Sunday, August 30, 2009

AmoryLovins, “abating climate change for fun and profit” and death

During the late spring and early summer a virtual firestorm of criticism against Amory Lovins, following the publication of his essay Amory Lovins wrote the Nuclear Illusion. So far I have focused on David Bradish's criticism of Lovins, but Bradish was not the only source of telling and unanswered criticism of Lovins. Internet futurist, Brian Wang, examined data which Lovins used to support his long standing contention that nuclear power was collapsing. Wang noted:
Lovins has been claiming nuclear collapse since the 1970s
And then Wang reported,
Since 1980, nuclear power TWH has increased by over 400%. So Amory Lovins is wrong about nuclear energy being a collapsing industry.
Lovins had argued, using data primarily from the last decade, that the growth of "micropower" demonstrated the collapse of nuclear power. Wang observed
The "micropower" is mostly [75%] diesel, biomass and natural gas of small and big sizes. Natural gas has 4 deaths per TWH (Externe source). So 2500 Twh (to displace nuclear power) would be 10,000 deaths per year. The diesel (oil) portion is 35 deaths per TWH. The biomass about 10 deaths per TWH (35,000 deaths per year if diesel was the main source). The blended rate of deaths per TWH from micropower is over 12 deaths per TWH. Far higher than the 0.65 deaths per TWH calculated by Externe for nuclear power. Even if the micropower deaths per TWH was cut in half for lower distribution losses the number is still far higher. Diesel and natural gas are not renewable. Over 75% of the power that Lovins is talking about is diesel, natural gas and biomass.
Wang illustrated the problem with this chart:

Clearly nuclear is far safer than "micropower. " Wang noted that the increase in Micropower that Lovins advocated, would lead thousands of deaths.

Brian Wang was not the only Lovins critic to note Lovins' curious preference for natural gas and diesel burning "micropower" generation over nuclear. Karen Street stated:
OK, I agree with the portion about how it is OK to stack solutions on top of each other on a graph, but I don't understand at all why someone my age or younger would prefer small fossil fuel over any size low-GHG.
Then Street added:
Please explain.
Needless to say Lovins has not responded with the requested explanation. Wang and Street's comments are so telling against Lovins, because the reveal that not only does Lovins not have a real plan to combat global warming, but the courses of actions he recommends are actually making it worse. Since Lovins has ducked out of any response Wang and Street, it is safe to say that Lovins does not deny the fundamental flaws which they point to in his thinking about energy.

Other prominent Internet critics of Lovins include Rod Adams, Nuclear physicist and Arms Control expert Alexander DeVolpi, who observed:
Because Lovins renders no substantive academic or acquired nuclear credentials, the analyses he presents ought to be held to a strict standard of scientific credibility, such as that described by the Daubert U.S. Supreme Court decision. . . . This is in lieu of granting him interim benefit of doubt, a courtesy often extended to individuals who have an established scientific reputation . . . In other words, I would advise treating Lovins’ renderings on nuclear issues with healthy, but not dismissive skepticism. His presentation and publications should be judged by standard scientific criteria, no more, no less....

l though Lovins seems to have completed some courses in experimental physics at Oxford University in England, he lacks any laboratory experience in nuclear physics or engineering. His vetted degree credentials are vague enough to induce caution, caveat emptor. Such a shortcoming has not prevented him from writing numerous articles, giving many briefings, and speaking frequently about nuclear technical policy. . . . Lovins has been a widely praised proponent of the so-called “soft-energy path,” as well has having been an habitual and readily available critic of nuclear energy.

. . . expertise alleged should not be considered credible simply because of personal experience, widely publicized image, or self-declared credibility — which can be crafted as concatenating substitutes for substantive technical analysis and publication. The individual being challenged should follow the same established guidelines for scientific analysis and peer-reviewed publication as the rest of us have during our professional careers.

..,his extrapolation from laboratory model to production product is unrealistic, being deficient in practical marketplace engineering. Faulty reasoning and extrapolation often reflect a lack of hands-on construction experience. Lovins did not put into evidence anything he actually built or was responsible for constructing, other than a viewgraph of a fancy banana greenhouse situated on his Aspen, Colorado, property.
Other Lovins critics include George Monbiot who published a critique of Lovins' distributive "microgeneration" concept as applied to renewables in The New Scientist titled, "Small-scale renewable power - Low wattage thinking? Other prominent critics of Lovins include the late Alvin Weinberg, Professor Paul Joskow, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Peter Huber, Mark Mills, and Professor Vaclav Smil. Smil remarked,
Inexplicably, Lovins retains his guru aura no matter how wrong he is.
Amory has become a celebrity after wholesaling his fairy-tale of “soft” decentralized small-scale energies as THE solution (with its deep counter-cultural, Berkeleyish appeal), and it is the first law of celebrity-hood that, right or wrong, coherent or not, you retain the status. Combine that with the just-noted mass scientific ignorance of the population and with Amory’s sleek offerings of no-pain solutions (nothing will cost anything, or as he famously put it, “abating climate change for fun and profit”) and you have new believers signing up every time he speaks.
David Bradish is not the only critic Lovins abandoned the field to. Following Robert Bryce
well-known Energy Tribune critique of Lovins, Lovins wrote him claiming
the article suffers from many errors small and large.

Lovins added
When time permits, I'll write a corrective letter. Would you then like to post it on your website? It will be on ours in any event.
Bryce notes:
I assured Lovins that we would be happy to post his letter whenever he found time to write it. Eighteen months later, I am still waiting.


DocForesight said...

Charles, thank you for the insider-type updates that you provide on these topics and characters. For those of us "newer" to the debate and jousting, it helps to know who the principal characters are.

One small request, though: To better make your postings more readable, please do a spell-check. Runtogetherwords are difficult to read and detract from the message.

I liken blogs to talk-radio, in that, words spoken or written are the first and, often, only way for an audience to gauge the speaker or writer's credibility. Give yourself the best advantage by presenting a serious image through excellence in grammar and spelling.

Thanks, again, for all you bring to the crucial topic of energy production and the environment.

Charles Barton said...

DocForesight, believe it or not, I do spellcheck. My vision is very bad, and i do the best I can.

DocForesight said...

I notice you are quite farsighted but I thought the spell-check function would catch the run-together words. Thanks again for your information and historical perspective.

Charles Barton said...

Apparently not.


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