The Bulletin of
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY
Volume 17, Number 4
for Peace: A Compelling Global Strategy
by Peter Meisen, President, GENI
of SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY
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Bull. Sci. Tech. Soc., Vol. 17. No.4
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Science, Technology and Society Ideas
Buckminster Fuller on the Global
"Graphs of each of the world's 150
nations showing their twentieth century histories
of inanimate energy production per capita of their
respective populations together with graphs of those
countries' birthrates show without exception that
the birthrates decrease at exactly the sane rate that
the per capita consumption of inanimate electrical
energy increases. The world's population will stop
increasing when and if the integrated world electrical
energy grid is realized. This grid is the World Game's
Critical Path, 1981. Fuller and
LINKING ELECTRICITY FOR PEACE:
A COMPELLING GLOBAL STRATEGY
East and West Germany connected two months after
the fall of the Berlin Wall. Israel and Jordan initiated
interconnections after the Washington Declaration.
Now electrical inter-ties are also planned between
North and South Korea and between Turkey and Iran.
As former enemies tear down their walls, they are
also building important economic bridges electrical
energy bridges. The reasons are many, but simply stated,
the electrical interconnection of power systems offers
tremendous economic and social benefit to both parties.
The linking of electrical grids between countries
and across continents has proven to increase'' energy
efficiency, reduce pollution, increase trade and provide
the basic infrastructure of developing nations
supporting clean water, health care and refrigeration
systems. And the need for these exchanges has never
According to the 1996 Annual Report from the World
Resources Institute, World Bank, United Nations Environment
and Development Programs, our current population of
5.7 billion will grow to 8.3 billion by 2025, 90%
of this growth in the urban areas of developing countries
with two-thirds living in mega-cities. increasing
greenhouse gas emissions and critical water shortages.
This is not the world to leave our children, and it's
not sustainable. But what other choice do we have?
Over two decades ago, the United Nations and inventor,
scientist and mathematician, R. Buckminster Fuller
proposed interconnecting regional power system into
a single, continuous world electric energy grid. The
objective? "To mate the world work for 100% of
humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous
cooperation without ecological damage or the disadvantage
Why electricity? Because it is the common denominator
of all societal infra-systems: food, shelter, health-care,
sewage, transportation, communication, education and
finance in short, modem civilization. The
goal is to deliver sufficient electrical energy for
every human and to do it sustainably.
Fifty years ago, electric power could only be efficiently
transmitted 400 miles. During the 60's, breakthroughs
in materials science extended this transmission distance
to 1500 miles. This allowed the utilities to interconnect
across time zones and compensate for variations in
seasonal demand. This buying and selling of power
is now common in all developed nations, as utilities
desire to level the peaks and valleys of energy demand
to save costs and increase reliability.
Today's technology for electrical transmission now
extends thousands of miles far beyond any
political boundaries. This allows power interchange
between North and South hemispheres, as well as East
and West across continents.
Unfortunately, 82% of all power generation today
is non-renewable (coal, natural gas and nuclear),
resulting in many of the world's environmental ills
greenhouse gases, acid rain, toxic wastes.
Yet enormous potential for hydro, tidal, solar, wind
and geothermal sites exists around the world. These
renewable resources are site specific and oftentimes
remotely located, but now are within economic transmission
reach. Much of the world's abundant renewable energy
potential exists in the developing countries of Latin
America, Africa, and Asia. Tapping these sources of
clean energy can elevate everyone's quality of life.
Not surprisingly, the United Nations in 1971 also
corroborated the need to interconnect regional power
grids, tapping remote renewable resources. Dr. Fuller
identifies this strategy as the highest priority objective"
for the planet. Old Cold War politics used to suppress
these international transmission projects. No longer,
as enlightened self-interest is beginning to lead
Billions of dollars are presently being saved through
shared power, and already some of the future demand
can be met from wheeled electricity. As deregulation
and privatization of utilities proceeds, many new
generation options also become available, whether
locally based or in neighboring countries.
Savings are reflected in smaller electric bills and
expanded markets for power producers a massive
A key environmental question in the first world economies
is the replacement choice for present polluting capacity
as the economic life of these generators expires over
the next few decades. As peak power generation is
often purchased from a neighboring utility, the most
inefficient, expensive and polluting generators can
be phased out.
Today, in first world economies, end-use efficiency
is the priority. On the other hand, we must remember
that someone living in poverty meets her daily survival
needs first, and environmental concerns later in the
developing countries demand-side management is difficult
when their energy requirement is increasing.
As a part of the solution, efficiency improvements
are vital, but not sufficient for the future growth
The World Energy Council projects a doubling of primary
energy demand globally in the next twenty-five years
as developing countries grow, both in population and
economically. The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate
Change (IPCC) now confirms the greenhouse effect,
which will worsen if the "business as usual" scenarios
prevail. European insurance companies and banks have
seen damage claims triple in the last decade, and
they are now committed to funding renewable project.
The challenge for developing nations is to bypass
the old growth models and move directly into sustainable
The potential of power transmission technology to
the developing world is immense. Exports of excess
capacity can be purchased by the industrialized world,
providing cheaper and cleaner power for the North,
and sending needed cash to the South. For example,
Maher Abaza, Egypt's Energy Minister proposes an integrated
African, Middle Eastern, European network that encircles
the Mediterranean Sea.
Comparative trend analysis shows striking improvements
in all major societal indicators as electricity becomes
available for developing societies. When food and
health care systems can be sustained, infant mortality
rates decrease, as do birth rates. When fewer children
die from hunger related causes, fewer "insurance births"
are required to ensure care for the elderly. Projections
with statistical merit show trial the population explosion
would plateau and widespread hunger would end when
the energy grid is place.
In fact, research shows the energy threshold for
a society moving from daily survival to decent living
standards is about 2000 kWh/capita/year. (By comparison,
the U.S. average is 12,000 kWh/person/year, and Europeans
use half that amount.) Today, over 2 billion people
in developing counties live without any electricity
at all. They lead lives of misery, walking miles every
day for firewood and non-potable water just to survive.
What's needed today in most smaller villages are small
decentralized generators that can meet basic food,
water and health-care needs. Then as development demand
increases, these villages can connect into the expanding
Of critical consequence for the planet, you, and
I, are the energy decisions being made today by India,
China and Southeast Asia. Over half the world's present
5.7 billion population lives there now, and linking
renewable resources is required if we are to reduce
atmospheric emissions in the future. Leading to the
Earth Summit in 1992, Noel Brown of the United Nations
Environmental Program called the energy grid strategy
"to be one of the most important opportunities to
further the cause of environmental protection and
As a high-tech global initiative that benefits everyone,
the energy grid development is ideal, and, since international
cooperation is required, political tensions and fears
are diminished. In "Megatrends", John Naisbitt suggests
that peace is enhanced when friend and foe trade with
one another. Already over 50 nations are linked with
neighboring countries, predominately throughout Eastern
and Western Europe, North America and the Commonwealth
of Independent States.
Today, we have a viable technology, that when developed
to its highest potential will:
- increase universal living standards
- promote international cooperation and peace
- reduce fossil fuel demand and the resultant pollution
- relieve the population explosion
- reduce world hunger and poverty
- slow deforestation, topsoil loss, and the spreading
- open new markets and enhance world trade
- encourage energy efficiency and sustainable development
These interties transcend political differences being
economically and environmentally beneficial for connected
regions. Given the capital, resources and engineering
expertise required, these projects could also lead
the economic conversion of some industries idled by
Cold War cutbacks.
Bureaucracy, selfish nationalisms and ignorance remain
as barriers. Yet in building mutually beneficial power
networks, these recent breakthroughs in cooperation
between long-time enemies offer hope for a more peaceful
and healthy world.
Peter Meisen is President of Global Energy Network
Institute (GENI) and can be contacted at:
World Trade Center of San Diego,
1250 Sixth Ave, #901, San Diego, CA 92101
Tel: 619-59S-0139 Fax: 619-595-0403
World Wide Web: www.geni.org