Classifying ‘belief systems’ in sustainable energy and climate change

Below I reproduce a fascinating analysis, which attempts to classify people’s ‘belief systems’ in sustainable energy and climate change into four broad categories,  types A, B, C, and D. (Note that this is only an excerpt from the introduction of a larger report that Gene is currently writing)

It is written by Dr Eugene Preston, who is a highly-experienced energy transmission systems consultant and member of IEEE. He also teaches classes at the University of Texas. Gene and I correspond regularly as participants of a sustainable energy email group (this particular group is rather special, in that it has a focus on a certain type of technology — no prizes for guessing which one). I reproduce the analysis below with Gene’s permission, and I hope he’ll be able to join in with the opinionated discussion that is likely to follow.

Each person has a belief system that strongly drives them to some vision of what our future should be. Gene says he’s type C (so am I). Which one are you? Is he missing any types of beliefs? How much overlap is there between the categories?


Belief Classifications

Eugene Preston (

There are many ideas floating around today about how we should develop our future energy supply. People’s opinions are strongly shaped by what they believe to be true. Here is one example of the beliefs that shape the opinions of how our energy future should be developed.


A. Belief: Nuclear proliferation is a greater concern than climate change.

1. The world’s greatest risk is from nuclear weapons, most likely from terrorists or a rogue nation. Nuclear power should not be expanded until non-proliferation of nuclear materials can be assured on a worldwide basis.

2. Climate change is a problem we must begin to deal with, although its severe effects will not be felt until later, possibly at the end of this century.

3. Coal is a plentiful energy supply the US does not have the luxury to ignore. Capture and storage of CO2 is a technical problem that must surely have a solution.

4. Oil imports must be significantly reduced because the US cannot sustain the outflow of dollars from the US to other countries. Worldwide oil production has not yet peaked.

5. New technology will emerge in battery storage and solar cell manufacture, which will make electric cars and roof top solar power economical and solve the above #4 problem.

Do you recognize these opinions are those of President Obama? The current US energy policies are strongly shaped by these beliefs. Some of these beliefs may be true and are likely to happen, some are too expensive to implement, and some will not be technologically realized. Note that at this point I didn’t say which ones will succeed and which ones will fail. You will be able to see which ones by the end of this report. A well-engineered system can handle the uncertainties and risks. However, I can say for certain, that the above beliefs do not adequately address all the things that we need to be addressing, to insure a safe, reliable, clean, and economical power and energy supply for both electricity and transportation, as well as address the environmental cleanup challenge and also provide new energies for things such as space exploration and additional clean water supplies for the future.

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