The Reagan Speech Preservation Society

The Tyranny of Soft Energy Production

Modified: Friday, 13 August 2021 07:52 by admin - Categorized as: Podcasts
The following is a collection of the materials used in creating the fortieth episode of the Citizen Reagan podcast about the Reagan's Radio Commentaries.





This is the Citizen Reagan podcast and I need to get in the habit of doing a few things with every episode, like asking you to rate and review the podcast with whatever services you use. Like asking you to share us with your friends, family, complete strangers and your worst enemies, I don't care really, just as long as you share it. Like telling you that you can find past episodes, transcripts, research and more on a wiki on my webspace. The address for the wiki is but if you just visit, I have a variety of other projects there. I sell digitally restored books, magazines and pamphlets. I have constructed an archive of old pulp short stories. I accept donations through Ko-fi, if you're willing help out. It’s all there on the website. Now, with that out of the way, let's get to Reagan.

Thanks to the energy crisis, power generation was a frequent topic for Reagan during his radio show. Any given episode may also have related to some other issue, such as automobiles or the Endangered Species Act, but it was part of the zeitgeist of the time. Reagan frequently spoke of his support for nuclear power, but that was not to be. The movie The China Syndrome and later, the incident at Three Mile Island scared people too much and thus nuclear power generation in the United States has been moving slower than a snail's pace over the last 40 or more years. Instead, people began to put their faith in clean, renewable sources of power.

In an August 1979 episode of the Reagan Radio Commentaries, Reagan digs into a recently published pamphlet (Reagan calls it a book, but it's only 18-pages long) by Professor Petr Beckmann of the University of Colorado. It’s entitled "Why Soft Technology Will Not Be America's Salvation."

I don't have audio of this episode, I'm sorry to say, but I was able to find a copy of the pamphlet online. It took some digging through the Internet Archive, but I should be able to provide a link to it for anyone interested in reading it. []

The whole theme of Beckmann's pamphlet is how the campaign against nuclear power is based on emotional reactions to the exaggerations of its hazards and that the idea of replacing nuclear power entirely by solar power is equally irrational. Note, I said entirely. Beckmann's first line is, "Solar energy is a good thing." I agree with him. Solar can supplement other power systems and it has its place in areas of the world where sun is plentiful.

"Soft technology," by the way, is Beckmann's term for those power generation techniques that are unconcentrated or dilute or low-yield. Solar, geothermal and hydroelectric are three examples. What is meant by unconcentrated? Well, here's what Reagan got from the pamphlet:

Visualize the sun shining, unobstructed and perpendicular, on a collecting panel of about 11 square feet. That is what it takes to produce 1 kilowatt. Compared that to coal. It takes a little under 1 pound of coal to make 1 kilowatt of electricity. That lump of coal held in the sun would cast a shadow of 15 square inches. The sun would have to shine on that 15 inch square for almost 3 months in the Arizona desert where it shines 12 hours a day to produce 1 kilowatt of energy.

Reagan then points out, also from the pamphlet, that the construction of a 1000 megawatt solar plant would require 1000 times the material (copper, steel, concrete, etc.) that a coal-fired or nuclear plant would require. What about the environmental impact of that?

To end his broadcast, Reagan summarizes Beckmann's belief that proponents of "soft technology" are really against an increase in power. They oppose nuclear, as stated earlier for the irrational fear of its hazards, but they also oppose dams that would be used for hydroelectric power, off-shore drilling for oil, pipelines and geothermal. They are just against growth. If you listened to my series on the book The Incredible Bread Machine, these are the Neo-paganists.

But what about what Reagan couldn't tell you? Reagan was limited to 3-5 minutes. I have no such issue.

Let’s start with background on Beckmann himself. Beckmann was Czechoslovakian, born in Prague in 1924. His family would flee their home in 1939 when the Nazis invaded. He would serve as a radar mechanic in England during World War II. After the war, he earned multiple degrees in electrical engineering from the Czech Academy of Sciences. He defected to the United States in 1963 and became a professor at the University of Colorado. In addition to numerous books, he also published a newsletter called Access to Energy. When he passed away in 1993, the newsletter was continued by Art Robinson, a professor of chemistry at the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. I found their site which doesn't appear to have been updated since 2018 and some old archives running from 1973 to 1998. Could be interesting reading. I'll have to take a look.

Now, the rest of the pamphlet.

Early on, Beckmann writes a very telling statement. He asks what motivates humanity? Why did we move from burning wood to burning coal? Did some 19th century version of Jane Fonda or Lola Redford chant intoned mantras to coal? Or, in the transition from coal to oil, was there a declaration of a National Oil Day by the President of the United States? No. The transitions from wood to coal to oil came about because they were good enough on their own. The free market saw the benefits and money moved in the way it always does. People did not need the government to get involved.

So, why are these soft technologies being pushed to replace the existing coal, oil, and/or nuclear ones? Why isn't the transition happening in a more natural fashion? First, they are not ready, or never will be ready, but second and much more insidiously, they are a means to an ideologically and socially engineered end.

Why are these energy production... wait, no, energy gathering methods... not ready? As mentioned before, they are not concentrated, or the locations where they can best be concentrated are limited. Beckmann believes solar could become a viable source. He lists 3 advancements which separately or together, would, in his opinion, do the trick:

First, if solar energy plants were able to pay for themselves faster, in only a year or two. Second, the development of solar gathering technology which would convert diffuse light (i.e. under a cloudy sky) into usable energy. Third, the development of new solar technology which mimics the conversion of sunlight by chlorophyll, creating glucose and starches.

So, the technology isn't ready, but people are pushing it anyways. Is there another reason for them to do so? Could they have some economic reason? Not really. The technology may not be feasible on its own, but government dumping billions of dollars into the industry would have encouraged some businessmen to at least go after that money. How much money do you suppose has Elon Musk received from the government because of his various Tesla projects? What about Solyndra? But it wasn't happening that way, not back in 1978. No, Beckmann sees this as a means to an end.

If people are forced to go against their best self-interests and usable energy production ends up as a net loss, well, I covered it before, when I was still talking about Reagan's broadcast. The people advocating these soft technologies are just against growth. Beckmann offers some quotes:

"Coercion by many governments will undoubtedly be required to control population growth." This is not coming from some South American dictator. This is David Brower, President of Friends of the Earth.

"Several coercive proposals deserve serious consideration, mainly because we may ultimately have to resort to them unless current trends in birth rates are rapidly reversed by other means." This comes from the same man who said, "giving society cheap abundant energy... would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun." That's Paul Ehrlich, the author of The Population Bomb.

This is Beckmann's ultimate conclusion. The fight for solar and other soft technologies and against power expansion through nuclear technology is an attempted end-around. What a majority of the people, acting in their own self-interests through the free market want is irrelevant because those that advocate it believe they know what is best for us.

Does this fight continue? Absolutely. This is the Green New Deal. The people behind it may not all be neo-paganists, but they see a common means to their differing ends.

Before I close, I want to update something from a previous episode. A couple months ago, I talked about electric vehicles: How they may not be as good for the environment as people think and how the desire to shift away from the gas engine may be premature for a myriad of reasons. One of my statements was in regards to driving range. How my family would drive to see relatives twice a year and an EV wouldn't allow us to do it, at least, not in an 8-10 hour day on the road.

On July 31, I saw a tweet from Representative Thomas Massie about electric vehicle charging. A link will be on the wiki. He was showing a map of the Tesla Supercharging network around the country, all of which were put up by a private company on private land and saying that there is no need to provide public infrastructure money for public charging stations. I agree with him on that point. He also made the comment that he was driving home in his Tesla to avoid dealing with masking at the airport. I asked him a question about driving his Tesla and he responded. I asked how long it takes him to drive home, from Washington DC to his district in Kentucky in an electric vs a gas vehicle. He responded that an ICE, Internal Combustion Engine car takes about 7 hours for the trip while it is just over 9 hours in his Tesla. It requires 3 well planned 40-minute long charging stops or 2 well planned 1 hour, 10 minute charging stops to make the trip. He also states that if it is cold, it can take over 10 hours.

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