[LINK] The man who’s tutoring Bill Gates ...
kim at holburn.net
Mon Jun 21 11:00:14 EST 2010
Here are two paragraphs from it worth reading:
> For example, take the notion (heavily promoted by Al Gore) that we
> could wean ourselves off fossil fuels in a few years if only we
> really wanted to. This is about as realistic as the notion that we
> could fly to the moon on gossamer wings if we really wanted to. Some
> day it may be possible - but not any time soon. "We are structurally
> cooked," he recently explained. "Every new technology takes 40 to 50
> years before it captures the bulk of the market. As of today, there
> are no clean-energy technologies that can replace fossil fuels on a
> large scale."
> Prof. Smil is an expert on the history of technological innovation.
> He points out that the U.S. energy industry - which includes
> production, processing, transportation and distribution, coal and
> uranium mines, oil and gas fields, pipelines, refineries, fossil-
> fuel fired, nuclear, and hydroelectric power plants, tanker
> terminals, uranium enrichment facilities, and transmission and
> distribution lines - constitutes the world's most massive, most
> indispensable, most expensive and most inertial infrastructure. Its
> principal features change on a time scale measured in decades, not
> years. That's why "we're going to be a fossil-fuel society for
> decades to come."
> The most-published and least-known thinker in Canada doesn't want to
> be interviewed. He says he has 77 deadlines to meet (perhaps an
> exaggeration, but probably not) before he flies off to a scientific
> conference in Europe. Besides, he thinks media interviews are
> pointless. He detests our sound-bite culture, which shrinks
> enormously important and complex subjects into meaningless bits of
> info-kibble. "All I want is to be left alone to write my books," he
> That may be one reason why hardly anyone in Canada has heard of
> Vaclav Smil. But Bill Gates has. He believes Prof. Smil is one of
> the smartest guys around today. He plugs several of Prof. Smil's
> recent books on his website, and says that he has "opened my eyes to
> new ways to think about solving our energy and environmental issues."
> The sometimes irascible Prof. Smil hangs his hat at the University
> of Manitoba (which may be another reason everyone east of Winnipeg
> ignores him). He is a distinguished professor in the faculty of
> environment, but really, he is an incorrigible interdisciplinarian.
> His interests encompass the broad areas of energy, the environment,
> food, population, the economy and public policy. He seems to know a
> lot about almost everything. He has published 20-something books and
> hundreds of academic papers, and has another four books coming out
> this year. He is (almost) resigned to the fact that our great
> debates about energy and the environment are largely pointless,
> because they are hugely distorted by politics and sadly uninformed
> by basic facts. We are a culture of scientific ignoramuses.
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