Category Archives: Fossil Fuels

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.

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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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