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E-M:/ "Beyond the 2% Solution"

Enviro-Mich message from Wjkramarz@aol.com

"Another way to think about this is that we can create the equivalent of

about 30 Arctic Refuge oilfields in Detroit with good engineering. It takes

bad politics to exploit only one."

(posted by the Global Renaissance Alliance, 3/20)
Beyond the 2% Solution

By Paul Hawken, co-author of "Natural Capitalism:  The Next
Industrial Revolution"

There is a Sufi story about the Mulla Nasrudin who is crawling on all fours

late at night under a streetlight outside his house. A friend wanders by and

asks him what he is doing and Nasrudin tells him he is looking for his lost

house keys. After joining the fruitless search for some time, his friend

turns to him and asks him exactly where he lost them. Nasrudin points to the

backyard of the house. His friend is incredulous and wants to know why they

have been searching in the front yard near the street. Nasrudin says:

"Because this is where the light is."

The purpose of Nasrudin tales is to reveal how the mind creates illusions,

which then pass for reasonable behavior. In the U.S. there is the illusion

du jour: We are running short of energy and need more. Not only has

California hit the wall, but there are ominous warnings from New York City

right across the country that we may have entered a new period of energy

deficits with all the suffering that will entail: inflation, economic

stagnation, and joblessness. Perish the thought; let's drill for oil.

The proposals to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, though it is

one of the world's most climatically hostile locations, seem "reasonable" in

this light. If it is scarcity that determines something's value, then what

is scarce is not oil or even energy, but the wisdom to use it wisely. If

that wisdom could be found in an oil well or vein of coal, America would be

the wisest country in the world. Instead, we are the most profligate with

respect to energy use. How wasteful are we?

Imagine a water tank that supplies a growing town in an arid region. The

water is filled by a well that draws from an aquifer, but the tank is old

and leaky as are the pipes that carry the water into the hamlet. For every

hundred gallons of water that goes into the tank, only two gallons gets to

the village's inhabitants. The rest is lost at the tank or on the way. With

new houses being built and more families arriving, the town is running out

of water, and people are complaining. The mayor proudly announces that he is

going to dig a new well a thousand miles away and pump it across the desert

to their water tank and calls on his city council to appropriate these

needed funds so that the town does not suffer economically. Everyone

applauds. He is a hero.

This is the way we deal with energy in the U.S.

Measurements of energy-calories, BTUs, kilowatt-hours-are ways to 
indicate the amount of work a given amount of oil, gas, or electricity can

accomplish. In the US, for every 100 units of energy that we introduce into

our economic system nearly 98 units are wasted. That's right, we are 2%

efficient. Building a pipeline in the fragile environment of the Arctic

circle to deliver oil that will not arrive for another ten years from now

and that would supply 180 days of total U.S. consumption will only do one

thing: satisfy the Senators of Alaska and the CEOs of oil companies. It will

do nothing for U.S. energy security.

If you doubt the 2% figure, consider two common energy devices, your car 
and a light bulb. After a century of engineering, the modern car is still in 

Iron Age. Of the energy consumed, about 80 percent is lost, mainly in heat

and exhaust. Of the 20 % that gets to the wheels, only 5% moves the driver.

Five-percent times 20% equals 1%, a level of inefficiency that means cars

burn their weight every year in gasoline.

In the case of incandescent light bulbs,100% of the energy input to the lamp

becomes heat; only 8% becomes light en route to heat, then the emitted light

is absorbed and heats the room too. It essentially a space heater that

glows. When you consider that power plants providing the electricity are, on

average, 33% efficient and line losses from transmission trim another 7%, we

are talking about 8% of 30.7%, or 2.5% resource efficiency for our favorite

form of illumination.

If you drive 45 minutes to work, are stuck in a traffic jam, or sit with

your engine idling, efficiency plunges to zero. Likewise, a light bulb left

on in a room with no one in it is 100% inefficient. The solution to such

gross inefficiency is not more energy and energy conservation doesn't mean

lowering the thermostat and shivering. It means increasing energy


What President Bush has completely overlooked are the proven alternatives

that greatly increase the productivity with which energy is used. There are

now a plethora of innovative productivity techniques that can reduce energy

consumption fifty-fold greater than the purported supply of oil in ANWR, and

they are cheaper, more effective, and create more jobs.

If the USGS estimates are correct, ANWR will provide about 292,000 barrels

of oil or about 156,000 barrels of gasoline a day for thirty years starting

in 2011. That would run about 2% of the cars in the U.S for three decades.

Improving fleet mileage 0.4 mpg in our light vehicles would accomplish the

same objective with the important exception that it would cost consumers


These savings are just the tip of the iceberg. U.S. fleet mileage is

currently 24 mpg, a 20-year low. Hybrid electric cars now appearing in show

rooms will triple that figure. Current models such as the Toyota Prius get

48-mpg city/highway combined. There are now over 350,000 on the road here

and abroad. VW is already selling a car that gets 78-mpg and is said to have

a 200-mpg car available in 2003. The Big Three are testing family sedans

that will head for production in the next three years that exceed 70 mpg.

Another way to think about this is that we can create the equivalent of

about 30 Arctic Refuge oilfields in Detroit with good engineering. It takes

bad politics to exploit only one.

Before we get a drop of ANWR oil, we will be driving electric cars powered

by fuel cells. These cars, which emit drinkable hot water vapor from the

tail pipe, have an extraordinary secondary use: they are mobile power plants

with the capacity to provide 5- 10 times the total power output of all our

nuclear and coal plants. Parked cars can feed electricity into the grid,

thereby forever eliminating the need for dirty, large, centralized power


In buildings, manufacturing, processing, and construction, similar savings

abound. The mindset that made cars with one percent energy efficiency

created our buildings and cities too. With relatively low-tech methods

including new glazing, proper siting, efficient lighting, and passive

heating and ventilation, we can create state-of-the-shelf, quiet, thermally

comfortable buildings that are a visual delight. These buildings save 30-50%

over conventionally built structures that are too hot, too cold, too drafty,

too noisy, and not so great to work in. Integrating green buildings with new

urbanist planning and layouts can further reduce traffic, noise, energy, and

waste by equal amounts.

In industry, huge cost and energy savings can be attained as we shift away

from the petrochemically dependent reactive chemistry that has produced a

witch's brew of compounds that permeate our environment with toxins. New

enzymatic techniques not only promise safer compounds, but low-temperature

manufacturing the can reduce energy cost by 90%. The possibilities for

energy efficiency in all aspects of industry are almost overwhelming in

their diversity and possibility. The good news is that these savings are

made of tools, products and services that can be created everywhere in 
the US. They do not depend on oilfields, large capital outlays, or putting

critical environments at risk.

President Bush's energy policy will reward what a few Senators and oil

executives want but not what the American people want. People are not

clamoring for the destruction of a sensitive Arctic habitat, more greenhouse

gases, climatic instability, or the wanton disregard of the traditional home

of the Gwich'in people. 

What Americans want is security, jobs, stable

prices, and an intelligent energy policy. Ignoring the leaky water tank on

the hill cannot attain this. No system is 100% efficient. That is impossible

according to physical laws. But America could have a goal of 10% efficiency,

an objective that would allow robust economic growth while reducing overall

energy use by two-thirds in the next twenty years, a goal that would lead us

away from the oil age, an age whose end is inevitable. 

The oil age, including combustion processes, which threaten the very 
of life on earth, is ending, not because we are running out of oil, but 
we have a better idea. The Stone Age never ran out of stones either. We are 
on the threshold of a profoundly different economy with respect to energy 

The continued governmental subsidy of coal and oil, whether in Alaska or

Virginia or Kentucky or any other state whose Senators have seniority, is a

sure-fire way to hobble America's competitiveness.

We can continue to be the most profligate nation in the world with respect

to energy, or we can begin to become the most brilliant and innovative. We

lead in so many areas of technology. We can do it with energy too. Mark

Twain said that you can't see if your imagination is out of focus. To focus

the imagination of a nation, a country that is economically strong and

environmentally conservative requires just one quality: leadership out of

the oil age, not halting backward steps into it.


Global Renaissance Alliance

P.O. Box 3259

Center Line, MI 48015


(586)754-8106 fax




"Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what

is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again."

-Dag Hammarskj÷ld

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