgiving technologies  Economically unworkable; free market mechanisms unwilling to allocate to the extremely capital-intensive, high risk supply technologies the money needed to build them  U.S. National Research Council CONAES study states  ‘Facet of the solution’ to the energy problem related to the issue of how fast, and whether, our use of energy may need to grow and how much energy our society will require to sustain the way of life that it chooses  Before concluded that technology is the answer the question is 1) Who is going to require the energy? 2) How much energy? 3) What kind of energy? 4) For what purpose? 5) For how long? 2.2 HARD ENERGY PATHS  Sustaining growth in energy consumption, and of minimizing oil imports - Proposed solution is rapid expansions of three sectors: coal, oil and gas, and nuclear fission  All domestic resources, even naval oil reserves, are squeezed hard- in a policy that David Brower calls ‘Strength Through Exhaustion’ - Emphasis is on short-term - Aggressive subsidies and regulations are used to hold down energy prices below economic and prevailing international levels so that growth will not be seriously constrained 2.5 SOFT ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES  ‘Soft’ technologies; a textural description, intended to mean not vague, mushy, speculative, or ephemeral, but rather flexible, resilient, sustainable, and benign  the distinction between soft and hard technologies is not based on how much energy is used, but on the technical and sociopolitical structure of the energy system  Rapid deployment of soft technologies are defined by five characteristics: 1) They rely on renewable energy flows that are always there whether we use them or not (sun, wind, vegetation); energy income not on depletable energy capital 2) They are diverse, national energy supply is an aggregate of very many individually modest contributions, each designed for maximum effectiveness 3) They are flexible and relatively low technology 4) They are matched in scale and in geographic distribution to end use needs, taking advantage of the free distribution of most natural energy flows 5) They are matched in energy quality to end-use needs 9.1 ENEGY AND SOCIAL STRUCTURE  The view that nuclear power is acceptable is normally associated with all the other perceptions of the hard energy path in structure and in sociopolitical implications  The hard path; demands strongly interventionist central control, bypasses traditional market mechanisms, concentrates political and economic power, encourages urbanization, persistently distorts political structures and social priorities, increase bureaucratization and alienation, compromises professional ethics, is probably inimical to greater distributional equity within and among nations, inequitably divorces costs from benefits, enhances vulnerability and the paramilitarization of civilian life, introduces major economic and social risks, reinforces current trends toward centrifugal politics and the decline of federalism, and nurtures elitist technocracy whose exercise erodes the legitimacy of democratic government  Hard technologies are oriented toward abstract economic services for remote and anonymous consumers, and therefore can neither command nor allow personal involvement by people in the community they serve  Soft technologies use familiar, equitably distributed natural energies to meet perceived human needs directly and comprehensibly- ‘convivial’ to choose, build and use  Not only does it pay to do things on your own (real people vs. economic people) but because it symbolizes a small triumph of quality over mediocrity and of individualism over the system  e.g. cherish small corner shops, feel more guilty than satisfied eating hamburgers that are a byproduct of petrochemicals manufacture etc.  Soft technologies are structurally more participatory than hard technologies - in a nuclear society, nobody can opt out of nuclear risk, but in a soft path, people can choose their own risk-benefit balances and energy systems to match their own degree of caution and involvement  ‘Consumer humiliation’- their forced dependence on systems they cannot understand, control, diagnose, repair or modify or can continue to depend on traditional utilities CONCLUSION: NO MORE COUNTING ON OIL (pg. 251-256) Timothy Mitchell  What kind of politics might follow from the declining flow of oil and other fossil fuels? - Greenpeace proposes building a decentralized energy system, dispensing with the electrical grid and turning every building into a generator of heat and power  ‘Decentralizing energy would also democratize energy’  These projects and the arguments that support them indicate not that forms of energy determine modes of politics, but that energy is a field of technical uncertainty rather than determinism, and that the building of solutions to future energy needs is also the building of new forms of collective life  Arguments of the future politics of oil: - The Malthusians believe politics will be determined by the limits of nature, which the demands of increasing human consumption will inevitably exceed  Uncovering the fixed thresholds of nature - For the technologists, the progress of science will continue to find ways to overcome those limits, u
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