The topic that most occupies Lovins thinking nowadays is energy efficiency. Similarly, if you are proposing to examine someone’s house or factory to look for energy saving opportunities, I’d suggest do not call it an energy audit, which makes people think of the IRS, perhaps an energy survey would be more interesting.e360: What about coinages like fee-bates and negawatts?Lovins: I think they’re in fairly common usage by now, especially “negawatts”, which was a typo I spotted in a Colorado PUC document several decades ago and spread around, or the economists’ term “micro-power” to embrace both co-generation and distributive renewables is a very useful term. By Fen Montaigne Amory B. Lovins, an American consultant experimental physicist and 1993 MacArthur Fellow, has been active at the nexus of energy, resources, economy, environment, development, and security in more than 50 countries for over 40 years, including 14 years based in England. Right now, there’s over a century of encrusted and assiduously lobbied-for and defended subsidies to almost every kind of energy. Let’s use it!e360: Do you find that people respond to that? As Big Energy Gains, Can Europe’s Community Renewables Compete? Lovins, who participated in Principal Voices in 2006, has advocated the "soft energy path," which promotes efficiency and renewable energy. That’s because we use integrated design to get expanding, not diminishing returns. By barrier-busting, I mean enabling people to respond to the price signals they see, and use energy in a way that saves money, by turning into a business opportunity each of the 60 or 80 well-known obstacles or market failures in buying efficiency. We published an example where that coordination would enable you to save three-quarters of the electricity used by a typical 20-odd-year-old glass office tower at a slightly lower cost than the regular 20-year renovation you have to do anyway, that saves nothing.e360: Now, you mentioned that barrier-busting is needed at all levels of government. The car has, I think, 3,000 miles a year, most of which is driving to and from the airport. Sign up for the E360 Newsletter →. It happens to be a two-seater because that’s all I need. And let’s see who’s not in favor of that. In his 2011 book - Reinventing Fire - Lovins made a case for energy transformation in society using business- and market-driven techniques. We should be paying energy costs through our energy bills, not through our tax bills. “Principally, I am talking about using our energy resources productively,” he explains. Most economic theorists assume that energy efficiency—the biggest global provider of energy services—is a limited and dwindling resource whose price- and policy-driven adoption will inevitably deplete its potential and raise its cost. That is, we make very large energy savings cost less than small or savings. Students will also get to tour Amory Lovins's famous energy efficient home in Snowmass, CO - and check out his indoor greenhouse / banana crop! Any one or more of those motives would lead to the same actions, and for that matter the same is true, if you care about peak oil and other depletion issues.e360: Living in Colorado, I assume, you need to drive, is that right? Amory Lovins: energy visionary sees renewables revolution in full swing. RMI engages businesses, communities, institutions, and entrepreneurs to accelerate the adoption of market-based solutions that cost-effectively shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. Just move the electrons and leave the heavy nuclei at home. I talked to a wide range of audiences and for some it is not appropriate. We work in all sectors, but most of our work is with the private sector, because we actually want to get things done.e360: How far can the private sector take us, and at what point do we need to bring the general public along as well?Lovins: I think government should steer, not row. For example, how large, how cheap, how fast? In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about his latest book, which describes his vision of how the world can attain a green energy future by 2050. The key is integrating all four energy-using sectors—and four kinds of innovation. Unlike standards, it rewards continuous innovation and improvement, and it makes more profit for the automakers. Energy efficiency is limited by the laws of thermodynamics, but by one global estimate, 2005 global Second Law efficiency (AIP 1975) of energy conversion systems was only ~11% (Cullen and Allwood 2011), i.e., energy use was 9× the theoretical minimum, so including also passive systems, '85% of energy demand could be practically avoided using current … There is no trade-off or compromise required. And if that happened, that would be the most single powerful lever in getting utilities excited and engaged in efficiency, rather than averse or at least indifferent to it because it hurts their profits.Second, to get efficient cars on the road quickly, the federal government should incubate at a state and regional level and then take nationwide a system of size-neutral and revenue-neutral “fee-bates”. And I think the broad framework that makes the most sense for energy policy would be to let all ways to save or produce energy compete fairly, at honest prices, no matter which kind they are, what technology they use, how big they are, where they are, or who owns them. The talk (preceded by my performance of … So that would be 24 years, now almost 25. Amory B. Lovins is fond of referring to the Rocky Mountain Institute, where he serves as chairman and chief scientist, as a “think and do” tank, and it’s clear that to Lovins the doing is every bit as important as the thinking. Under a fee-bate system, the less efficient ones would pay a corresponding fee, that would then be used to pay a rebate on the more efficient ones. Amory Lovins: Oh, for example, in the United States we could save at least half the oil and gas and three-quarters of the electricity we use, and that efficiency investment would cost only about an eighth [of] what we’re now paying for those forms of energy.e360: How fast could we do that?Lovins: To get completely off oil — half from the supply side and half by redoubling the efficiency of using oil — would take ’til the 2040s, if we did it about a third slower than we saved oil from 1977 to ’85, when we were last paying attention. The government should get the rules right. But they are going to replace it under the same name with a four- or five-seat hybrid. The first, supported by U.S. policy, promised a future of steadily increasing reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear fission, and had serious environmental risks. I am driving in a lot of snow and slush and mostly in snow tires, and it gets 61-point-something.e360: How does that get that mileage?Lovins: Well, it weighs only 1889 pounds. On energy efficiency and the “negawatt” revolution: “There is an enormous amount more to be done: we could improve the efficiency of US buildings by 2050 at historically reasonable rates by a factor of three or four, with about a 33% internal rate of return.” On carbon removal: “I haven’t yet seen an economically attractive CCS option…I think the way forward on … More importantly, though, I don’t commute by car, because my trip to work is 10 meters across the jungle in the middle of my passive solar banana farm.e360: And how long has that been your situation?Lovins: Oh, let’s see. Energy efficiency the keyLovins’ basic premise is that improving the way we use energy is the key to the future. You used the word jargony, for me it sounds gimmicky.Lovins: Well, tastes differ. 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