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Reinventing Fire--Conclusion: Many Choices, One FutureApril 23, 2014
This is GWG’s seventh and final chapter of Amory Lovins’ book, Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Future. In it, he summarizes the vision of a future that is free of our dependence on fossil fuels, is a safer, more efficient, and cleaner world, and one that is more economically healthy and stable. He describes the barriers, the opportunities, and the steps that need to be taken to achieve this vision, which by now readers understand is not dependent on unknown, new technologies. The transformation has begun—we see it in the development of lighter, electric cars, buildings that are misers of energy, and micro-power grid designs. Wind power already employs more Americans than coal. What is needed is to accelerate the adoption of technologies we have today.
Realizing the vision largely depends on our will as a society, as countries, as businesses, and as individuals. As Lovins quotes Henry Ford, “If you think you can, you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” Focused action will be needed. Lovins believes there have been four key errors since the Kyoto Protocal agreement in 1997 to curb climate risks and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). They include the assumption that solutions are costly rather than profitable, an insistence that the motive is about climate change rather than security, profit or economic development, the assumption a global treaty was required for countries and business to take action, and the assumption that US businesses can do little before carbon is priced. As these errors are realized, Lovins foresees that businesses and countries will lead climate protection efforts rather than governments. Oil companies that diversify and transition to clean energy and biofuels will be dominant players while others will fade into history in the path of whalers and buggy makers. History convincingly demonstrates that concerted action will bring results. The US reduced its oil intensity by 5% a year between 1977 and 1985 and California shrank GHG emissions per dollar of Gross Domestic Product by 30% between 1990 and 2006.
Lovins writes that an investment in the US of $4.5 trillion will produce economic benefits of $9.5 trillion, yielding $5 trillion in net wealth. He makes a compelling argument that the US is the second biggest emitter of GHG, yet the nation is unwilling to lead global reductions. We cling to our attachment to outmoded energy sources which forces us to maintain relationships with unsavory or unfriendly governments just for oil. Reinventing fire solves this ethical dilemma and would help restore American’s moral authority and standing in the world, which lowers our national security risks.
Lovins includes a short survey of what other world countries are doing and the competitive advantages that they will realize if we fall further behind in investing in clean energy and renewables. China, for example, is the leading manufacturer of five renewable technologies, including wind, photovoltaics, small hydrogen, biogas, and solar water heaters. He puts forth six challenges that need to be mastered to guide the energy revolution. We need to transform the auto industry away from gas-guzzling vehicles, to redesign communities so people live, work, and play in closer proximity, to build and retrofit buildings to greater efficiency, to accelerate energy savings and cogeneration in industry, to eep slashing the cost of renewable energy, and to revamp utilities from a profit model that depends on how much electricity they sell and to increase renewable sources of energy into their grids.
Powerfully, the future Lovins charts is possible by applying ingenuity and innovation to the technologies we have. Reinventing Fire is a transformative book. For this reader, it is a mind-bender and it demanded concentrated attention, the willingness to learn new concepts and terminology, and to get into the weeds about sources of energy, engineering principles, industrial processes, and technologies. It’s so worth it. We have one life, one planet, one chance to get it right.
Click here to learn more about Reinventing Fire.
Click here to learn how to buy this book.
Click here to learn more about Amory Lovins.
Click here to learn more about the Rocky Mountain Institute where Lovins is co-founder and Chief Scientist.
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