Amory Lovins, in his future “America 2050” scenario, presented in his book Reinventing Fire, and also delivered via a TED talks video, eloquently describes his vision of an America that quits its fossil-fuel addiction and embraces renewable energies, electric vehicles, and energy-efficiency technology. Thoroughly detailing the entire story of how we will get to a clean, healthy, renewable, and even more equitable society, Lovins claims that we can do so while also saving $5 trillion dollars along the way.
Lovins describes what the day-to-day of a hypothetical America 2050 would look like: electric cars and fuel-cell buses are transportation options, “superefficient algal oil” jetliners take you from city to city, manufacturing processes imitate nature (Lovins giving a nod to the biomimicry industry on the rise), and the buildings in which we work in are bathed in natural light and are far more efficient machines. After this beautiful envision of our future, Lovins poses the all-important question: “Is the reinventing fire vision economically and technologically viable?” The answer, which proves to be backed by other independent studies as well, is a resounding yes. But how does he claim we go about accomplishing such a feat?
Lovins mentions that policy “boosters” will be needed to unlock and speed the renewable energy, revolutionary electric vehicle, and other efficiency technology industries. The Reinventing Fire analysis also shows that by investing systematically in energy efficiency and renewables, the U.S. economy will actually be stimulated and more jobs will be created. A controversial political topic today revolves around the amount of lost fuel industry jobs (i.e. coal miners). However, Lovins makes it clear that these industries have low labor intensity, while renewables have above-average labor intensity—meaning job gains will offset losses. On top of all this, the analysis claims that, through smart investing in integrative design, energy efficient technologies, and transportation ($4.5 trillion in cumulative investment), the U.S. can see a return of $9.5 trillion in fuel-savings, thereby creating $5 trillion of cumulative net wealth.
Throughout the rest of the chapter, Lovins addresses many other possible concerns with this vision, such as how our nation’s power will be affected, questions surrounding national security, and how this will help the world’s poor populations. However, the important take-away, and the one that addresses the biggest issue of our time, is how this plan can advert the worst climate-change impacts. Lovins points out that climate protection is not costly, but profitable—“a very convenient truth.” The Reinventing Fire analysis posits America in 2050 as cutting emissions more than 80% from the 2000 level. Lovins says, in his book and the TED talks, that this will be possible more so through the private sector and civil society than by international treaties and governments. If Lovins were writing this today, he would probably nod to Bill Gates’s new “Breakthrough Energy Coalition,” which includes a handful of the largest investors across the world.
In the end, if you are having difficulty seeing past any of the nine barriers that Lovins sees as obstructive to the Reinventing Fire future (maybe you’re one of the organizations that doesn’t see energy as a priority), or are the more skeptical type in general, you might have trouble grasping the analysis proposed by Lovins as realistic. However, the numbers add up, and Lovins certainly did his work. Hop on the transition train to an efficiently run, more renewable America today, or forever be sulking in the coal mine that will be turned into a cheap tourist pit-stop 40 years from now.
If you’re interested in learning more about how we can transition into a fossil fuel-free sustainable country, while creating new jobs and saving money, check out Amory Lovins and Rocky Mountain Institute’s book, Reinventing Fire, here: http://www.amazon.com/Reinventing-Fire-Business-Solutions-Energy/dp/1603585389