Peak Oil is a "distraction" and global warming? Well, global warming will take care of itself.
It's the bottom line, stupid.
Amory Lovins makes these arguments, (without actually calling you stupid, and with a breathtaking whirlwind of statistics that he has -- miraculously -- cached in his brain) in the course of explaining why the energy source of the future is clean and limitless.
Because it's no energy at all.
Lovins, the winner of the 2007 Leadership Breakthrough Award from Popular Mechanics and the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Institute, calls it "radical efficiency." He's used it to transform Wal-Mart from an environmental villain into a pioneering green innovator, improving its bottom line substantially in the process. He's applied it to the U.S. military to save lives on convoy lines (a very important bottom line), since the safest way to transport fuel in a war zone is to eliminate the need to transport all that fuel. Lovins and the team at the Rocky Mountain Institute have applied radical efficiency to help redesign more than $30 billion worth of facilities in 29 sectors.
Here's the trick of radical efficiency: Math.
"Efficiency," Lovins told an audience at Popular Mechanics' Breakthrough Conference today at the Hearst Tower in New York City, "is cheaper than fuel."
Saved money is earned money, which is why Lovins works with corporations to improve their bottom lines by radically improving energy efficiency with simple, and very available, technology and techniques. Once one company has converted, others follow.
In the case of Wal-Mart, the largest corporation in the world's "demand pull" is inspiring its suppliers to improve their energy efficiency -- by virtue of that age-old motivation, the economic survival instinct. In the case of microchip manufacturers, when one learns to make a chip more cheaply by saving energy in production, the others must follow.
Which is why peak oil doesn't matter. If oil runs out next year, or in the next decade, that will matter less than the rise of competitive sources of energy in the marketplace. Petroleum will go the way of whale oil, which in 1850 was the world's fifth largest industry, Lovins said. That powerful industry lasted precisely until coal-based oils provided a cheaper alternative to the common lighting fuel. You don't hear much about whale oil anymore.
"Whalers were astounded," Lovins said, "when they ran out of customers before they ran out of whales."
He sees the same irrelevance in global warming, at least as a catalyst to inspire a change in the fuels burned by the world's economic engine. He sees efforts to persuade federal governments and international bodies to set limits on carbon dioxide as misguided. China, currently the world's top polluter of greenhouse gases, will persuade itself to go green because it makes economic sense, and provides a competitive advantage, he said.
Unless, that is, U.S. business, with a little help from Lovins, does first.
"Corporations rule the world," Lovins said. "How would you have them do it?"
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