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Amory Lovins 2008 Interview: Energy as Romance (a ‘Green New Deal’ antecedent)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- February 26, 2019

The US’s electric bill could be halved through energy-efficiency measures and renewables that would mostly pay for themselves in a year. That’s not a free lunch. It’s a lunch you’re paid to eat.”

“There’s no reason that energy policy need be a multiple-choice test asking: Would you prefer to die from a) climate change, b) oil wars, or c) a nuclear holocaust? I choose d) none of the above.”

“I’m not an environmentalist. I’m a cultural repairman. It’s all about efficient and restorative use of resources to make the world secure, prosperous and life-sustaining.”

 – Amory Lovins, quoted in Lucy Siegle, “This Much I Know: Amory Lovins,” The Guardian, March 23, 2008.

Eleven years ago, Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute was interviewed by The Guardian on his energy views, first formulated in Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken? (1976). Lovins’s soft energy path of ‘negawatts‘ and (politically correct) renewables was differentiated from the “hard energy path” of fossil fuels and nuclear for generating electricity.

From time to time, MasterResource resurrects the intellectual past of the smartest-guys-in-the-room eco-energy planners to ascertain their relevance for today. What did they say, and how has it held up?

Far from nostalgic, energy romance has reemerged in the grand ideals and promises of the Green New Deal. The all-good-things from the coercionists should make consumers–and taxpayers–beware.

Eighteen Lovins quotations from the 2008 Guardian interview follow.

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Big Promises

The US can cut its oil imports to zero by 2040, eliminate oil use entirely by 2050, and make money. What’s stopping us? Well, as Marshall McLuhan said: ‘Only puny secrets need protection. Big discoveries are protected by public incredulity.’

I’m not an environmentalist. I’m a cultural repairman. It’s all about efficient and restorative use of resources to make the world secure, prosperous and life-sustaining.

There’s no reason that energy policy need be a multiple-choice test asking: Would you prefer to die from a) climate change, b) oil wars, or c) a nuclear holocaust? I choose d) none of the above.

Free Lunch!

The US’s electric bill could be halved through energy-efficiency measures and renewables that would mostly pay for themselves in a year. That’s not a free lunch. It’s a lunch you’re paid to eat.

Public discourse about climate change has resulted in the erroneous idea that it’s all about cost, burden and sacrifice. If the math was correct, everyone would see it’s about profit, jobs and competitive advantage. Smart companies have figured this out and are making billions.

Rocky Mountain Institute now works with upwards of 10 of the world’s top 50 brand names, such as WalMart. Many of those companies now have business strategies so radical you’d mistake them for being written by Greenpeace activists.

The markets make a good servant but a bad master, and a worse religion.

No to Nuclear

Every investment in nuclear expansion will worsen climate change by buying less solution per dollar. That’s as dumb as a possum.

Negawatts

A nega-watt is a watt of electricity that does not have to be generated because an energy-saving measure has obviated the need for it. Replace a 75-watt incandescent light bulb with a 14-watt compact fluorescent bulb and you produce 61 nega-watts.

Now or Never

We will soon discover whether this bold evolutionary experiment of combining a large forebrain with opposable thumbs was really a good idea. Over the next decade, our species takes its university finals. Get revising.

Personal Lifestyle

I am a man without a furnace. My windows are insulated by 19 sheets of glass which cost less than installing a heating system. I have harvested 28 crops from my indoor banana plants, all grown in a house at 2,200 metres elevation, with outdoor temperatures down to -44C.

I hang my laundry in a room with a glass ceiling and it dries by nightfall. Two days for jeans.

I lived in the UK for 14 years until 1981 and never needed a car. Last time I went back I did, because the rail links weren’t as good. But I was very pleased by the revival of the Welsh language.

I’m a practitioner of elegant frugality. I don’t feel comfortable telling other people what to do, so I just try and lead by example.

I am concerned at the amount I have to fly. I do more and more of my lectures by internet videoconference. That way I just ship the electrons and leave the heavy nuclei at home.

‘Eat more lamb – 50,000 coyotes can’t be wrong.’ That’s the bumper sticker on my Honda Insight. The meat in our freezer is from 20km up the road and made only from organic grass.

Optimism (Romance?) Needed

My way of dealing with doom-mongers is to let the person talk for a while and then I ask, gently: “Does feeling this way make you more effective?”

One Comment for “Amory Lovins 2008 Interview: Energy as Romance (a ‘Green New Deal’ antecedent)”


  1. Mark  

    Rod Adams had a post up a few years ago questioning some of the assumptions in Dr. Lovins theories.

    https://atomicinsights.com/crowd-sourced-analysis-lovins-sales-pitch/

    Dr. Ted Trainer, a Conjoint Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences, University of New South Wales, noted (in “Questioning our renewable future.)”

    “The approach is to make vague and generalised claims, support them with a few spectacular examples, and proceed as if this establishes that the practice in question could be implemented everywhere. As Smil (undated) said long ago, Lovin’s style is “… discourse by declaration.” This is disappointing as Lovins has extensive expertise on these issues and it could have been applied here more effectively to clarifying the potential and limits of renewable energy.

    http://www.resilience.org/stories/2012-09-15/review-reinventing-fire-amory-lovins/

    http://www.resilience.org/stories/2017-02-14/questioning-our-renewable-future/

    Reply

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