I now understand there is no ene
I am no longer worried. Now that I understand there is no energy crisis, no ingenuity crisis, only the need for well-meaning bureaucracies to adapt policies to rapidly changing assumptions, I am terrified.
Worried about the Energy Crisis?
Bill James, JPods

I used to think and worry about the energy crisis and the terrible consequences we will suffer as our economy crumble and social fabric shreds in the wake of Peak Oil and Global Warming.

  • I worried about high gas prices, ratcheting ever higher.
  • I worried about political instability of the oil supply from the Middle East as our dependence on Middle East oil rose from 30% to 60%.
  • I worried about 2 wars in the Middle East in the last 17 years to protect access to oil.
  • I worried about Green House Gases and air pollution.
  • I worried about Abrupt Climate Change and the horrible consequences of Global Warming.
  • I worried about Peak Oil and the imminent reality that available energy is about to peak and remorselessly decline, sucking economic activity and population carrying capacity into the void.

I was wrong, there is no energy crisis. In this long dark of working fanatically to find solutions to my worries, I finally broke through the fog. I was looking for answers and got the problem wrong, twice. Not a testament to brilliance.

At first I thought there was an energy crisis but Mr. Edison, Mr. Swenson and 8 years of hard work on JPods corrected me, there is no energy crisis (I will explain this in a moment). Then I thought there was an ingenuity crisis, but looking around there is vast amounts of creativity bursting at the seams trying to find vents to explode into being.

At a glacial pace, not that slow any more, it finally dawned on me when someone asked me a question, "Of the 10 worst famines of the 20th Century, how many happened in Africa?" My answer was 8; the correct answer is zero. Highly agrarian societies have had severe hardships, but truly spectacular famines require government policy (extracted from Reuters ):

  1. China 1958-62 Between 10 and 30 million people died as a result of Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward.
  2. Soviet Union 1921-22 Nine million people died.
  3. Soviet Union (Ukraine) 1932-34 Between seven and eight million people died as a result of Josef Stalin's massive industrialisation programme.
  4. Northwest China 1927 Between three and six million people died. The famine was triggered by drought but made worse by local warlords and harsh taxes.
  5. China (Henan) 1943 Five million people died as a result of a combination of invasion by Japan and grain seizures by the Chinese army to feed its troops and finance the war.
  6. North Korea 1995-99 Between 2.8 million and 3.5 million people died because of a combination of flooding and government policy.
  7. India (Bengal) 1943Between 2.1 and three million people died as a result of crop failure, the exporting of foods by India's British administration to Allied soldiers fighting in World War Two.
  8. China (Hunan) 1929 Two million people died because of drought and conflict.
  9. Soviet Union (Ukraine and Belorussia) 1946-47 Two million died because of drought and government policy - the re-enforcement of agricultural collectivisation policies after World War Two. This was the last famine in the Soviet Union.
  10. Cambodia 1979 Between 1.5 and two million died of famine following a decade of conflict - first during the civil war from 1970 to 1975, then during the brutal Khmer Rouge era until 1978 and finally in the aftermath of the Vietnamese invasion that ended Khmer Rouge rule in 1979.

Wow, and that does not even account for deaths in war and genocide, which are also direct government policy.

So, life in America is great. What can be wrong with our policy? Why I am so uppity that I should worry and think wrong-headed all our governments, all our political parties and each of us for actively or passively supporting current policies.

That brings me back to the point made earlier, that I would explain later; there is no energy crisis. The sun delivers to us, directly to our farms, towns and cities, 178,000 TeraWatts. All of human society uses 13. There is no energy crisis; we can live within a solar budget. It is like having a really big allowance. Vast amounts of excess energy are delivered to us nearly daily for our convenience by the nature and the grace of the universe in which we live.

Mr. Edison, responsible for substantial inventions, even told us so, "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait 'til oil and coal run out before we tackle that."

It is not a new concept; Thomas Edison lived from1847-1931.

So why are we so neglectful of the resource so kindly delivered to us? Why do are we so in love with oil, nukes and bio-fuels? Why are our policies all directed at cars, trains, buses and airplanes? The answer is pretty simple: they were invented and in use before we build our big government bureaucracies (New Deal and WWII). It sound pretty stupid but think a minute, what is a bureaucracy? Bureaucracies implement policies to create consistency; bureaucracies are the institutionalized suspension of judgment. Once policies are in place, all subsequent actions are linear:

  • OK, so nukes were not invented before our bureaucracies. But they are one of those rare inventions that were created by our bureaucracies. So they sort of fit into the current path of acceptance.

  • Bio-fuels: we know how to heat a tent with horse manure, been done along time requires no new thought. Making it into a liquid just takes 2 pounds of coal or natural gas to create 3 pounds of liquid fuel. Not very efficient, lousy food policy but great farm policy. We will likely have the first SUV Famine within 2 years as corn is diverted from food, exported from poor countries to be burned in SUV's in America. I'll pay the high price for non-ethanol gas. I do not want to starve someone so I can drive my car cheaper, on taxpayer subsidized gas.

  • Oil: a great high-density fuel that allowed us to build small but powerful portable engines. Love it. I do not want, and probably will not give up my car. Oil is a wonderful gift. But it has been so cheap we waste it moving a ton to move a person. When we first built cars and locked in policy, cars barely moved faster than a horse. Waste products came out as an invisible gas instead of bio-fuels we had to pick up. It was great. But "the poison is in the dose" we implemented linear policies of bigger and more wasteful until we flooded our atmosphere with invisible but active Green House Gases.

  • How many bureaucrats file patents? Not many. And since creative, small businesses are so unruly, abounding in patents and more difficult to manage than large corporations and monopolies, rules gradually weed them out. The result is a nice, neat, closed system where only what is in use is qualified, and only qualified systems can compete. So we end up with only cars, buses, trains and planes. All the resources of our government, major corporations and educations institutions are directed at keeping us on this funded path. The question "How do we move people to and from work" is not allowed. The only question funded for research is "How do we get gas in our cars or drive people to accept waiting for 18th Century trains?" It is perfect, unless the assumptions change.

Unfortunately, assumptions that abundant, cheap, and securely oil will always be available, and invisible gases cannot hurt us have proved wrong. We are propelling ourselves and the world's eco-system into famine; but we are very orderly about it.

And that brings me all the way back to the beginning about being wrong twice, there is no energy crisis, there is no ingenuity crisis, there is a policy crisis.

Our policies require we move a ton to move a person. "Light Rail" moves 3 tons to move a person; it is like giving everyone a Hummer, they just don't have to park it. It is no wonder there appears to be an energy crisis; our policies require us to be 2% efficient. It is no wonder we have a Global Warming crisis; 98% of the power we use is vented to it.

Here is a thought from a wise man, "The significant problems we face. cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." Albert Einstein

Here is different thinking applied to policy from Herman Scheer of Germany, make room for small businesses; let anyone be a power company. Require utilities to buy solar generated power from people at 20% over their purchase price. Policy has created an explosion of innovation and ingenuity. Germany, a country of the far north, with long dark winters, and short rainy summers, has outpaced California in deploying solar energy solutions. The policy has also created 100,000 new jobs in the sustainable infrastructure industry.

For our contribution, we invented JPods. Instead of moving a ton to move a person, JPods strives to move only the person. They are so efficient that the integrated solar collectors capture more power than the transportation network needs. Ribbons of power and mobility turn entire transportation networks into gigantic solar generators. Hopefully the policy that prevents deployment will soon change.

And by the way, I am no longer worried. Now that I understand there is no energy crisis, no ingenuity crisis, only the need for well-meaning bureaucracies to adapt policies to rapidly changing assumptions, I am terrified.

 

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