Issues >> Peace-War-Conflict >> cold-war-economic-conversion
1 July 1993
TO: Lowell Blankfort
FROM: Peter Meisen, Executive Director
Global Energy Network Institute (GENI)
TEL 619-595-0139 FAX 619-595-0403
RE: Article Submission for Editorial Opinion page
True Economic Conversion Buckminster
Fuller's global strategy offers post Cold War
Economic conversion to skilled civilian jobs is not
a new concept to the advocates of such planning. Yet
converting high tech military expertise to marketable
civilian products and services has proven a difficult
President Clinton stated his concern in a recent
speech to an international trade conference.
we have anything so far to replace the steep, steep
cuts in defense spending which have gone to the very
heart of a lot of our high-wage, high-tech economy
. . . to date? He continued,
we don't, but we need a technology policy and a defense
conversion policy that attempts to replace that.
In California and across the nation tens of thousands
of engineers are unemployed due to the lack of adequate
conversion planning. With the Cold War over, this
policy vacuum remains. How does one become trading
partners with his former enemy?
Can military thinking transform into market dynamics?
There is a common enemy of the US, Russia and the
rest of the world in our environmental challenges.
As many experts before him have done, Paul Kennedy
Preparing for the 21st Century
warns us that the growing population and the environmental
stress will soon overwhelm the support system if we
don't change the direction we're headed.
What's wanted and needed on the planet is a plan
for the long term sustainable development for our
present 5.5 billion people -- projected to be 8 billion
More than 20 years ago, the World Game model by Dr.
R. Buckminster Fuller (inventor of Geodesic Domes,
Synergetics, Dymaxion Map) proposed the planet's highest
priority to be the interconnection of electric grids
to tap abundant, but often remote renewable resources.
Earth in the Balance, Vice
President Gore acknowledges Fuller's vision for our
Reports from the DOE
National Energy Labs highlight the enormous renewable
resource potential in the United States. Energy Secretary
O'Leary has even changed the pictures in her office
from nuclear plants and submarines to wind and solar
farms. And as reported by the Union of Concerned Scientists,
wind and solar thermal generation are cheaper sources
today than natural gas used for peaking power generation.
California leads the world in alternative energy
production from clean energy resources -- wind, geothermal
and solar. The 1992 California Energy Commission report
boasts the Golden State has over half of the world's
geothermal production, more than 80% of total wind
production and 99% of the installed solar capacity
of the rest of the world! Yet these three sources
comprise less than 6% of California's power generation.
Potentially, the US could lead the world in developing
renewable energy technologies for both domestic and
international use. The US defense industry produces
the world's finest engineering expertise, metals fabrication
and computer simulation models. This is the same proficiency
required to take full advantage of the renewable energy
resources around the world.
Pushing for more efficiency in the western world
has been the best way for customers and utilities
to reduce expenses and pollution in the past two decades.
Yet the fact remains that 80% of the time we use energy
for anything, we in the first world create some kind
of pollution; CO2, acid rain, toxic wastes. Global
production of these pollutants increases daily.
Being more efficient is essential, but by itself
is not enough.
The western world needs a plan to drive the transition
to a higher renewables percentage. The developing
world needs an energy infrastructure that will supply
their growing energy demand in a manner that is ecologically
sustainable. The demand for more energy in the developing
nations is immediate. However, families struggling
for survival have little time or attention for preserving
Some of the optimal sites for solar, wind, hydro,
geothermal, tidal are located in remote locations,
many in the developing world. These energy treasures
are in deserts, mountains, tidal and wind sites --
far from where we choose to work and live -- oftentimes
in neighboring nations.
This power could be delivered via the already existing
transmission networks in developed nations. An uncelebrated
public benefit from the weapons and NASA
research of the last three decades has been the increased
efficiency and extended economic limits of electric
power transmission. Power lines can deliver renewable
energy over thousands of miles just as easily as that
generated by coal and nuclear.
Some in Japan are now taking Fuller's vision a step
further, and offering us a crystal ball to the future.
Sanyo Electric has proposed Project GENESIS for the
mid 21st Century. GENESIS stands for Global Energy
Network Equipped with Solar Cells and International
Superconducting Grids. Even though superconducting
power transmission is still a research dream, Sanyo
figures that solar cells covering just 4% of the worlds
deserts would supply the energy needs of everyone
on the planet.
While we struggle to find a conversion policy with
both technical and human vision, Japan is designing
a system to provide clean energy for the entire planet.
Sanyo has driven a stake into the future that will
pull everyone towards it.
A conversion of Cold War thinking reveals the opportunity
proposed by Buckminster Fuller. The linking of renewable
resources around the world is feasible and desirable
today. With a little vision, engineers could be back
at high-tech, well-paid positions creating renewable
technologies for domestic use, and export to the rest
of the world. California and the US should follow
- ### -
Peter Meisen is Founder and Executive Director of
GENI, a non-profit California corporation conducting
education and research on international and inter-regional
electric energy networks. A 1976 graduate of Revelle
College at UCSD
in Applied Mechanics and Engineering Sciences. In
1983, Meisen co-founded SHARE, North America's largest
private food distribution program.