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energy framing

by on December 1, 2010
Last night i attended a Deepwater symposium at Stanford. The key lead speaker started with two slides. First, growht in population from a few hundred yars back to 2050. There wil be nine billion (he added another half with 9.5 to dive home the point he will make), and we need to match the energy needs of thisppulation. Second slide, energy use vs income. Up. By country. China, India and Brazil low on both, but with the “obvious” rajectory. hence more energy demand. This rhetorical trick, assuming at the beginnign without question the most questionable assumption, even survived the questions, when I asked “If you make this assertion, that we must meet deman, then you are assuming the demand is a force of nature, not something we can do anything about. How did we get into thisn tratp? Whose Urgency? He answred. “Oh I agree and that is why we must do everything we can, with new forms of energy, new ways of manufacturing, sowe can meet the required doubling of energy. after all, enregy is the world’s system.”

My view is that this rhetoric numbs people because it is so elementary and they get awway with it, as every Exxon or Shell Ad on Npr asserts “we need clean energy to meet future demand.”

We need honest open discussions about lowering demand, reframing the economy, make tough decisions. Ending up with tougher regulations, run by a commision drawwn from government and business (and the gov people come from business for a large part), whose purpose is to facilitate drilling back inthe gulf, gets in the way of the serious discussions we need about the finacne system, the corporation system, the weird dependency on growth as if our life depended on it.

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2 Comments
  1. Agreed. Indeed, this is one of the problems in communication (and in understanding) spread throughout our culture. ExxonMobil does it all the time. “Here IS what energy demand will do in coming decades, and that’s why this IS the amount of oil we WILL be using. The such-and-such government forecasts SAY SO!” The reasoning is silly (and any intelligent business person should understand this, because they don’t take someone else’s forecasts of their own business results over the next ten years as “givens”: the point is to make choices, not to be lemmings who can do nothing but make self-fulfilling prophesies and carry them out — over the cliff).

    But this also raises a point about another tactic. When it comes to talks like this, perhaps several people should go together, with an understanding of the importance of these sorts of questions, so that if the question isn’t understood or answered squarely the first time, another person can stand up and ask it again, more clearly and as a “second”. In a civil and polite way, of course, but we shouldn’t let large talks simply “go by” in a way that leaves the impression that forecasts are “givens” and that our fate is sealed.

    Thanks for the great post, Doug.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

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