Category Archives: Clean Energy

Negawatts and Eco-Watts or Killer-Watts

Back in the late ‘1970’s Amory Lovins, of the Rocky Mountain Institute coined the term “NegaWatts” to describe the energy that could be saved with conservation and efficiency. “The cheapest energy,” he said, “and the cleanest energy is the energy you don’t use.”

Lovins’ associate, Marvin Resnikoff, PhD, then teaching physics and environmental thinking at SUNY University of Buffalo and Rachel Carson College, used the term “nuclear constipation” to describe the nuclear waste problem. It’s an apt metaphor – the waste doesn’t go away.

We struggling not only with nuclear constipation, but carbon constipation. We burn carbon, liberate the energy in chemical bonds, to get from place to place, to heat and cool our homes, but the carbon doesn’t go away. It goes into the air from under the ground. To paraphrase Al Gore,

We are borrowing from China to buy oil from the middle east and rip coal out of the ground to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. But enough wind blows through the midwest corridor in a day, enough sunlight falls on the earth in FORTY MINUTES to provide the power we need for a year.

Harnessing the wind, the sun, and the earth eliminates these problems. Rather than burning a fuel; wind, solar, geothermal harness a process. The sun shines whether or not we use solar panels to capture some photons. The wind blows regardless of our decision to use a few particles to spin a turbine. We are hitchin’ a ride on a moving train.

This is the choice: Wind and Solar or Coal and Nuclear. “Negawatts and clean pure Eco-Watts or Deadly-Watts, Morta-Watts, Killer-Watts.


Negawatt – unit of energy you don’t use.
Ecowatt – unit of energy generated in a clean sustainable way, such as via solar power or wind power.
Killer-watt – unit of energy generated by burning or consuming fuel such as coal, oil, gas, or radioactive material.

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Filed under Clean Energy, Coal, Fossil Fuels, Framing, Nuclear Power, Oil, Solar Power, Wind Power

Drilling for Solar Power and Mining the Winds

I’ve been thinking about George Lakoff’s ideas on framing the debate, as presented in “Don’t Think of an Elephant” and I think about solar power and wind power more than I think about food.

I just heard that there was a big fight in Minneapolis over drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR. The rank and file and the “machers” of the Republican Party, the people I call “Republicanista,” want to drill in ANWR. Their presumptive standard bearer, John McCain, wants more offshore drilling. He wants to drill in Alaska, and in California, Florida, New Jersey, and everwhere else. McCain, however, is opposed to drilling in ANWR “at this time.” (Be very careful when a politician says “At this time.” This phrase, “At this time” when used during a political campaign, means “At this time during a political campaign.”)

I think we should be building more solar and wind power systems, we should be using ocean current, cogen, and conservation, and figuring out how to do “Deep Geothermal.” And most of the people I talk to, regardless of whether they are “conservative,” “progressive,” or “liberal,” as long as they are “intelligent,” agree that solar and wind power are available now, and are pretty good for the environment, the economy, and national security. Even John McCain. But not the movers and shakers of the Republican party.

McCain want 20% of our electricity to come from clean renewable sources by 2030. Barack Obama has a more aggressive goal: 25% by 2025. Al Gore makes Obama look conservative. He thinks we can do 100% in 10 years, sees the US “Clean and Green by 2018.”

I agree with Gore.

And I have figured out how to get McCain and the “Republicanista” on my side. We should just call it “Drilling.” “Drilling for solar power!” After all, the roofers, mechanics, and electricians use drills when assembling solar energy systems and wind turbines. Who says you have to drill down? Why not drill up? Google “mines” the Internet. We could be Mining the Winds.

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Filed under Al Gore, ANWR, Barack Obama, Clean Energy, John McCain, Solar Power, We Can Solve It, Wind Power