Reason, Liberty, & Culture

Skepticism is good.

Amory Lovins, Windmills, and Genocide

by Lewis Loflin

I've known who Amory Lovins is for some time. He goes back into the 1970s with failed predictions on energy and hysterical ecological disaster any day. His defenders claim he is some great expert on energy issues. Smart he certainly is, but that doesn't mean he is rational.

His fears were somewhat justified in the 1970s before modern technology cleaned up many environmental problems. But his real agenda has nothing to do with that.

I was researching the use of rare-earth magnets in windmills. Windmills are inefficient and costly. Even countries such a Germany that squandered billions on wind and solar were forced to reopen coal fired electric generation.

Let's discuss magnets before I get to Lovins. Those critical of windmills bring up the high cost, limited supply, and pollution associated with rare-earths like neodymium and dysprosium. These elements are used to make high efficiency permanent magnets. They are used in electric cars and older computer hard drives.

Rare earths are not rare as far as abundance in the earth's crust. Finding concentrations good enough to mine is another issue. Most neodymium and dysprosium are mined in China. As reported in The Guardian and other newspapers this has resulted in lakes of toxic waste.

The same problem was found with solar panel production in China. China has spoiled the world with cheap "green" energy because the horrible pollution costs are hidden from the West.

One ton of neodymium can produce 2000 tons of toxic waste. Rare earths are often found with radioactive thorium that ends up in the waste ponds. The ore is concentrated then treated with concentrated acids. Thorium can be used to produce a safer form of nuclear power, but that is also opposed by Lovins.

Lovins according to his followers:

Noted technologist Amory Lovins, the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Chief Scientist and co-founder, recently published an examination of why that’s the case. Lovins is plenty qualified to speak on the topic, having advised major mining companies, written two books on metal mining and a 445-page text on efficient motor systems, done rare-earth physics experiments at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and consulted for MIT’s Francis Bitter Magnet Laboratory, among other achievements.

Again very smart man. But he refuses to address cost both economic and human. What he doesn't know how to do is produce affordable energy compared to today. His past claims have been proven to be rubbish.

Lovins claims we don't need rare earths to make windmills. He is correct. We can use electromagnets like those in auto alternators, or ceramic magnets. I have a collection of powerful ceramic magnets I salvaged from microwave oven magnetrons. I also have a collection of rare earth magnets from junk computer hard drives.

Rare earth magnets are far more powerful than ceramic or iron electromagnets. Electromagnets require an electric current to operate. Rare earth magnet generators are as much as 5 times efficient as other magnets.

One megawatt of wind energy requires 542 tons of steel, gas only 5.2 tons. Throw in tons of copper, concrete, aircraft grade aluminum, etc. is why windmill power is so expensive in addition to being unreliable.

Aluminum and magnesium production for aircraft grade aluminum consumes massive amounts of energy. So does silicon for solar panels.

Did I throw in millions of dead birds?

Lovins refuses to address any of this because, except for perhaps the birds, he doesn't care. He has no interest in human welfare.

Environmental utopians don't have a human-centered worldview. In fact their views are anti-humanist. They care nothing about human misery or even death.

As Alex Epstein notes, "If your standard of value is unaltered nature, then Lovins is right to worry. With more energy, we have the ability to alter nature more, and we will do so - because transforming our environment, transforming nature, is our means to survival and flourishing. To the anti-humanist that is precisely the problem." P195 "The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels."

Neo-Malthusian population control-reduction runs amok with these people. David M. Graber in praising fellow bio-centrist Bill McKibben's writings says, "Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along."

I read McKibben's book "The End of Nature" years ago. It turned out to be total rubbish. His hatred of technology I never noted at the time because I was so nauseated at all of the negativism. None of his predictions in that book turned out to be true.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Prince Phillip former head of the World Wildlife Fund said of a similar virus "would contribute something to solve overpopulation."

Ref. Prince Phillip forward to "If I Were an Animal (New York: William Morrow, 1987).

This kind of thinking borders on genocidal. Their actual standard once we cut through the double-talk is "pristine environment, unaltered nature." They oppose fossil fuels based solely on anti-humanist ideology.

Lovins is both anti-nuclear and anti-fossil fuels fanatic. "We don't need anymore big electric generating stations. We already have twice as much electricity as we can use to advantage."

Ref. "Amory Lovins: Energy Analyst and Environmentalist" Mother Earth News November/December 1977.

He was wrong in 1977 and is wrong today. Many would reduce humanity, if not eliminating most of it, to near subsistence levels.

Amory Lovins 1976: "Recent research suggests that a largely or wholly solar economy can be constructed in the United States with straightforward soft technologies that are now demonstrated and now economic or nearly economic."

Ref. Energy Strategy, Foreign Affairs October 1967.

That is a false statement. Billions in research funds and decades later it is still false. As an ideological fanatic Lovins and his fellow travelers refuse to consider human or economic costs. Humanity is not their focus.

Lovins like McKibben seems to display a livid hatred of most technology:

"Complex technology of any sort is an assault on human dignity. It would be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source clean, cheap, abundant energy, because of what we might do with it."

Ref. Rael Jean Isaac and Eric Isaac, "The Coercive Utopians: Social Deception by America's Power Players (Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway, 1984), 7.

He fears we would alter the natural world to benefit humanity. Humanity is expendable before a "pristine" environment.

Similar rhetoric I've read from Green Peace in their opposition to GMO Golden Rice to help vitamin deficiencies in poor countries and even opposition to chlorinated water.

I have wondered how an advanced society like Germany could breed genocidal Nazism. I spent several years in West Berlin and nobody wanted to discuss that. How could intelligent people many college educated kill millions then go home and play with the family dog?

It was because they placed other values over the welfare of humanity. Their focus on a mythical Aryan utopia clouded the real world of misery of suffering they inflicted.

I don't want to suggest environmentalists are Nazis and they are not. But what if they achieved total power? How would they implement their mythical environmental utopia? They may not pull the trigger, but killing people slowly from afar is easy.