Is it possible to energize our civilization without
fear? Fear of oil spills and oil wars, fear of nuclear meltdowns and
nuclear waste, fear of global warming and polluted air and water?
is, according to Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI),
among the world's most respected authorities on alternative energy
strategies. In a new video available here, Lovins makes the case that a
richer, fairer, cooler, safer world is now possible because saving and
replacing fossil fuels works better -- and costs less -- than buying
and burning them.
Events such as the U.S. Gulf Coast oil spill --
the Three Mile Island of deepwater drilling -- expose the true costs
and dangers of fossil fuel. Supposedly, we use oil as a fuel because it
is cheaper and easier to use -- and more profitable -- than
alternatives such as wind, solar or conservation. But that assumption
changes when drilling for deep-water oil goes awry and it costs the oil
producer billions to deal with the mess.
Switching to alternative
energy may not be a choice but a necessity. As author Jeff Rubin points
out, U.S. President Barack Obama's moratorium on offshore oil drilling
is a potential game changer.
Rubin notes that before the Gulf
accident, the oil industry was betting on deep-water drilling to fill
the growing oil-supply gap resulting from annual depletions of oil
reserves and to provide net increases in global production. Over the
last decade, oil production from deep-water drilling has grown by 4.3
million barrels per day, accounting for almost half the increase in
world oil supply.
"Virtually every positive outlook on global oil
supply hinges on large increases in deep-water production," says Rubin.
"But in exactly whose backyard are those increases going to take place?
Will any country be willing to face the environmental and economic
costs that America is facing? And will any oil company be willing to
risk the staggering liabilities that BP shareholders will soon have to
"If the answer to these questions is no," says Rubin, "get ready for a world of shrinking oil supply."
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what is the alternative to plentiful oil? Unfortunately, the "fear
factor" for alternatives like coal, oilsands, and nuclear options is
also high. That's why RMI is promoting a "fuel without fear" scenario
Lovins has dubbed Reinventing Fire. The approach outlined by RMI
promotes an energy revolution on four fronts:
Moving people, freight and the platforms that carry them uses most of
the world's oil. Smart design can make platforms lighter and more
efficient while enhancing performance, safety and comfort. RMI's
implementation strategy aims to spur mass markets that will induce
manufacturers to retool and redesign all types of vehicles.
Despite new codes, design tools, technologies and early success
stories, commercial building stock is no more energy efficient than it
was 25 years ago. In 2030, approximately 60 per cent of current
commercial building stock will still be in use. Clearly, buildings need
to be a major part of any effort to get off fossil fuels. RMI's
RetroFit initiative uses integrative design, astute timing and powerful
partners to make these improvements bigger and cheaper.
Few power and industrial plants, commercial and residential buildings,
vehicles and transportation systems are as energy efficient as they
should be. Factor Ten Engineering (10Xe) aims to revolutionize how
engineering is taught and practised, so very large energy savings cost
less. RMI's projects have demonstrated impressive potential to apply
such integrative design across the range of industrial processes, as
well as to buildings and vehicles.
generation is the largest user of fossil fuels, chiefly coal. RMI's
energy practice is leading a multi-year effort to develop a credible
and advantageous transition from fossil fuels to efficiency and
renewables. Its Next-Generation Utility initiative will show that
replacing coal and nuclear power with a portfolio of dynamic demand and
supply side resources -- distributed and renewable -- is both
cost-competitive and highly reliable.
Events like the Gulf oil
spill make it clear that the time for tinkering with the energy system
is ended. We need a change in energy strategy and we need it now.