Advocate Talks Green Incentives

Founder of Rocky Mountain Institute calls for new outlook on energy

Unnamed photo
Maxine C. Schlein

Amory B. Lovins, co-founder and chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, speaks about profitable solutions to the climate crisis in the Science Center yesterday as part of the Future of Energy Speaker Series.

The “blatantly obvious” monetary incentives for increasing energy efficiency should move the United States toward a more energy frugal future, green energy advocate Amory B. Lovins said in a talk at the Science Center yesterday evening.

“We are often given a multiple choice test in the media. We must choose between climate change, oil wars, or nuclear holocaust,” said Lovins, the co-founder of the sustainability-research organization Rocky Mountain Institute. “We are never given the choice of ‘none of the above,’ when all these problems go away if we use energy in a money-saving way.”

Comparing present models of the U.S.’s oil and electricity consumption to his own theoretical ones, Lovins’ presentation, “Profitable Solutions to Climate, Oil, and Proliferation,” focused on reducing costs as a means to help the environment.

Certain companies, driven by opportunities for increased profit, have shown that cutting back CO2 emissions is possible, he said. IBM and STMicroelectronics were able to cut their emissions by 6 percent while looking for ways to reduce costs. Similarly, when the Dow Chemical Company invested in efficiency rather than buy more fuel, it ended up with a $3.3 billion profit.

From a consumer’s perspective, Lovins stressed efficiency over fuel consumption by addressing wasteful engineering in vehicles.

“One hundred times the vehicle’s weight in ancient plants is very inefficiently converted to oil,” said Lovins, who attended Harvard for two years in the mid-1960s. “Seven eighths of that never gets to the wheels—it is lost in the engine idling. And only the last six percent accelerates the car and hits the brake when you stop.”

According to Lovins, combining low mass and drag in cars with advanced propulsion not only provides a cheap way to save two thirds of the fuel needed but also yields a better performance.

Lovins argued that the problem is not a lack of energy-efficient technology in transportation, but rather a dearth of knowledge on the part of companies about newer alternatives.

“The innovation tree keeps pelting our heads with new fruit—what part of that don’t we get?” he said.

One of Lovins’s key points was the ability of the government to attain energy efficiency, despite military priorities in oil abroad.

“The Pentagon emerged in February as the federal leader in getting the U.S. off oil,” he said. “It’s not to do with the general concern of standing watching over general pipelines. It’s more about fuel logistics.”

He noted that half of the casualties in current military conflicts are due to convoys that transport oil.

“There is a lot of cost in blood and treasure to moving this fuel around, Lovins said. “That oil logistics is a free process is a very, very bad approximation.”