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1 INTRODUCTION One major characteristic of the twentieth century is a growing depen- dence of individuals and groups on large institutions. Over the past 40 years both individual and group self-reliance have dramatically decreased. Wage labor and specialization is the overwhelming pattern and dependency the theme. With increased dependence have come increased government planning, increased reliance on expertise, and an increas- ingly disunited society with different segments operating as strangers to one another. The problems of our world today have a seamless quality about them. Such problems do not recognize the narrow confines of expertise of pro- fessional managers. Energy is a social, not a technological, issue. Yet in so many discussions of the factual basis of energy the cultural and social contexts tend to be left implicit. The major choices in energy paths are being made in the context of different and often con- flicting perceptions and beliefs. For example, one set of beliefs would see the energy problem as one of developing new supplies to meet the expanding energy needs; another might see the problem as one of reducing energy appetites, and yet another belief system might perceive the energy problem as a choice between hazardous, centralized systems and decentralized systems that had less hazardous potential. The dif- fering ideologies are associated not only with different expert advice, but also with differing organizations of expert knowledge. The authors of this study believe that most Americans are uncertain about the consequences for all of us of differing plans for the future in energy. In order that citizens be better informed, and that the nation not foreclose any options that, decades from now, we may wish we had chosen, the authors prepared this report to provide some pictures of the future that represent alternatives to those of the traditional industrial and technological views.
It is good to keep in mind while reading this report that we write about the United States and not the world, but that we write also about a specific type of culture and society. The United States is but a part of an industrial civilization founded on the principle of ever-expanding consumption. We measure our standard of living largely in terms of ma- terial consumption and by means of numbers. Modern cultures, such as that of the United States, outgrow local boundaries and consume greater and greater amounts r>f the world's resources, leaving less for future generations. Sometimes such habits have caused major discontinuities even in preindustrial civilizations: witness the Mediterranean basin when Rome denuded it of wood (Rostovstev, 1957) or the many societies that suffered from soil erosion because of destructive agricultural practices. Resources that could have been renewed were used thought- lessly and so ceased to yield wood, food, and other desired products. The challenge today is to explore alternatives that are consistent with long-run ecological success, in drawing on renewable resources only. What are the ful] social benefits, costs, and risks of a national shift toward reduced total energy consumption and maximum reliance on renewable energy sources? What will it mean to the way Americans live in the year 2010 to reduce the amount of energy we use? We examine these questions by dividing this report into three sec- tions. First, we explore pictures of our society in the year 2010 as imagined by different groups of futurists, sorting out their predictions in terms of certain significant factors (Chapter 2). Next, we examine the two most plausible sources of long-term energy supplyâthe breeder reactor (Chapter 3) and solar energy (Chapter 4)âand the consequences for the year 2010 of both choices. Next, we concentrate on two por- trayals of the year 2010, in both of which the United States is assumed to curtail its demand for energy. These portrayals are disciplined exer- cises, not descriptions of Utopian societies. One is a 72-quada society (Chapter 5); the other is a 53-quad society (Chapter 6). (For purposes of comparison, the United States used 71.2 quads in 1975; and the typical 1000-megawattâ1-gigawattâpower plant has an annual output of 0.1 quad or less.) Our final chapter raises the question of who ought to decide which energy policy will take us to the kind of society we wish to have by the year 2010. THE FUTURISTS Taken together, and despite their profound differences, many futurists make a case that energy policy is a key area of social decision making for this generation because energy policy permeates the whole pattern of culture. It is critically important, therefore, that major energy- policy decisions are not made solely on the basis of political expediency, aQuad is a term that appears repeatedly in these pages. It is the cus- tomary abbreviation for one quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) British thermal units (Btu's).
bureaucratic self-interest, narrow and specialized perspectives, or short-term profit considerations at the expense of future generations. The very meaning of progress is at issue. Does increased income produce increased satisfaction? Is further urbanization desirable, or would it be better to live a more rural life? At what pace do we want to live? What are the gains and losses in the trend away from self- employment toward employment in large organizations? Is increasing leisure progress, or do we need to reexamine the relationship of lei- sure and work? Is there a proper human scale for our institutions? Do we want to expand our use of initiatory democracy? How much importance should be given to the renewal of strong local community ties? How vulnerable to sabotage and terrorism are we willing to be? How much weight should we give to international and intergenerational equity? By relating energy consumption to questions like these, the futurists make it dramatically clear that the major energy-policy choices before us are not so much technical decisions as moral choices, choices about how we want to live, for which technical expertise gives no special guidance or competence. These choices deserve the most thorough con- sideration and the widest possible participation by the members of a society. The futurists have clearly moved beyond the sterile debate between the advocates of growth and the advocates of no growth. Attention to the physical and biological outer limits of growth is broadening to con- sider as well the impact of different kinds and rates of growth on the quality of life. To substitute a dogma of no growth for the dogma of materialism would be to substitute one emptiness for another. We must leave behind the purely quantitative concepts of energy and economic growth and insist on the primacy of qualitative ideas. The futurist literature, taken as a whole, sets out a new attitude toward the growth debate that could profitably be adopted. Because energy growth cannot continue indefinitely, we now ask (Nader and Beckerman, 1978) when energy growth will have to be slowed or stopped, and at what level. Since we are uncertain about many of the factors that would cause us to limit energy use, what is a prudent course of action now? Are there changes in technology and lifestyle that can en- hance the quality of life while lowering the level of energy consumption? How can necessary or desirable changes best be made? Facing the issues squarely and attempting to examine the implications of the alternatives open to us will help to prevent the extreme stereotyping and polarization that frustrates communication, increases rigidity, and blocks mutual understanding. SOURCES OF ENERGY SUPPLY Our discussions of energy supplyâof solar energy and nuclear breeder reactors, for exampleâfocus on how different value systems might or might not lead to reliance on renewable resources. The United States is involved in an extensive but as yet not clearly focused debate on the future of the national energy system. The bulk of the discussion
thus far has concentrated on the economics of such massive new technolo- gies as coal gasification and nuclear power. A variety of considerations, such as a national decision to move toward renewable resources, could change this emphasis. Many of the issues that we raise in our analysis of the breeder reactor, such as proliferation of nuclear weapons, catastrophic reactor accidents, long-term safeguarding of nuclear waste, and infringement of liberties as a result of safeguard procedures, also apply to nonbreeding reactors. Nevertheless, we limit our discussion to breeder systems3 because, compared with the short life span of nonbreeding nuclear tech- nology, the long lives of both breeder and solar systems offer the prospect of energy into the indefinite future. In spite of the fact that there has been abundant research in the nuclear field since 1945, relatively little has been concerned with the impact of this technology on human affairs. The bulk of the discussion has concentrated on technical issues like the adequacy of the emergency core-cooling systems in light-water reactors, and not on the impact of nuclear energy on society and government. Even within this concentration on technology there are many unanswered questions of overwhelming impor- tance, such as the problems of handling nuclear waste and decommissioning old reactors. But if we are to develop a coherent energy policy, both technical and social questions must be answered. For example, large- scale bureaucratic centralization is a likely result of a national breeder system (Lovins, 1976). Necessary safeguards may (some would argue already do) drastically reduce civil rights, with a general increase in numbers and power of police (Ayres, 1975). To our know- ledge there are now no dossiers on individuals who are antisolar, or anticonservation, but there is evidence that dossiers exist on anti- nuclear advocates. alt may come as a surprise to some that nonbreeding reactors have a short life span of about 35 years and as a technology can be useful only while uranium is available (predicted to be 50 years or less). Research on civil rights aspects of technologies needs to be encouraged. Specifically on the cited points there is the following documentation: The New York Times (1974) has reported that the Texas state police compiled dossiers generated by noncriminal investigation. Specifically, it cited the dossier on a former marine, then a Continental Airlines pilot in Dallas, who was the leader of a local group opposing nuclear plants. The Washington Post (Edwards, 1975) reported that the Virginia Electric and Power Company (VEPCO) in January 1975 asked a representative in the state legislature to submit a bill that would give VEPCO authority to establish its own police force with power to arrest anywhere in the state and to gain access to confidential citizen records. The bill was subsequently withdrawn when some citizens protested. In July, 1976 a joint Energy Research and Development Administration- Nuclear Regulatory Commission task force recommended full security checks on selected employees of facilities handling nuclear material (U.S. Nuclear Regulatory, 1976).
Solar energy offers the technical potential for meeting a large proportion of the nation's energy needs. The time required to phase in a solar-based system will depend on the vigor of the undertaking, the strength of national commitment, and the degree to which solar-energy systems prove economical compared with other new systems. Strong insti- tutional factors make exploitation of solar energy difficult and slow: competing interests, a scarcity of experts in the field, and the possi- bility that solar-energy systems do not easily lend themselves to monopoly. The relative advantages and disadvantages of the breeder reactor and solar energy depend crucially on nonmarket costs and benefits, often unquantifiable, which may be more important than the factors that can be easily quantified. They must be considered explicitly and carefully in any comparison of these technologies (Holdren, 1976). ALTERNATIVE SOCIETIES The first society that we describe was developed to explore the use of energy in a future society that looks very much like today's, without major changes in attitudes but with significant improvements in ameni- ties, with improvements roughly consistent with those that have occurred in recent decades, and with prudent energy use as well. In the second instance, we explore a society in which attitudes toward resources have changed significantly, work has been decentralized, and thrift and self- reliance are valued; this society is less vulnerable to terrorism and violence than the first, and better supplied with the amenities of life. The energy consumption levels associated with these two societies are 72 and 53 quads, respectively. Even with growth in population and per-capita gross national product (GNP), the total energy consumption in the first society is approximately the same in 2010 as it is today. Moreover, this level of consumption could be attained without significant reorganization of life, work, or transportation. It is important to note that the behavioral and tech- nological changes that lead to energy saving do not restrict production of goods and services. Instead, they imply simply more efficient production and use of goods and services. The 72-quad high-energy- productivity society we have developed embodies significant conservation After the death of Karen Silkwood in November, 1974, the Kerr-McGee Nuclear Facility conducted lie detector tests for all employees at its plutonium plant. The questions asked were the following: "Are you a member of the union?" "Do you take or use narcotics?" "Did you ever talk to Karen Silkwood?" "Have you ever done anything detrimental to Kerr- McGee?" "Have you talked to the press or media?" Workers who refused to take the test or who did not pass the test were either fired or demoted. This was reported before the House Committee on Small Business (U.S. Congress, 1976). The Center for Science in the Public Interest (Washington, D.C.) is exploring the kinds of surveillance techniques that are being used in relation to vulnerable technologies.
of energy, achieved by a variety of mechanisms ranging from economic policy to regulations, education, market signals, and research and development. The second society that we describe is a high-technology, low-energy consumption society. This 53-quad society explores the potential for energy reduction associated with changes in attitudes. The primary thrust of the analysis is toward qualitative shifts. The people in this society do not attempt to turn back the clock, but they do try to use technology in ways that improve the quality of life. Advanced technol- ogy appears at many points: solar energy, advanced automobiles, mag- netically levitated trains, microprocessor building and process control systems, extensive use of cogeneration, and so on. We emphasize longevity of products. Boulding (1949-1950) demon- strated that it is stocks of goods that contribute to human well-being, while flows contribute to GNP. This shift in emphasis leads to processes intended to minimize resource consumption over time. The shift in cul- tural attitudes embodied in the 53-quad society will necessitate the development by economists and other social scientists of new measures of the progress of society. These new attitudes define a society that attempts to preserve stocks and to minimize resource flow. The scale of this 53-quad society reflects the needs of a partici- patory democracy. The trends toward tightly meshed technological systems characteristic of the 1970's are reversed in the 53-quad society, in- creasing the likelihood that most of the system can survive if a part of it is severely damaged. The stability of a technological system depends on the types of external perturbation that occur and on the types of redundancy built in. Overall, the new attitudes in society result from major changes in the most important factors affecting gross energy demand. Efficiency increases significantly, because of large price increases and conserva- tion programs. There is no per-capita growth in GNP, as the GNP becomes a less useful measure of well-being. Attitudes toward transportation, throw-away products, and space conditioning change; attitudes toward other important aspects of life not usually discussed in connection with energy, such as quality of interpersonal relations and participation in processes that determine the quality and direction of everyday affairs, change as well. There are several important lessons to be learned from this second society. There are many, although not limitless, ways to use 53 quads or any other amount of energy; individual lives vary in their energy use regardless of the energy available. Certain supply technologies are less intrusive than others. Change from the grass roots, combined with planned change by government, will have effects and results different from those imposed by directives from the top. Life has changed since the turn of the century and will change as we move into the next century, no matter what our energy policy may be. There is no basis for the belief that the continued growth of our pres- ent technology would not effect a dramatic change in lifestyle. Such growth has changed and will continue to change the fabric of U.S. and world society, and lifestyles will change with or without technology.
Consideration of low-energy, high-technology scenarios expands the range of choice and may increase the time within which we can plan for the age after fossil fuels. IDEOLOGY, EXPERTISE, AND THE PUBLIC Energy research dealing with human factors, social and cultural, has received remarkably little attention to date. We know something about the technology of energy, but much less about the agents: the experts, the interest groups, the public. Expert actors in the energy picture often contribute to the public's confusion about energy issues, for expertise is often accompanied by an isolation from the public to be served, which leads to distorted or unrealistic views of what the problem is and what the public does or does not want. There should be more open debate and discussion. We need to understand something about the social organization of energy experts. Who are they? What is their rank? Do nuclear physi- cists and engineers, for instance, dominate the late-coming biologists, health physicists, and social scientists? What is the relationship between the experts who estimate the probabilities of harmful events and those who assess their consequences? Furthermore, for both the societies described we need to know more about implementation mechanisms. For example, we need to know about the comparative advantages of market mechanisms, voluntary means, and govern- ment measures, such as mandatory efficiency standards for buildings, automobiles and appliances. We also need to know how to teach people to use resources well (Callenbach, 1972). The forms of cities are significant determinants of energy use. There is little information about the relationship between the variety of city forms and total energy use. This should be analyzed, along with the evolution of cities and of transportation patterns associated with alternative governmental policies. Our understanding of the vulnerability of low- and high-energy living is incomplete. Under what conditions does a low- or high-energy- use scenario increase our vulnerability to technical failure? What makes us vulnerable? Is the energy system constructed so that a failure of one part leads to public rejection of the whole concept? If there is a catastrophe, what is the recovery periodâyears or generations? We need to know something about barriers to certain kinds of research. Conventional economic theory has it that people's desires operate through the market to create profit for technological developments that meet these desires. In the United States today most research and development is initially funded outside the market, so that the values of most people, which would be reflected in a perfect market, are not the moti- vating force. Research and development allocation is made by a small group of scientists and civil servants in government agencies that may be insulated from the people. The lesson in this report is simple. The future offers a broad and rich range of choices; what seems possible at present depends on our bias toward high- or low-energy use. The human component must be recognized
8 as the primary factor in the success or failure of technologiesâa factor that has never been free of error. Efficient problem solving requires cooperation among the public, their government, and the business com- munity. When the Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems was established, it was assumed that energy prices would increase slowly, corresponding to an approximate doubling by 2010. In fact, events of the last year have shown that 2010 has arrived. Many of the technol- ogies that looked as if they would be economical by the turn of the century are economical today, and the future described in this report, which looked extreme when it was first written, makes rational social and economic sense today. If anything, our energy demand estimates seem high. The reversal has been profound. It is interesting, in terms of project sociology, that the shift projected in our report was viewed as beyond the pale when it was first presented. The events of the last few years have made a report that was thought to be extremely controversial look not only plausible but even conservative. As we said in earlier versions of this study, predictions are problematic. Such possibilities as the Iranian revolution and the Three Mile Island accident are not built into our thinking about the future.
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