Economist Debates Energy Innovations vs Conservation


The Economist is bringing the traditional Oxford-style debate online and shining a light on energy, asking the question “Conservation or innovation?” The formal statement up for debate is this: “We can solve our energy problems with existing technologies today, without the need for breakthrough innovations.” I don’t think anyone would argue that we don’t need new innovations, but it’s important to consider how much of our efforts should go towards new R&D for clean power vs. implementing energy-efficiency standards that are already available.

The Economist asked me to submit an essay on my position, and I argued that while we need everything we can get to meet our greenhouse gas emissions goals, we need to invest a lot more than we have been into energy-efficiency programs.

Energy efficiency — often referred to as the low-hanging fruit of the power world — offers one of the cheapest and most valuable tools for remaking our energy landscape. But it is just one of the tools we need to meet very necessary, stringent carbon reduction goals.

Go to the Economist to check out my full comments, as well as the positions of the main debaters, Joseph Romm, Senior Fellow at the Centre for American Progress, and Peter Meisen, President, Global Energy Network Institute.


sam simo

Dear sir or Madame

I am a young Moroccan (32 years); I am interested in technical progress especially the new source of renewable energy. In the last years I have come to an idea on a new renewable energy source which is inexhaustible and free.

In vain, I have looked for a result by using the ideas of 21 st century and the ideas and comparable techniques of the 18th and 19th centuries and I have used those of Newton, Archimede and the way to look at the nature and objects of davinci.

My project is as follows:

John W Keefe

Hello, i am trying to introduce a new concept in producing clean free energy, i call the gravity turbine, I leave a very short rough note on my design concept, on the internet, try gravity turbine idea,, Powered by gravity drop motion, in arc curved magnetic drop arms, controlled in, on up motion, Permanently rotating…Many details, to such a so basic design. Many adaptability’s, at any size, to power near anything on earth. Tunneling for wind or water, increasing the revolution, in a moving vehicle.. A good working 3D visual, would simplify any explaining,,, but estimating the costs of a 450mm prototype, to only show the basics, in the designing of the Gravity Turbine….. The main magnet supplier is coming back, with a quote, on the main magnets, needed, this week,,,,, from John, in Qld Australia, the coal exporting capital of the world, the Gladstone wharf, is 50 mls southeast of this property, and the new Shoal Water bay wharf, is to be 20 mls northeast, they are building the OIL tankers in China today……… i only have to prove that you can produce energy from a single weight mass. That is kind of my design, but now expanded, on one side.
This design i thought over 18 yrs ago, and no one has used this concept yet,, so i am only trying to give our children a cleaner future to look forward to, on their shrinking world..

Michael Jung

Conservation, innovation…or revolution?

Conservation and innovation must be accompanied by fundamental reinvention of technological and regulatory paradigms in the energy sector. To ensure a sustainable energy future, we need an energy information revolution.

One example of such a revolution is the accelerating transformation of the electric power sector into a “smart grid.” While incremental advances in power generation, transmission, and distribution continue, it is increasingly clear that networks that deliver energy information can enable dramatic efficiency gains, valuable reliability improvements, and entirely new services that will redefine the electric power sector.

The potential of energy information networks is compelling. Digitizing the analog electric grid can unlock the price elasticity of electric power demand, allowing demand response to compete against the construction of new power plants to meet peak load requirements. Automating the manual power delivery system can reduce both the prolonged and momentary power interruptions that pose a significant hidden tax on cost of electricity. And connecting the grid to Internet-enabled information will foster distributed generation, facilitate plug-in electric vehicles, and set the stage for new energy services that have not yet even been imagined, much less invented.

Information networks have revolutionized other sectors such as retailing (e.g., Wal-Mart,, etc.) and play a vital role in today’s modern economy (e.g., the Internet). Smart meters, darlings du jour, are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and it is critical that electric utilities and their regulators begin with – and not limit ourselves to – smart metering when it comes to the energy information revolution that is necessary for a sustainable energy future. Don’t overlook the network!


Yes! Yes! Yes! on energy efficiency. At least people are finally starting to grasp this concept. Although as recently as last year I saw some dumb anchor on CNBC acting all amazed at the idea that by saving energy businesses can actually make more $ when Tysom Slocum from Public Citizen had the audacity to propose that Texas could meet its future energy needs without having to build a nuclear power plant by better conserving energy.

Wai Yip Tung

Actually the topic of the debate is “This house believes that we can solve our energy problems with existing technologies today, without the need for breakthrough innovations.” Just quote “Innovations vs Conservation” dumb it down too much.

Still I’m not excited by the Economist. What we need now is action, not endless debate and false dilemma.


Too bad they didn’t debate: “Conservation or Innovation or Birth Control ?”

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