Amory Lovins Presents Plan for “New Energy Era”

Amory Lovins, whom many have dubbed the “Green Energy Guru,” has developed a plan that will stimulate the United States’ economy and eliminate the nation’s dependence on oil and coal by 2050, a strategy which Lovins shared with Andover students on February 13.

In his presentation, Lovins, an energy analyst and physicist, spoke about his latest book, “Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era,” which proposes that the federal government reorganize existing energy resources rather than invest in new ones.

Lovins began his presentation by asking whether audience members would “rather die of oil wars, climate change or a nuclear holocaust.” Lovins used the question to frame his argument that the U.S. must address the current environmental and energy crises.

According to Lovins, the country could guarantee a sustainable future by working towards a “New Energy Era” in which U.S. citizens rely on renewable energy sources, such as wind and electricity, instead of fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

Lovins said, “Fire made us humans. Fuels made us modern. Now we need a new fire that makes us safe, secure, healthy and warm. This would be the key to solving worldwide problems of climate change, nuclear proliferation, energy insecurity and energy poverty. This is definitely possible.”

He continued, “[Reinventing fire] is not just a once-in-a-civilization business opportunity. It is one of the greatest transformations in the history of our species. Humans are inventing a new fire, not dug from below but flowing from above. Not scarce, but bountiful. Not local, but everywhere. Not costly, but free. It is making energy do our work.”

Lovins refuted assumptions that attaining such an environment would be costly and require new technology. Lovins suggested that the country instead redesign existing energy resources to put available resources to more effective use.

For example, Lovins said that the car production process could be made more energy efficient.

According to Lovins, the less cars weigh, the less fuel they require. He suggested building electric cars out of the material used to make carbon helmets instead of using steel. These cars would be composed of stronger material, cost less and require less oil.

Lovins also introduced the idea of installing “super windows” in buildings. These windows would trap more heat, thereby reducing costs for air conditioning and heating.

Jonathan Arone ’14 said, “How [Lovins] showed how you can just rearrange the power grids that we already have more efficiently–without using new sources of energy–was really interesting.”

Justin Wang ’13 said, “It surprised me that it would hardly take any [action by the] federal government to get [Lovins’] plan through, since that is a big concern in our media today.”

Donald Barry, Instructor in Mathematics, said, “It was a marvelous talk. [Lovins] rephrased the issue in such a way that people of all different political stripes can agree, because he brought it down to basic economics.”

“When you talk about oil, [considering] increases in price and the risks involved, and you compare that with no-risk solar or wind [power], solar and wind becomes economically competitive,” Barry continued. “And because they are competitive economically, businesses will invest in them and transform our culture.”

Lovins began research for his book in the late 1960s, when increasing global attention to environmental issues sparked his to search for solutions.