Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Alternatives or Ultra-Efficiency?
The October 4 issue of Fortune features this article by Amory Lovins, the alternative energy guru I mentioned in my blog of March 26, 2004. It seems quite timely, with oil prices hitting new highs, to consider a radically different approach to meeting our energy needs. And no one would ever accuse Amory of thinking inside the box.

It's important to stimulate our thinking with viewpoints such as his, even if they seem outlandish or impractical at first blush. We need to understand that there are other energy choices out there besides the status quo, and make informed decisions about them, rather than choosing by default. In the process, I'd suggest that readers focus on Mr. Lovins's concepts, rather than his numbers, because I'm not sure the latter are entirely credible.

For example, his suggestion that an investment of $180 billion over 10 years could essentially wean the US off not only imported oil, but all oil, sounds at least an order of magnitude too low. ExxonMobil alone is on track to spend roughly that amount just to sustain its current business over the same period. I also don't see how Mr. Lovins's figures could include the cost of keeping current infrastructure available during a transition, while bringing on a whole new fuels economy in parallel. Perhaps I haven't understood his arguments.

Setting aside such criticisms, though, I find much here that is intriguing, clever, and worthy of further discussion and debate. If someone doesn't dream big and imagine a different future, then it is a foregone conclusion that we are heading for a world that won't differ much from today's.

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