Edited by Hugh Dyer and Maria Julia Trombetta
Chapter 22: The road not taken, round II: centralized vs. distributed energy strategies and human security
Thirty-five years ago, in the midst of the energy crisis of the 1970s, Amory Lovins published an article in Foreign Affairs warning against the United States’ plans to increase its reliance on nuclear power as a path toward reducing dependence on imported oil (Lovins 1976). Not only would a large nuclear program – an order of magnitude more nuclear plants are in operation in the U.S. today – raise significant safety and security risks, argued Lovins, preventing the theft of weapons grade nuclear materials would require a highly-centralized and authoritarian infrastructure, with corrosive effects on American democracy and individual freedom (see also Ayres 1975). A decade later, Langdon Winner (1986) echoed these sentiments and argued that technological artifacts such as nuclear reactors have important implications for social order because of their entanglements with questions of nuclear weapons proliferation. Both Lovins and Winner were essentially arguing that socio-technical systems, such as those that make possible electrification of human society, have social tendencies independent of human intention, and that differing technological paths would have different kinds of social impacts and, by extension, effects on human well-being and security.
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