Amory Lovins retrofitted all the windows in the Empire State Building and saved it $4.4 million dollars per year. They are saving so much money in fact, that their initial investment to retrofit the windows will pay itself back in 3 years, and future investments in further energy efficiencies will be paid for by the annual electricity savings.
It’s no wonder that Lovins believes that we haven’t gone green yet because we just haven’t been thinking big enough – and he means Empire State Building BIG!
“We can eliminate our addiction to oil and coal by 2050 and use one-third less natural gas, while switching to efficient use and renewable supply.” How? By using technology to get the things in our economy that currently use most of our oil and coal to be more efficient – WAY more efficient.
Currently nearly all our oil and coal is used for transportation, buildings, and factories. By addressing these 3 areas of the economy, we can radically change our energy system forever, and we can do it now.
What would that look like to our economy?
1 Trillion Dollars in Savings and a 158% Economic Growth
(with NO oil, coal, or nuclear power)
“Oil costs our economy two billion dollars a day, plus another four billion dollars a day in hidden economic and military costs, raising its total cost to over a sixth of GDP.”
How do we stop using oil in cars, buildings, and factories?
“We’re going to use our most effective institutions, private enterprise co-evolving with civil society and sped by military innovation, to go around our least effective institutions.”
In other words: We’re not going to wait for the government to tell us to do it. We’re going to show businesses why it will makes them RICH!
1. Cars, Trucks, and Airplanes
How do we drastically decrease the use of gasoline in cars and other forms of transportation?
First: We decrease the weight of the vehicles. How? With carbon fibers.
This Toyota concept car is the same size as a Prius but weighs only 926 lbs! (a Prius weighs over 3000 lbs!)
Decreasing the weight by using newer and more efficient materials makes electric cars feasible and affordable.
Using new materials, manufacturers “can save four-fifths of the capital needed to make autos. They can save lives because this stuff can absorb up to 12 times as much crash energy per pound as steel. If we made all of our autos this way, it would save oil equivalent to finding one and a half Saudi Arabias.”
With these and other smart technologies, we can get all US transportation off oil by 2050.
The next Step:
2. Buildings and Factories
“Over the next 40 years, buildings, which use three-quarters of the electricity, can triple or quadruple their energy productivity, saving 1.4 trillion dollars…The key is a disruptive innovation that we call integrative design that often makes very big energy savings cost less than small or no savings. That is, it can give you expanding returns, not diminishing returns.”
This means that updating buildings to save energy will MAKE MONEY for the companies that own the buildings. Once again, self-interest can lead the way for innovation.
“Three-fifths of the world’s electricity runs motors. Half of that runs pumps and fans. And those can have their system efficiency roughly doubled by integrating 35 improvements, paying back in about a year.”
And of course solar power will disconnect us from the use of coal powered plants, and even disconnect us from the grid. Solar cell costs are decreasing rapidly due to production in China, and capacity is increasing by 60-70% per year.
“Already in about 20 states private installers will come put those cheap solar cells on your roof with no money down and beat your utility bill. Such unregulated products could ultimately add up to a virtual utility that bypasses your electric company just as your cellphone bypassed your wired line phone company.”
Further efficiencies in our buildings and factories “can displace [coal plants] all at just below their operating cost and, combined with renewables, can displace them more than 23 times at less than their replacement cost.”
So, updating our 20th century technologies in transportation and architecture with cost effective 21st century solutions not only produces an oil free economy, but saves us trillions of dollars, grows our economy, increases the flexibility and security of our national energy needs, frees us from political and economic reliance on the oil rich countries, and massively reduces our negative impact on the environment. And all of this can be accomplished by 2050. (Or perhaps even sooner if Ray Kurzweil’s predictions of technological innovation and growth are correct!)
“I’ve described not just a once-in-a-civilization business opportunity, but one of the most profound transitions in the history of our species. We humans are inventing a new fire, not dug from below, but flowing from above; not scarce, but bountiful; not local, but everywhere;not transient, but permanent; not costly, but free.”
For more information, see Amory Lovins Rocky Mountain Project.