Energy = Life
“Energy is the master resource, because energy enables us to convert one material into another. As natural scientists continue to learn more about the transformation of materials from one form to another with the aid of energy, energy will be even more important. . . . For example, low energy costs would enable people to create enormous quantities of useful land. The cost of energy is the prime reason that water desalination now is too expensive for general use; reduction in energy cost would make water desalination feasible, and irrigates farming would follow in many areas that are now deserts.”
“Energy will do anything that can be done in the world.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“In its widest sense on its material side, history is the story of man’s increasing ability to control energy. By energy we mean the capacity for doing work, for causing—not controlling—movement, for making things go or making things stop, whether they be trains or watches or mills or men. In order that anything may be done, energy is required.”
“Energy . . . is the great enabler for all peoples around the world.”
–Robert Bradley, Jr.
“Every event in history can occur only insofar as there is available whatever amount of energy (i.e., work) is necessary to carry it out. We can think thoughts wildly, but if we do not have the wherewithal to convert them into action, they will remain [just] thoughts.”
- Richard Adam
“Substitution of energy-intensive technologies powered by commercial energy forms for human and animal labor and the attendant productivity gains first led to abolition of slavery, serfdom, and child labor and culminated with the emancipation of women in the West. Thus, societal advances are inextricably linked to growing energy abundance and electrification and increasing personal mobility. Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, life expectancy and literacy correlate closely with primary energy and electricity consumption, as does energy scarcity with poverty and environmental degradation. Electrification with modern, efficient and non-polluting power sources is by far the most effective way to improve environmental quality.”
- Henry Linden
“Energy is the only universal currency: one of its many forms must be transformed to another in order for stars to shine, planets to rotate, plants to grow, and civilizations to evolve.”
“As the result of industrial civilization, not only do billions more people survive, but in the advanced countries they do so on a level far exceeding that of kings and emperors in all previous ages—on a level that just a few generations ago would have been regarded as possible only in a world of science fiction. With the turn of a key, the push of a pedal, and the touch of a steering wheel, they drive along highways in wondrous machines at seventy miles an hour. With the flick of a switch, they light a room in the middle of darkness. With the touch of a button, they watch events taking place ten thousand miles away. With the touch of a few other buttons, they talk to other people across town or across the world. They even fly through the air at six hundred miles per hour, forty thousand feet up, watching movies and sipping martinis in air-conditioned comfort as they do so. In the United States, most people can have all this, and spacious homes or apartments, carpeted and fully furnished, with indoor plumbing, central heating, air conditioning, refrigerators, freezers, and gas or electric stoves, and also personal libraries of hundreds of books, compact disks, and DVDs; they can have all this, as well as long life and good health—as the result of working forty hours a week.
“The achievement of this marvelous state of affairs has been made possible by the use of ever improved machinery and equipment, which has been the focal point of scientific and technological progress. The use of this ever improved machinery and equipment is what has enabled human beings to accomplish ever greater results with the application of less and less muscular exertion.
“Now inseparably connected with the use of ever improved machinery and equipment has been the increasing use of man-made power, which is the distinguishing characteristic of industrial civilization and of the Industrial Revolution, which marked its beginning. To the relatively feeble muscles of draft animals and the still more feeble muscles of human beings, and to the relatively small amounts of useable power available from nature in the form of wind and falling water, industrial civilization has added man-made power. It did so first in the form of steam generated from the combustion of coal, and later in the form of internal combustion based on petroleum, and electric power based on the burning of any fossil fuel or on atomic energy.
“This man-made power, and the energy released by its use, is an equally essential basis of all of the economic improvements achieved over the last two hundred years. It is what enables us to use the improved machines and equipment and is indispensable to our ability to produce the improved machines and equipment in the first place. Its application is what enables us human beings to accomplish with our arms and hands, in merely pushing the buttons and pulling the levers of machines, the amazing productive results we do accomplish. To the feeble powers of our arms and hands is added the enormously greater power released by energy in the form of steam, internal combustion, electricity, or radiation. In this way, energy use, the productivity of labor, and the standard of living are inseparably connected, with the two last entirely dependent on the first.
“Thus, it is not surprising, for example, that the United States enjoys the world’s highest standard of living. This is a direct result of the fact that the United States has the world’s highest energy consumption per capita. The United States, more than any other country, is the country where intelligent human beings have arranged for motor-driven machinery to accomplish results for them. All further substantial increases in the productivity of labor and standard of living, both here in the United States and across the world, will be equally dependent on man-made power and the growing use of energy it makes possible. Our ability to accomplish more and more with the same limited muscular powers of our limbs will depend entirely on our ability to augment them further and further with the aid of still more such energy.”
The Unappreciated Role of Fossil Fuels Throughout History and Today
“Coal, in truth, stands not beside but entirely above all other commodities. It is the material energy of the country—the universal aid—the factor in everything we do. With coal almost any feat is possible or easy; without it we are thrown back in the laborious poverty of early times.”
“Coal is everything to us. Without coal, our factories will become idle, our foundries and workshops be still as the grave; the locomotive will rues in the shed, and the rail be buried in the weeds. Our streets will be dark, our houses uninhabitable. Our rivers will forget the paddlewheel, and we shall again be separated by days from France, by months for the United States. The post will lengthen its periods and protract its dates. A thousand special arts and manufacturers, one by one, then in a crowd, will fly the empty soil, as boon companies are said to disappear when the cask is dry. We shall miss our grand dependence, as a man misses his companion, his fortune, or a limb, every hour and at every turn reminded of the irreparable loss. Wise England will then be the silly virgin without the oil in her lamp.”
–William Stanley Jevons, 1965
“The strategic place of bituminous coal in the industrial order requires no explanation. So obvious is it that Adam Smith’s remark, ‘coals are a less agreeable form of fuel than wood’ seems naïve, and the act of a fourteenth century parliament in outlawing ‘the burning of coal’ as a ‘public nuisance’ almost unthinkable. Very briefly, our whole productive system is built about the machine-process; the machine-process uses mechanical energy; and the great source of mechanical energy is coal.”
“The industrial primacy of bituminous coal is today unchallenged. As power, the labor of human beings is no longer of any current account. The ox as a beast of burden stalks only the dim ways of history and the horse has been dislodged from the treadmill to amble along unfrequented country roads. It is of the irony of time that mules are today employed in the mining of a product which made their own energy obsolete.”
–Walton Hamilton and Helen Wright, 1926
“The great dramatic shift to mineral energy is the very basis of technological progress. One could almost concentrate the whole history of
economic development into this simple transition: man power to animal power to machine power.”
- Erich Zimmermann
“The twentieth century was the first era dominated by fossil fuels and electricity, and their vastly expanded supply, lower cost, increasing flexibility of use, and ease of control created the first high-energy civilization in history. Mechanization and chemization of agriculture have given us a plentiful and varied food supply: more than a four fold increase in crop productivity during the twentieth century has been made possible by a roughly 150-fold increase of fossil fuels and electricity used directly and indirectly in global cropping.”
“By providing energy flows of high power density, fossil fuels and electricity made it possible to embark on a large-scale industrialization creating a predominantly urban civilization with unprecedented levels of economic growth reflected in better health, greater social opportunities, higher disposable incomes, expanded transportation and an overwhelming flow of information.”
“On a daily basis, global coal consumption is equivalent to about 63.8 million barrels of oil. Thus, replacing the world’s coal habit with something else will require finding an energy source (or sources) that can supplant the equivalent
of six new Saudi Arabias. Or consider China. On an average day, its coal use provides the energy equivalent of 26.3 million barrels of oil, or about two and a half Saudi Arabias.
By any measure, those are daunting numbers. U.S. and global policymakers may not like coal, but given the enormous scale of the coal business, it’s obvious that the U.S. and the rest of the world will be relying on the black fuel for many years to come.”
“Left free to discover and harness energy, human beings can adapt to changes in weather. Anyone who cares about the plight of the poor must recognize that what they desperately need is not a stagnant average global temperature but capitalism, including cheap, affordable fossil fuels now, and the freedom to find even better fuels later, unhampered by environmental hysteria.”
“What it claims is that if we destroy the energy base needed to produce and operate the construction equipment required to build strong, well-made, comfortable houses for hundreds of millions of people, we shall be safer from hurricanes and floods than if we retain and enlarge that energy base. It claims that if we destroy our capacity to produce and operate refrigerators and air conditioners, we shall be better protected from hot weather than if we retain and enlarge that capacity. It claims that if we destroy our capacity to produce and operate tractors and harvesters, to can and freeze food, to build and operate hospitals and produce medicines, we shall secure our food supply and our health better than if we retain and enlarge that capacity. This is the meaning of the claim that retaining this capacity will bring highly destructive global warming, while destroying it will avoid such global warming.”
“Of course plutonium is toxic. Of course it must be handled with care. But the rest is just horror propaganda. Plutonium is primarily an alpha emitter, which means that its radiation is absorbed in the air after a few inches, and a sheet of paper is sufficient to shield oneself
against its radiation at close quarters.”
“Energy is the capacity for doing work, and as long as man is fallible, there is always the possibility that it will do the wrong kind of work… This book never tries to make the point that nuclear power is safe; the point it makes is that it is far safer than any form of large-scale energy conversion yet invented.”
”An explosive nuclear chain reaction is no more feasible in the type of uranium used as power plant fuel than it is in chewing
gum or pickled cucumbers.”
What Anti-Industrialists Really Believe
“A total population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels, would be ideal.” –Ted Turner,
”We must make this an insecure and inhospitable place for capitalists and their projects. We must reclaim the roads and plowed land, halt dam construction, tear down existing dams, free shackled rivers and return to wilderness millions of acres of presently settled land.”
–David Foreman, co-founder of Earth First!
”Our insatiable drive to rummage deep beneath the surface of the earth is a willful expansion of our dysfunctional civilization
”Complex technology of any sort is an assault on human dignity. It would be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy, because of what we might do with it.”
–Environmentalist Icon Amory Lovins
”A massive campaign must be launched to de-develop the United States. De-development means bringing our economic system into line with the realities of ecology and the world resource situation.”
–Environmentalist Icon Paul Ehrlich
”The only hope for the world is to make sure there is not another United States. We can’t let other countries have the same number of cars, the amount of industrialization, we have in the US. We have to stop these Third World countries right where they are.”
–Michael Oppenheimer, Environmental Defense Fund
“Many people assume that cheaper, more abundant energy will mean that mankind is better off, but there is no evidence for that.”
–Laura Nader (sister and ally of Ralph)
“We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money.” –Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy,
justifying the light bulb ban. [Editor's note: I thought the point of having my own money was that I, not Steven Chu, could decide how to spend it best.]
“I’m not going to have the windmills on my ranch. They’re ugly.”
–T. Boone Pickens