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Winning the Oil Endgame

02/27/2006 4:00 PM Wong
Amory Lovins, Founder and CEO, Rocky Mountain Institute

Description: Cars, trucks and planes lie at the heart of Amory Lovins plan for kicking the oil habit. We must make all our vehicles both lighter and stronger, using composite materials; more aerodynamic; and capable of running on biofuels, says Lovins. "We could cut oil use in half by 2025, and by 2040, oil use could be zero," he states. It's a $180-billion-dollar investment "with handsome returns." Lovins marshals many arguments against the skeptics. First, much of the technological know-how already exists to "bring affordable, ultralight advanced composite vehicles to market." And Lovins believes government incentives will stimulate demand among manufacturers and consumers for this revolution. The government could provide leases for energy efficient cars to low-income customers, provided they scrap their "dirty" vehicles; establish green transport for the entire government fleet; and lend the airlines money for efficient new planes. Lovins sees a big inducement for the military, which spends 1/3rd of its budget moving people and machines around. What if Defense invested in energy efficient goals "as DARPA did earlier with the Internet, GPS and chips," ponders Lovins. "It would transform the civilian car, truck and plane industries." In the private sphere, Walmart and other retail giants looking to save on fuel dollars would readily switch to a new line of efficient big trucks; and farmers would likely embrace a gigantic new market for biofuels.

"Big fast changes have happened before," Lovins reassures us just look at the transition from whale oil to coal and gas. These days, it costs less not to buy oil than to buy it. The ultimate prize if we phase out oil? Geopolitical and climate stability, stronger economies _ in short, says Lovins, "a much safer world."

About the Speaker(s): Amory Lovins was a 1993 MacArthur Fellow, and has been honored with the "Alternative Nobel," Onassis, Nissan, Shingo, and Mitchell Prizes, the Benjamin Franklin and Happold Medals, nine honorary doctorates, and the Heinz, Lindbergh, Time Hero for the Planet, and World Technology Awards. He has advised the U.S. Departments of Energy and of Defense and industries and governments in more than fifty countries. Lovins trained as an experimental physicist, and received degrees from Harvard University and Oxford University.

Host(s): Office of the President, Energy Research Council

Tape #: T20947

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

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