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That was ecologist Paul Ehrlich on the prospect of cold fusion power becoming physically and economically viable. I couldn't help but shake that quote from my head as I overheard some fractivists chatting a park the other day. The best argument against fracking that I heard was, "it just doesn't seem right to crack the Earth's crust."

Maybe that is true. To me this is a little more (anectodal mind you) evidence that the entire energy debate is … not about energy. It never was. Energy is what allows man to have an impact on nature and the environment. This is why you see strong opposition now to wind and solar and all kinds of energy development, regardless of how clean or friendly it is. Ehrlich's quote captures it perfectly. If you give human beings access to endless cheap energy lord knows what they will do with it. Maybe they'll manufacture some Reardon Metal and build a 10-mile long roller coaster through the Grand Canyon with that kind of energy (ht: to Phil G. from Purdue for the mental image!). Maybe they'll blow up Mt. Everest for fun. Who knows?

 

In any event, let me close with the following fun game. Insert your favorite phrase to start the sentence instead of "Developing cheap power sources is …"

So, how many tries before you came up with: "Delegating power to elected officials is like giving an idiot child a machine gun?"

4 Responses to “Like Giving an Idiot Child a Machine Gun”

  1. Speedmaster says:

    >> “The best argument against fracking that I heard was, ‘it just doesn’t seem right to crack the Earth’s crust.'”

    Even scarier, when these people vote, theirs counts the same as your does.

  2. Dan says:

    Peter Thiel says that there’s been a catastrophic failure in energy innovation, and offers two reasons why: failure of imagination, and extensive regulations. Do you agree that these are the most important factors, and if so, is one more important than the other?

  3. Speedmaster says:

    What galls me is that we have this massive source of cheap, relatively safe, abundant energy. Natural gas. And it’s MUCH cleaner than coal. Yet so many are doing everything in their power to prevent us from using it. Boggles the mind.

  4. In an econtalk with Robin Hanson on the singularity, Hanson asserts that Energy costs account for less than 10 percent of total costs in the economy (labor was something like 70%). If cracking the Earth’s crust were to give us extremely cheap, near free, energy I’m skeptical of how much benefit we would really get out of that. Maybe building bridges, but star ships still seem far off.

    Have you read about Hanson’s idea on whole brain emulation, if so, can you blog on it?

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