Amory Lovins gets all optimistic

One would expect that scientist Amory Lovins would be pretty discouraged considering the stall of the Kyoto Accords and the failure of Congress to address climate change. Depressed he's not. In the March-April edition of Foreign Affairs, Lovins happily points to data that must have the oil rich Koch brothers and Hugo Chavez about equally concerned. According to Lovins, who is Chair and Chief Scientist at the highly respected Rocky Mountain Institute, the oil and coal industries are about to go the way of the whale oil industry in the 19th century. Before supply is a problem we won't need it or much of it anymore. In other words Peak Supply isn't the issue, rather it is that we have reached Peak Demand. Lovins writes that the US reached Peak Demand for coal in 2005 and for gasoline in 2007.

What's happening? Lots of things, but principally it's a combination of increased efficiency and increased renewables like wind and solar power that's starting to make a difference. He faults Congress for reducing incentives for renewables and energy efficiency improvements, but takes some satisfaction that market forces are driving down demand for fossil fuels. Energy efficiency is generally a much less expensive investment and produces more usable energy. The big old oil and coal giants are resisting help for new energies and efficiencies while seeking more subsidies for themselves, but the price advantage of solar, wind and increased efficiency may be driving the issue faster than the oil/coal giants can move.

What's really encouraging for me is that Lovins actually refers to "better designed layouts of communities[that] could increase affordability, livability and developers profits." For Lovins this is kind of a first acknowledgement of what I call the "Convenient Remedy", which is to restore urban connectivity and density to common practice in the building and design industries. In the past, Lovins has, like many environmentalists, focused on what New Urbanist Steve Mouzon calls "Gizmo Green". Amory Lovins is still focused on technology where great gains can be made, but he's also starting to see the opportunity to save energy in, for example, California's Sustainability Plan.

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