Radical Energy Efficiency

Just in time to commemorate Al Gore’s Nobel Prize

Amory Lovins, longtime environmental advocate, believes global warming is irrelevant… the world running out of oil will hardly be noticed… and corporations will lead the way toward a greener world, according to this account of his talk Friday at the Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Conference in New York.

None of these problems will manifest as crises because businesses around the world are discovering that saving energy is cheaper than consuming it, Lovins said.

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?”

Among Lovins’ clients are Wal-Mart and the U.S. military.

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