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Amory Lovins

Cofounder and Chairman Emeritus
  • Strategic Analysis and Engagement

Physicist Amory Lovins (1947– ) is Cofounder (1982) and Chairman Emeritus of Rocky Mountain Institute, which he served as Chief Scientist 2007–19 and now supports as a contractor and Trustee; energy advisor to major firms and governments in 70+ countries for 45+ years; author of 31 books and more than 700 papers; and an integrative designer of superefficient buildings, factories, and vehicles.


He has received the Blue Planet, Volvo, Zayed, Onassis, Nissan, Shingo, and Mitchell Prizes, the MacArthur and Ashoka Fellowships, the Happold, Benjamin Franklin, and Spencer Hutchens Medals, 12 honorary doctorates, and the Heinz, Lindbergh, Right Livelihood (“alternative Nobel”), National Design, and World Technology Awards. In 2016, the President of Germany awarded him the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz 1. Klasse).

A Harvard and Oxford dropout and former Oxford don, he’s an honorary US architect, Swedish engineering academician, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (UK). He has taught at ten universities, most recently the Naval Postgraduate School (Professor of Practice 2011–17) and Stanford University, where he’s currently Adjunct Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and a Scholar of the Precourt Institute for Energy—but only teaching topics he’s never formally studied, so as to retain beginner’s mind. He served in 2011–18 on the National Petroleum Council and has advised the US Departments of Energy and Defense.

Time has named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people, and Foreign Policy, one of the 100 top global thinkers. His latest books, mostly coauthored, include Natural Capitalism (1999, www.natcap.org), Small Is Profitable (2002, www.smallisprofitable.org), Winning the Oil Endgame (2004, www.oilendgame.com), The Essential Amory Lovins (2011), and Reinventing Fire (2011, www.reinventingfire.com).

His main recent efforts include supporting RMI’s collaborative synthesis, for China’s National Development and Reform Commission, of an ambitious efficiency-and-renewables trajectory that informed the 13th Five Year Plan; helping the Government of India design transformational mobility; and exploring how to make integrative design the new normal, so investments to energy efficiency can yield increasing rather than diminishing returns.

His avocations include fine-art mountain and landscape photography (www.judyhill.com), writing, music, linguistics, great-ape language and conservation, and Taoism.


Basalt, CO



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Authored Works

Peddling Nuclear Power: An Explosive U.S. Policy

This piece, originally published in The Los Angeles Times, addresses the nuclear nonproliferation policy of the Reagan administration. The authors argue that the policy had the unintended consequence of spreading nuclear bombs, subverting genuine nonproliferation progress, destabilizing allied governments, raising energy prices, and prolonging dependence on foreign oil. They argue…


Nuclear Power and Nuclear Bombs

In this influential paper from Foreign Affairs, the authors argue that the nuclear proliferation problem is insoluble. At the time, all policies to control proliferation assumed that the rapid worldwide spread of nuclear power is essential to reduce dependence on oil, economically desirable, and inevitable; that efforts to inhibit the…


Nuclear Weapons and Power-Reactor Plutonium

This article, originally published in Nature in 1980, seeks to provide a discreet, selective, but adequate physical basis for understanding the scope for using reactor-grade plutonium in fission bombs at some of the diverse levels of sophistication open to various potential users. With modest design sophistication, high-burn-up plutonium from power…


Thorium Cycles and Proliferation: Response

This article by A. De Volpi responds to an earlier piece by Amory Lovins in which Lovins condemns the use of thorium cycles. De Volpi argues that Lovins’ analysis is factually inaccurate. In this same document, Lovins reponds to De Volpi’s criticism.


Thorium Cycles and Proliferation

This is the first in a two-part exchange between Amory Lovins and A. De Volpi about thorium cycles and nuclear proliferation. In this piece, Lovins connects the use of uranium-233 and nuclear proliferation. He analyzes misconceptions about nuclear fuel cycles that breed fissile uranium-233 from thorium and the differences in…


Out of the Frying Pan, Into the PWR

In this paper, Amory Lovins argues that pressurized water reactors (PWR) are an economic disaster. PWRs are a type of nuclear power reactor. Lovins argues that development of nuclear pressurized-water reactors fail to live up to industry performance projections.


Resilience in Energy Strategy

In this editorial, Amory Lovins argues that modern society is entirely dependent on the uninterrupted supply of electricity. Due to the over-centralization of our power supply, however, we find ourselves vulnerable to even minor perturbations in the electrical grid. Lovins argues that incorporating resiliency into the design of our power…


Long Term Constraints on Human Activity

In this paper, Amory Lovins discusses the forces shaping and constraining social enterprise. Lovins argues that humans are constrained by problems of food, land and water, climatic change, energy, hazardous substances, non-fuel minerals, diversity and resilience of ecosystems, management and global organization. These problems raise fundamental questions about present trends…


Nuclear Spread: The Cure Begins at Home

In this New York Times op-ed, Amory Lovins commends the paper for calling attention to the link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and provides further commentary about the social, political, and economic logic of pursuing a non-nuclear energy future. Lovins argues that energy efficiency measures and alternative energy sources…


Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken

In this landmark piece from 1976, Amory Lovins describes the two energy choices then facing the nation. There is the “hard path” and the “soft path.” The hard path resembles federal policy of the time and is essentially an extrapolation of the recent past. The hard path relies on rapid…