Wilde Observations 1025

Killers of Clean Energy Progress

Ed Newman
2 min readOct 25, 2023


Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

This past week I shared with a friend of mine an article titled “The Techno-Optimist Manifesto.” My friend replied with a link to a thought-provoking essay called The Techno-Optimists Fallacy by Matthew Yglesias. It was written in response to Marc Andreesen’s piece and it had several pearls of note.

Techno-optimists saw that Western societies made a big mistake in the 1970s. Back then, when there were problems with oil shortages in the Middle East and worries about pollution from coal, nuclear energy should have become more important. Instead there arose a big push against nuclear power by vocal activists who managed to put so many rules and restrictions on nuclear power that it became too expensive.*

Here are two quotes that reveal how distorted things had become. The first is by the author of The Population Bomb, required reading in my first year of college.

Ehrlich: “In fact, giving society cheap abundant energy at this point would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.”

Lovins: “If you ask me, it’d be a little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it.”

“These ideas,” Iglesias writes, “helped kneecap the nuclear industry, and — crucially — they have implications for all kinds of contemporary controversies around things like renewables siting and interregional electrical transmission. But they also suggest that there was a road not traveled in the 70s, down which every country would have pursued a France-scale decarbonization of their electrical grid and emissions and pollution would have been dramatically lower and society would not be constantly roiled by jitters around climate change.”

* Incentives matter. Whether it’s homelessness, overcrowding, energy shortages or any other national crises, there are ample solutions swirling in the hearts of imaginative entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, government disincentivizes these innovators by strangling them with red tape.



Ed Newman

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon