Energy Efficiency is a No Win Game
The promoters of green technology such as President Obama are engaging in a no win game with their obsession with energy efficiency. Increased energy efficiency will not meet our civilization’s needs for energy nor will it help us avert energy shortages. Only new sources of energy such as low energy nuclear reaction (LENR) will be able to do that.
The problem with energy efficiency is an obvious one that its promoters rarely talk about: increased efficiency increases the use of energy. Efficiency makes it cheaper and easier to use energy so people use more energy. That increases the demand and explains to why the demand goes up as efficiency increases.
The result is similar to what happened to information when the internet and computer technology made it cheaper and easier to get than ever before. Not only was more data than ever generated, more was used. Since vast amounts of new data became available people started using it and finding uses for it.
The same thing happens whenever a new technology makes it more efficient or easier to do something. Take driving, as cars get more advanced and efficient driving gets easier so people drive more. Or airplanes as they got more efficient people flew more.
What this means is that projects such as President Obama’s “smart grid” are doomed to failure on some level even if they succeed. If the smart grid works and makes electric usage more efficient people will use more electricity. So we’ll need more electricity.
It also proves that developing new sources of energy is a smarter strategy than increasing efficiency. LENR would seem to be an obvious source of energy to develop because it is nonpolluting and doesn’t require the use of fossil fuels. Another would be small scale hot fusion.
Naturally the development of effective LENR would greatly increase energy usage because it would be far more efficient than present day energy sources. LENR power plants might not require the transport of large amounts of fuel such as coal or natural gas. Nor would they require a huge transportation infrastructure. This would increase the amount of energy available because the energy now expended hauling fuel to burn to produce electricity could be used for something else. The same with the energy used to extract fossil fuels from the earth.
Another benefit from LENR is that the energy expended to move energy to homes and businesses to burn to produce heat and heat water could be used for something else. That too would make more energy available.
The most likely result of this huge energy surplus would mean that people would find other uses for all that surplus energy. One likely usage would be in computers and data center. Other usages could be in increased manufacturing activity and new kinds of transportation.
Simply increasing energy efficiency only makes the energy situation worse. It doesn’t make more energy available but it increases the usage and demand for energy. This doesn’t mean energy efficiency is a bad thing, it simply means that it won’t achieve the goals that some Americans want it to achieve.
If we increase energy efficiency without developing new sources of energy we are headed for disaster. We’ll increase energy usage and demand for energy but we won’t be able to meet that demand. That means the US Department of Energy needs to start paying as much attention to new sources of energy as it does to so-called efficiency.