Guest blogger - Saul Griffith's "Energy Literacy Series"


13 Responses to “Guest blogger - Saul Griffith's "Energy Literacy Series"”

  1. orwellian says:

    I’m an AGW skeptic (I’ll pause while you boo) but think there could be common ground here. Skeptics are generally in favor of reducing fossil fuel usage, especially from foreign sources. Foreign sources are generally greater polluters and you have to transport the fuel thousands of miles at risk of oil spills. The US hasn’t built a new refinery since the Ford administration- I think there’s been some environmental advances since 1975 that could be put into new refineries- and old pipes/tanks/systems means less efficiency/capacity/safety and a greater environmental impact. Would energy producers prefer to work in the US instead of risking terrorism or another Chavez seizing their property? You betcha!

    We need a new electric grid, both for efficiency and because there are going to be renewable sources that aren’t close to the people using the energy (no hydro power in Iowa and no solar in Seattle). Skeptics will sign off on this because it makes sense and creates jobs (work in cyber terrorism or EMP attacks to make sure).

    Europe has more diesel cars than the US because we tax all diesel at commercial trucker rates. Diesel engines are more fuel efficient and pollute less. The big environmental advantage is that biodiesel is far superior to ethanol. Ethanol costs more energy to make than it contains, meaning a carbon loss for every gallon. It’s also leading to food shortages worldwide and we simply can’t plant enough corn to supply what the US would need. The diesel engine, however, was designed to run on peanut oil. It was plugged into farm machinery (combines, hay balers, etc) and the farmer would grow peanuts to enrich his soil. After the oil was squeezed out, farm animals ate the rest. Biodiesel would help us hang on until we develop a carbon-free energy chain.

    You can get much of what you want if you stop treating skeptics like morons and heretics. Afterwards, you go can back for more.

    • self-propelled says:

      Orwellian: Boo! Hiss! Actually, you make good points (in contrast to Notary Sojac’s rather tired sniping). A lot of the advantages of pushing renewables, a ‘Green New Deal’, energy efficiency-measures etc. make sense regardless of whether or not you’re convinced by the evidence for global warming. Those of us who are so convinced will need to find plenty of these arguments, perhaps most urgently in the US in preparation for the upcoming cap & trade bill.

      Of course, those kind of arguments will only take us so far: they’re unlikely to be persuasive when arguing for huge financial transfers to the developing countries worst-affected by climate change, for example.

  2. Notary Sojac says:

    I’m an AGW skeptic who will gladly make common cause with anyone who wants to help America develop an ample and growing supply of reliable energy to wean us off dependence on imported oil.

    Unfortunately this puts me at odds with those who don’t like nuclear, don’t like coal, don’t like dams, and think that windmills spoil the view from their beachfront estates. So the common ground is rather scant….

  3. Notary Sojac says:

    Okay, speaking as a skeptic I’ll grant you that AGW “might be real” and suggest my personal contribution.

    I promise to take no flights on private jets. Not only this year, but for the rest of my life.

    This should reduce my carbon footprint to several score tons per year less than Al Gore, Leo DiCaprio, Barbra Streisand and all the other members of the Let’s Make The Little People Conserve So I Don’t Have To Society.

    More public advocates living the Dennis Kuchinich rather than the Streisand lifestyle would do the AGW movement a world of good.

  4. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Before the climate change deniers and skeptics run to their keyboards

    Unfortunately, they’ve learned to work outside the linear time paradigm.

  5. deanaoxo says:

    SG, there is no doubt that you continue to improve, grow, and teach. Good on you, and look forward to your guest postings here~!


  6. Anonymous says:

    Well, one thing people will have to do is move inland, at least where seawalls are not a real option.

  7. The5thElephant says:

    I sincerely hope this is not going to end up being the old carbon-reduction VS geo-engineering debate.

    Because both sides fail:

    If we turned off every single carbon producing piece of machinery, carbon would continue to be released into the atmosphere by the feedback loops we have created already (for example the perma-frost melting). Yet this is besides the point because the likelihood that we will be able to reduce carbon emissions in any significant way is nil. Not only do we have a country filled with people whose idea of reducing energy consumption is buying a Prius or turning off the lights more often (if that even), but we also have massive developing nations who primarily rely on coal and oil for cheap energy to power their rapidly growing economies.

    Carbon reduction will take place over a couple of hundred years once alternate energy sources are the norm and forests can catch up with our mess. In other words, global warming WILL happen, NO MATTER WHAT (luckily GW promotes plant growth which will accelerate the carbon absorption).

    Geo-engineering is even stupider since most of the ideas are completely hypothetical, and only address one aspect of GW without dealing with the other aspects. It is a band-aid solution, not a core solution. Furthermore, some of the side effects of many of these geo-engineering solutions are WORSE than the effects of global warming. Dumping salt in the oceans? Cycling ocean temperatures where they don’t normally mix? Polluting the skies to block out sunlight? Isn’t anyone worried at the side-effects of this?

    I am not advocating doing nothing though. I am advocating devoting our time and resources to actually solving problems, not hypothesizing about ideal solutions that could never happen. We can’t predict what exactly will happen due to GW. All the models agree that average temperatures go up, but they don’t agree on what that will do. Droughts in some places, monsoons in others. Floods here, ice age there. They are all over the place.

    So we have to deal with the problems as they come, or the problems we are absolutely certain will come about. Rising sea levels is likely no matter what, so we should build sea walls. Environmental refugees are likely no matter what, so we should build decent long-term shelters. Agricultural collapse due to changing weather and environments is likely no matter what, so we should develop urban vertical farm technology.

    Way too much time and money is being wasted on efforts which will go nowhere. Carbon is important, but we CANT DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT in the short term. The best we can do is move completely to clean energy sources like nuclear, solar, wind, hydro, etc and then wait a century or two for the trees to clean it up (perhaps bio-engineer the trees to be better at absorbing carbon). Otherwise we are just fooling ourselves into thinking we are doing something.

  8. masomenos says:

    Welcome Saul! I heard the podcast of your Long Now speech & was intrigued, will be interested to see what you’ve got to say here.

  9. Maggie Koerth-Baker says:

    Great to have you on board! Very much looking forward to this.

  10. The5thElephant says:

    PS – Welcome Saul! The more debate on this topic the better.

  11. danlalan says:

    Always glad to see more discussion on these subjects. Welcome.

    Between the AGW deniers, GW deniers, peak oil deniers, the ones who think an energy starved collapse of society is a good thing and those who just don’t care at all, I sometimes wonder how many people are left who want to see or care about any changes at all. Hopefully enough.

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