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RE: [NewMobilityCafe] Critique on Amory Lovins / RMI

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  • Lee Schipper
    Amory has a bright, optimistic market side that should appeal to republicans, but he is so optimistic about technology that he blunts any notion that the
    Message 1 of 4 , Feb 26, 2008
      Amory has a bright, optimistic market side that should appeal to republicans, but he is so optimistic about technology that he blunts any notion that the carbon, oil, and transport challenges will be difficult. And all of those incredible efficiency possibilities he cites. Hmm somehow the detailed data I track on a dozen countries do not show much movement to them, certainly not more rapidly than population and economic growth push resource use up, albeit slightly more slowly thanks to some efficiency improvements.
      Indeed, we WILL get Amory's factor four improvement. My working studying a dozen OECD economies from the 1950s to the late 1990s suggests about 50% of that factor was structural change and 50% efficiency improvements, mostly in manufacturing but more recently in household appliances. We have more of everything, but our money GDP has risen even more, so the net effect is lower energy use relative to GDP. Go back to 1900 and see what an "improvement" has taken place. We got at least a factor of two in the 20th century, and we might get it even faster in the 21st. Just note that only part of this was efficiency, the rest economic structure. And the prices of energy make a difference as to which bites, how much, and how fast.

      In a friendly debate we held in front of 1000 friendly spectators at the AM Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, back in 1994, he just could not utter the "p" (fuel prices) word, as in "higher prices would help throttle back consumption and stimulate efficiency".

      Note that these two statements are not the same. Consuming less means fewer, smaller, cars driven less, smaller homes, more modest TV and other signs of consumption. Amory would probably would agree we should end our housing mortgage interest subsidies, which give us bigger homes and propel sprawl. My thesis was that higher energy prices were an essential ingredient in speeding more efficiency AND restraining energy-intensive consumption like ever larger homes and more driving.

      More could be done. Would he move the Rocky Mountain Institute from beautiful Snowmass Colorado to a large, transit friendly metropolis to set an example? (I don't mean to brag, but WRI's floors in a rental building in downtown Washington are purposely next door to Union Station and the Red Line.) And do we all agree its time to let Prius owners and those driving other so called clean vehicles in many US cities no longer get free passage across some toll bridges or access to the high-occupancy vehicle lines. (NPR in the US ran a story how the HOV access stickers on used Priuses bring up to $4000 higher prices for used Priuses. Is Prius envy that strong?)

      More efficiency, yes, but clearer signals on resources means taxes and higher prices, not subsidies to various fuel schemes. And a clear recognition that the contents of future economy growth have to be less carbon intensive, not just more energy efficient.

      Lee Schipper
      -----Original Message-----
      From: NewMobilityCafe@yahoogroups.com [mailto:NewMobilityCafe@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Andrew Curry
      Sent: Tuesday, February 26, 2008 2:34 PM
      To: NewMobilityCafe@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [NewMobilityCafe] Critique on Amory Lovins / RMI

      There's actually quite a lively debate about the future of suburbia and the problems of 'driveability' going on in parts of the US right now - and beyond our sympathisers at WorldChanging.

      Let me point you to a recent New York Times blog:
      http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/10/can-we-uninvent-suburbia/index.html?hp <http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/10/can-we-uninvent-suburbia/index.html?hp>

      and to article:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/10/fashion/10suburbs.html?_r=1&oref=slogin <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/10/fashion/10suburbs.html?_r=1&oref=slogin>

      As an activist, Amory Lovins' greater value, I'd have thought, has been in his role of challenging the prevailing US (republican) notion that resource consumption reduction has to have a fundamental impact on economic development (through his 'Factor 4' arguments etc. I've never really throught of him as having much to say about transport.

      Natural Capitalism, for its part, is in the same area: trying to make the economic/business case for sustainability, which it does well, in my view. But if we are looking to the long-term, rather than the transitional, we need to be looking to the systems advocated in 'Cradle to Cradle' (McDonough and Braungart), which requires a fundamental transformation of business models and value chains - and will probably take 30 or more years to change.


      On 25/02/2008, eric.britton <eric.britton@... <mailto:eric.britton@...> > wrote:

      Der Colleagues,

      This commentary which just slipped in over the transom is something that I share with you not to demean the intelligence or good intentions of Amory Lovins as a person or thinker, but because the rather vigorous author -- to my mind -- puts his finger right on a very important weak point in the present sustainability debate. Other than that let me give the stage to the author for his trenchant commentary.

      Eric Britton

      From: Bram Büscher [mailto:BE.Buscher@... <mailto:BE.Buscher@...> ]

      Sent: 25 February 2008 03:23

      To: EANTH-L@... <mailto:EANTH-L@...>

      Subject: [Spam] Critique on Amory Lovins / RMI

      Dear All,

      I was at the Berlin conference of the Human Dimensions of Global Change yesterday and attended a (video conference) presentation by dr. Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain institute. I have seen few people so bluntly reduce all environmental problems (and the politics around it) to technological fetishes (apparently accessible to all?).

      He also advocated another book of his and colleagues entitled 'Natural Capitalism' that again combines all the good and the ugly into a 'profitable' 'win-win' mix for all of humankind and nature... On the website of the book (natcap.org) it says that they want to publish cheers and jeers, but that 'so far, the book has received almost pure praise and that frankly, this is a bit embarrassing'.

      Now, personally, I cannot imagine this, and wonder whether anybody on the list has some suggestions for critical literature/articles. Basically, I'm looking for some more practical armour in the face of people who so optimistically go about selling such grand illusions.



      Email from Andrew Curry

      And see my personal futures blog at http://thenextwavefutures.wordpress.com/ <http://thenextwavefutures.wordpress.com/>
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