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Rocky Mountain Institute: Amory Lovins

      Amory Lovins was once described as the "top five" of the top ten energy experts in the world. In the mid 1970's other experts projected sky-rocketing energy demand in the decades to come. We would have had to build power plants at an exponential rate to meet projected demand. Amory Lovins called that the "hard path." He proposed an alternative, "soft path" using energy-efficient technologies to meet future demand.

Soft Energy Paths.       Lovins invented the concept of "negawatts," so that utilities and governments could compare the cost of conservation measures against the cost of increasing power production. Negawatts represent power saved from one application that is made available to another application. For example, a compact fluorescent light bulb uses about a fourth as much energy as a standard incandescent bulb to put out a similar amount of light. Replacing one 100 watt bulb with one 25 watt compact fluorescent therefore "generates" 75 negawatts of saved energy to use somewhere else. Through Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), Amory Lovins provides information to utilities and governments, then they let market forces do the rest.

      Time has proved Amory more than right. Energy production grew very little over a twenty year period because conservation measures allowed the existing energy supply to meet the needs of many more people and businesses. Amory's ideas have changed the way power companies around the world do business. Between them they have saved enough energy to power a modest-sized country.
      Their institute has grown in size and scope, so they now deal in many issues of sustainable living. The concept of negawatts evolved into "negagallons" to give city utilities a new way of evaluating water supply and demand. For example, they demonstrated that it was more economical for one Colorado city to retrofit homes with water efficient toilets, showerheads, and other conservation measures, than to build a new dam.

Natural Capitalism.       Another RMI project is reinventing the automobile. The big auto-makers used to say it was impossible to increase the energy-efficiency of cars much beyond the current level, but that was only true in context of the materials and designs currently in use. It is possible to build high mileage cars (150-300 mpg) that are cost effective and durable--but it requires throwing out all existing automotive technology to start from scratch.

      Rocky Mountain Institute long ago proposed building ultra-light gas-electric hybrid cars using high-tech composite materials. A small gas engine would generate electricity as needed, but otherwise the car would run on batteries. Braking would generate electricity to help recharge the batteries. These cars would be more efficient than so-called "zero emissions" cars. Zero-emissions cars displace the pollution to the power plant that generates the electricity. Ultra-lights, on the other hand, have a greater total efficiency.

Small is Profitable.       Hydrogen fuel cells will be easy to adapt to ultra-lights too. Fuel cells would not work well in conventional automobiles because they would have to be too big to generate enough power. But much smaller fuel cells can be incorporated into the light-weight cars, negating the need for gasoline engines.

      RMI stimulated a few pioneer companies to begin developing ultra-light technologies. Then they told other auto-makers they should start developing the technologies too, or risk being left behind by their competitors. The result is that nearly two dozen corporations are racing to put the first ultra-lights on the market. The hybrid vehicles currently on the road are more efficient than nonhybrids, but the cars are still built of steel, instead of lightweight composites. Next generation vehicles may be nearly twice as efficient as the early hybrids.

      The idea of negawatts and negagallons rings similar to Masanobu Fukuoka's concept of "do-nothing farming" described on an earlier page, and RMI tilts market forces similar to the way that Fukuoka tilts succession in favor of his crops. Like Fukuoka, RMI has been a significant influence on my thinking and on Direct Pointing to Real Wealth: Thomas J. Elpel's Field Guide to Money. Natural Capitalism is by far the best and most up-to-date of these books. Be sure to visit Rocky Mountain Institute on the web.

Download Amory's book Winning the Oil Endgame for Free!

Read Excerpts from the book Natural Capitalism By Amory & Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawken.

Also read on-line Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth by Lester R. Brown

Books by Amory Lovins

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution by Amory B. Lovins
Paperback. 2000.
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Small is Profitable by Amory B. Lovins, et al.
Paperback. 2002.
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Download excerpts of the book here.

Reinventing Electric Utilities: Competition, Citizen Action, and Clean Power by Ed Smeloff, Peter Asmus, Amory Lovins
Paperback. November 1996.
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Soft Energy Paths : Towards a Durable Peace: by Amory B. Lovins
-Out of Print- (Amazon will search for used copies.)
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Least-Cost Energy : Solving the C02 Problem by Amory B. Lovins
-Out of Print- (Amazon will search for used copies.)
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Energy/War, Breaking the Nuclear Link by Amory B. Lovins
Hardcover. January 1981.
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Is nuclear power necessary? by Amory B. Lovins
-Out of Print- (Amazon will search for used copies.)
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Next Page: Cultural Evolution: Peter Farb/Marvin Harris

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