Monday, November 16, 2009

Want to grow renewables? Weed early and often.

The blogger I follow the most on renewables is Robert Rapier.  He is experienced and skeptical, but still in the business himself. 

Here is a typical plum from his recent post "Slides from the Pacific Rim Summit"       

As one cellulosic ethanol executive commented this past week, "These things don't scale like you think they should." That's right, they don't. That's why most technologies don't make it out of the lab. Always better to make conservative claims and then deliver beyond expectations than to make wild claims and fall short.

He doesn't spell out why it is better to advance cautious claims.  But I think it bears discussion. 

Beyond the ethical problems of deception (and self-deception), I believe there are practical dangers.  The good will go down with the bad if there is a broad retreat from the high-risk bio-based technology sectors.  We all lose if we fail to resist nonsense.

Innovation must flourish, but saying "yes" to every new scheme is a foolish approach to the unknown.  Poor ideas, no matter how sincere, must be weeded out, to give tender seedlings a chance at survival.

While others drive the plow, I adopt the symbol of the hoe to represent my contribution.

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