“Le Parfait Est L’ennemi Du Bien” In Technology Choice

Lynne Kiesling

Last week Rob at Peak Oil Optimist commented on an environmental group’s position on the construction of an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plant in the Pacific Northwest. They contend that the technology is just not needed because of other available means of renewable power and demand reduction. Rob correctly and nicely points out that their position, and their unwillingness to recognize and embrace technologies that make tradeoffs that are valuable to some people and advance the ball down the field, will increasingly make them and their voices irrelevant:

If there were ever a way to make sure that the environmentalist movement were cancelled out — vaporized, removed from the table at any serious political consideration — here it is. There’s never any “better”, always their “best” and only utopian answer. Given the constant braying against wind, nuclear, and just about everything except solar, one wonders just how much longer they’ll have any credibility at all.

I would add further that the type of argument in which one claims that a technology is “simply not necessary” reflects a very top-down, control-and-manage mindset. It ignores the very real, very diverse, very heterogeneous sets of preferences and circumstances facing energy consumers and producers, many of whom may find IGCC-generated power a step in the right direction that they are willing to take. Incrementalism is how we’re going to make this happen.

The French in the title is because I recently learned that the phrase “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” derives from the above quote from Voltaire.


3 thoughts on ““Le Parfait Est L’ennemi Du Bien” In Technology Choice

  1. Actually, a search reveals that the original quote is “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.” “Mieux” regularly is “best,” but “perfect” is how that quote is generally translated.

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