Energy Transitions: A Curious History

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19 September 2007

Energy Transitions1

Talk delivered at dinner during CISAC's conference, "The Security Implications of Increased Global Reliance on Nuclear Power," Wednesday, 19 September 2007, Stanford University.

Introduction: "Since you're dealing with the transition ongoing in the world to nuclear energy, I thought it might be comforting to hear a little about the problems of earlier energy transitions--from wood to coal and from coal to oil as well as natural gas and nuclear power. Energy transitions take time, writes Arnulf Grübler. 'Hardly any innovation diffuses into a vacuum,' he says. 'Along its growth trajectory, an innovation interacts with existing techniques...and changes its technological, economic, and social characteristics....Decades are required for the diffusion of significant innovations, and even longer time spans are needed to develop infrastructures....' The diffusion process is a process of learning, and humans learn slowly."

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