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E-M:/ "Beyond the 2% Solution"
- Subject: E-M:/ "Beyond the 2% Solution"
- From: Wjkramarz@aol.com
- Date: Fri, 22 Mar 2002 12:15:29 EST
- Delivered-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Delivered-To: email@example.com
- List-Name: Enviro-Mich
- Reply-To: Wjkramarz@aol.com
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
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
"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."
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