Q&A WITH PETER HUBER
What Energy Crisis?
By Spencer Reiss
Peter Huber, an engineering professor turned telecommunications lawyer, doesn’t worry whence the next electron will come.
The idea that we’re running out of energy is deeply ingrained. How can it be so wrong? It’s very easy to get pessimistic about energy. Energy doesn’t just drop into your lap. The idea that demand will someday outpace supply seems obvious. But historically that hasn’t happened, and there’s good reason to suppose it won’t, because the factors that determine supply are overwhelmingly technological. And our technology improves very fast. Energy technology in particular is advancing faster than it ever has before.
Why is your new book, The Bottomless Well, subtitled The Twilight of Fuel? What matters isn’t the price of a barrel of oil. What matters is the price of getting mom and the kids to the soccer field. And that depends on two factors: the cost of the fuel and the cost of all the hardware, the technology, we wrap around it. Fuel is an ever diminishing part of the equation.
You mean efficiency saves the day? The opposite: efficiency always leads to more consumption, not less. Hybrid cars and semiconductor lights are very quickly going to be cloned into all sorts of new applications that don’t even exist today, and total energy consumption will rise, not fall. One highly energy-efficient Nintendo machine per teenager consumes far more power in the aggregate than one ENIAC per planet.
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