Amory Lovins on Big Cars, Hidden Costs, and Inefficient Energy

Top Scientist Speaks to UCSB Crowd

Crowds piled into a UCSB Bren Hall classroom last Wednesday to participate in a special seminar with esteemed environmental scientist Amory Lovins, who spoke and answered questions about the changing world of renewable energy, and its spectrum of benefits in terms of business and efficiency.

Lovins opened the talk by asking his audience, “What if we could reinvent fire?” in reference to the title and topic of his October 2011 book, Reinventing Fire. Lovins is chair and chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, and he pioneered the concept of “soft energy paths.”

“We need a new fire,” said Lovins, after noting that 90 percent of America’s energy comes from nonrenewable sources. “Today’s energy system is not just inefficient, it’s also disconnected.”

Lovins interspersed his discussion of ways to improve energy efficiency with explanations of its economical benefits. He said that by ceasing use of oil, coal, and nuclear energy, we could save $5 trillion by 2050 in a 158 percent larger U.S. economy.

He substantiated these claims by raising the issue of hidden costs in our most common energy sources — which he noted to be $4 billion per day due to the “daily yo-yo” of prices.

Turning the conversation to oil abuses rendered by the automobile industry, Lovins then discussed the negative effects of recent car trends. “In the past quarter century, our two-ton autos have suffered from the epidemic of obesity,” commented Lovins on the inefficiency of large cars. He compared what he sees as an imminent revolution in car insides to the shift from typewriters to computers.

“As we design and build vehicles better, we can use them smarter,” added Lovins, saying that without using oil we can save $25 per barrel. He deemed electricity the “key to the new energy era.”

The talk was followed by conversations with the audience, one person praising Lovins by telling him, “We wish there was a way to make you king of the world.”

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