Amory Lovins wrong before, wrong now and is pushing a plan for American Poverty

Amory Lovins (or a staffer at the Rocky Mountain Institute) has placed a lengthy boiler plate anti-nuclear energy comment which summarizes Amory Lovins argument against nuclear power at Atomic Insights.

Claim 1. Nuclear power continues to die of an incurable attack of market forces.

Amory Lovins was claiming that nuclear power would die back in 1976

Since 1980, nuclear power generation has increased by over 400%. So Amory Lovins is wrong about nuclear energy being a collapsing industry.

Claim 2 : New nuclear plants are bought (sparsely) only by central planners, not in free markets. America’s, China’s, India’s, and Finland’s powerful nuclear lobbies cling to life in noncompetitive intensive-care units. My bias is to trust capitalists in New York more than bureaucrats in Beijing; if yours is different, I can understand how you might reach different conclusions.

Claim 3 : China has a world-leading nuclear goal of 40 GW by 2020 (enough to offset a tenth of global retirements meanwhile), but by 2006 had already installed a world-leading 49 GW of distributed renewables—seven times its 2005 nuclear capacity, increasing by sevenfold more GW per year. India gets 3 percent of its electricity from nuclear, but has far more wind power, ranking #3 in world wind expansion.

So centrally planned wind power is good but centrally planned nuclear is bad.

Also, the 49 GW of renewables generates the equivalent of about 12 GW of nuclear power because the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow.

All of the geothermal, solar and wind power generation in the OECD (mainly democratic countries) is one fifth the nuclear power in those countries for the first 7 months of this year.

If China just completes the nuclear reactors that they have under construction they should have 45 GWe of nuclear power by the end of 2015. China is targeting 70-90 GWe of nuclear power by 2020. China is building more power generation of all kinds. So China is not following the Amory Lovins plan for national energy poverty. China’s plan is to shift to more and more nuclear power in the energy mix beyond 2020. The 70-90 GWe is just a start for China to get warmed up.

China has published plans where they shift to breeder reactors and offsite fuel reprocessing to close the uranium fuel cycle and to extract 250,000 tons of uranium per year from phosphate. China has also initiated a thorium molten salt reactor project. China is setting up to scale nuclear power to generate one hundred times more power than the entire country uses today. China already uses more electricity than the United States.

The IAEA list of nuclear reactors under construction.

Country   Number of reactors  Nameplate watts  Expected TWh generation
China      27                 27230            200 TWh
Russia     11                  9153             70 TWh
S Korea     5                  5560             44 TWh
India       6                  4194             32 TWh
Taiwan      2                  2600             20 TWh
Bulgaria    2                  1906             15 TWh
Ukraine     2                  1900             15 TWh
Others     10                 10000             80 TWh

Plenty of democratic and mainly free market countries – South Korea, India, Taiwan, Bulgaria etc…

China is moving towards a lot more capitalism – mercantilism. China is the second largest economy in the world and is on track to be the largest. It is a strange and defective analysis that disqualifies them in analyzing the world energy future.

France is a democratic country that built a lot of nuclear power.

Claim 4: California has held per-capita electricity use flat for 30 years

Yet the energy intensive industries are being outsourced overseas to China. Over the past 30 years, California has imported far more products (which require energy to make) and most of that is coming from China. China was using 80% coal power to make those cheaper products.

Claim 5: My [Amory Lovins] 1976 Foreign Affairs article, which used a 50-year time horizon, accurately predicted the heretical “soft path” graph was 4 percent below actual U.S. energy consumption in 2000

I reviewed Amory Lovins 1976 prediction

Amory predicted that oil and natural gas usage would be almost eliminated by 2011. He indicated that oil and natural gas usage in United States would be about 5% now. He also indicated that nuclear power would be eliminated in the 1990s.

Amory Lovins wrote the Energy Strategy : The Road not Taken? in 1976 for Foreign Affairs

The actual US energy usage is 7-11 quadrillion BTU (10% lower) lower because of imports from China of energy intensive manufacturing.

The main difference between Amory Lovins of 1976 and the Amory Lovins of today is that 1976 Amory was against natural gas but now Amory is for natural gas in the form of relabeled micropower.

The ExternE calculation of death/TWh from different energy sources (not including global warming effects and is the average for European nations).

Natural gas is 4 times safer than coal in the USA but it is 100 times more deadly than nuclear power.

Energy Source              Death Rate (deaths per TWh)

Coal – world average               161 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity)
Coal – China                       278
Coal – USA                         15
Oil                                36  (36% of world energy)
Natural Gas                         4  (21% of world energy)
Biofuel/Biomass                    12
Peat                               12
Solar (rooftop)                     0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy)
Wind                                0.15 (less than 1% of world energy)
Hydro                               0.10 (europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy)
Hydro - world including Banqiao)    1.4 (about 2500 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead)
Nuclear                             0.04 (5.9% of world energy)

Claim 6 – Amory argued in 1976 and argues today that less per capita energy usage is better

Amory considers it a big success that old early 1970 plans to build a lot of nuclear power and to increase US energy usage to about 2 to 3 times what it is today is a great success.

France followed the path of building a larger amount of nuclear power relative its total usage and now uses 70% nuclear power. The air quality in France is superior to the countries that use less nuclear power.

China is now building more energy generation of all types. More solar, more nuclear, more wind, more hydro and more coal. An energy rich China is an economically richer China. The places that are not growing their energy generation have slower economic growth.

South Korea grew its electricity generation by 4000% from 1971 to 2006

Mexico grew its electricity generation by 700% from 1971 to 2006

In 1971, Mexico was 5 times richer than South Korea on a per capita basis. Now Mexico is half as rich per capita as South Korea.

South Korea grew its electricity by 6 times faster and became ten times richer on a relative basis versus Mexico.

Energy focused websites like theOildrum make the case that energy is critical to economic growth.

The United States is 2 to 3 times poorer today than it would have been if it had doubled or tripled the construction of energy production.

The United States will be poorer in the future if it follows Amory Lovins plan of energy poverty.

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