Amory Lovins speaks at Catawba College

Amory Lovins

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Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute’s chairman and chief scientist, has achieved renown throughout the world. Time magazine called him “one of the world’s 100 most influential people”; the Wall Street Journal said he was one of 39 people worldwide “most likely to change the course of business”; and Newsweek called him “one of the Western world’s most influential energy thinkers.”

An experimental physicist educated at Harvard and Oxford, Lovins cofounded Rocky Mountain Institute, a market-oriented, entrepreneurial, nonprofit, nonpartisan “think-and-do tank.” He has lately led the redesign of more than $30 billion worth of facilities in 29 sectors for radical energy and resource efficiency.

Lovins has briefed 20 heads of state and held several visiting academic chairs, most recently as 2007 MAP/Ming Professor in Stanford University’s School of Engineering. He has written 29 books and hundreds of papers, advised the U.S. Departments of Energy and Defense and consulted for scores of industries and governments worldwide.

A MacArthur Fellow, Lovins has received numerous awards, including the “Alternative Nobel,” Blue Planet, Volvo, Onassis, Nissan, Shingo and Mitchell Prizes and 10 honorary doctorates.

Q&A with Amory Lovins

Lovins, who keeps a busy schedule of speaking engagements, talked with the Post during an airport layover. Here are excerpts from that interview, edited for brevity.


Q. The title of your presentation here is "Profitable Solutions to Climate, Oil, and Proliferation." Can you give us a quick preview?

A. There are both old and new technologies and design methods that can make problems like climate change, oil dependence and nuclear proliferation go away, not at a cost but at a profit. Profits rise because it's cheaper to save fuel than to buy fuel. Efficiency is cheaper than inefficiency and waste. There are also supply-wide revolutions. For example, the conventional power plants that have served us so well have become obsolete. We can produce energy much more efficiently using sources like micropower, cogeneration technologies and renewables. When you add all of this up, you've just reinvented fire. You have a recipe for a business-led transition from oil and coal to energy-efficient renewables.

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"It's cheaper to save energy than buy it"

That world of efficient use and renewable energy is “available, practical and profitable now,” Lovins said. “At RMI, we’re doing it. We do solutions, not problems; transformation, not incrementalism; and we’re practitioners, not theorists.”


He explained how using newer technologies and integrative design can save more energy at a negative cost. “How fast must energy efficiency work?” he asked. “If the energy used to make a unit of economic activity kept drifting down by just 1 percent a year, as it has historically, then carbon emissions would triple by 2100, and we’d all be toast. Of course, we want to make toast, not be toast.”

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