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Amory Lovins

Chief Scientist and Chairman Emeritus
Co-founder
  • Executive Leadership
  • Office of the Chief Scientist

Physicist Amory Lovins, 68, FRSA, is cofounder and Chief Scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute; energy advisor to major firms and governments in 65+ countries for 40+ years; author of 31 books and 600 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, former Oxford don, honorary US architect, and Swedish engineering academician, he has taught at ten universities, most recently Stanford’s Engineering School and the Naval Postgraduate School (but only on topics he’s never studied, so as to retain beginner’s mind). He is a member of the U.S. National Petroleum Council and an advisor to the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations.

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 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 to inform the 13th Five Year Plan, and exploring how to make integrative design the new normal, so investments to energy efficiency can yield expanding rather than diminishing returns.

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Authored Blog Posts

Misrepresenting the German Energy Situation

Mr. Stephens misrepresents the German energy situation in three ways. First, he compares 2016’s record renewable electricity production with the whole economy’s carbon dioxide emissions. In 2015–16, those rose 0.9 percent—one-third due to leap day and a cold winter—as transport fuels and the gas that heats half the buildings got efficient…

With Weaker Fuel Economy Standards, Everyone Loses, Including…

On Wednesday [March 15, 2017] in Detroit, beneath a vast American flag, President Trump answered 17 automakers’ call to reopen the Mid-Term Review of the 2022–25 “CAFE” automotive efficiency standards. On his fourth day in office, he’d expedited approvals for two oil pipelines, skipping further assessments…

Closing Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Will Save Money…

A widespread claim—that dozens of nuclear plants, too costly to run profitably, now merit new subsidies to protect the earth’s climate—just collided with market reality. The CEO of one of America’s most prominent and technically capable utilities, Pacific Gas & Electric Company—previously chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute and the…

As Oil Prices Gyrate, Underlying Trends Are Shifting…

Why should equity markets tank when oil prices do? Beats me. Among many sources of jitters, this shouldn’t be a big one (though The Economist demurs). When oil prices fall 70+ percent, oil companies and their lenders and investors suffer, so do oil-dependent communities, but oil users (far more…

3 Ways Wind and Solar Can Continue To…

Earlier this year, MIT researchers were the latest in a series of analysts to raise alarm about the perceived limitations of solar PV’s continued growth. In short, these analysts propose that variable renewables will depress wholesale prices when they run, thereby limiting their own economic success. These concerns…

Today’s U.S.-China Announcement is the Most Significant Milestone…

Today’s joint announcement by President Obama and President Xi represents the second time in two years the leaders have met to make significant climate commitments. Last year’s meeting focused on setting aggressive goals that reflect each country’s unique situation. This year’s meeting moved decisively to implementation commitments intended to deliver…

Four Trends Driving Profitable Climate Protection

This week is the seventh Climate Week NYC. The annual event brings together influential global figures—and new voices—from the worlds of business, government, and society who are leading the low-carbon transition. We live in an exciting time, when more companies and investors are committed to bold climate leadership than…

What If Congress Threw a Keystone XL Party…

The energy gods relish ironic humor. Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an economic and national-security loser, craved by Alaskan politicians but by no major oil company. Higher oil prices and better technologies only made it relatively less attractive. Yet whenever Congress nonetheless gets close to approving this…

Joining Forces to Combat Climate Change and Re-ignite…

Guest author Sir Richard Branson is cofounder of Carbon War Room. The world’s three biggest carbon emitters—the United States, China, and the European Union—have all announced emissions goals or limits in the past few months. That’s great news, but global fossil fuel demand continues to rise, and with it, so…

Micropower’s Quiet Takeover

In a cover story and article 14 years ago about the emergent disruption of utilities, The Economist’s Vijay Vaitheeswaran coined the umbrella term “micropower” to mean sources of electricity that are relatively small, modular, mass-producible, quick-to-deploy, and hence rapidly scalable—the opposite of cathedral-like power plants that cost billions…

Three Energy Gamechangers for China and the World

In Part 1 we explored one of the gamechangers that would allow China to transition from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and renewable supply—oil-free mobility. In Part 2, we explore two other gamechangers that would allow China to reinvent fire—adopting integrative design for efficiency in buildings and industry, and redefining…

Three Energy Gamechangers for China and the World

This decade China is set to regain the status it has held for 18 of the past 20 centuries: the world’s largest economy. A major engine of historic success was China’s inexorable drive to develop and deploy new technologies, far outpacing other civilizations. As Joseph Needham documented, and his student…

Sowing Confusion About Renewable Energy

Readers of The Economist may have been surprised to read in its 26 July 2014 “Free exchange” section on page 63, or in its online version, the “clear” conclu­sion that solar and wind power are “the most expen­sive way of reducing green­house-gas emissions,” while “nuclear plants…are cheaper,” so governments…

How Opposite Energy Policies Turned The Fukushima Disaster…

Japan thinks of itself as famously poor in energy, but this national identity rests on a semantic confusion. Japan is indeed poor in fossil fuels—but among all major industrial countries, it’s the richest in renewable energy like sun, wind, and geothermal. For example, Japan has nine times Germany’s renewable energy…

Inside the Book Resource Revolution

During the first Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, economic growth and societal progress faced a problem of relative scarcity—not of resources, which were then considered inexhaustibly abundant, but of people. Making people (and the labor processes by which they manufactured goods and provided services) radically…

Let’s Celebrate, Not Lament, Renewables’ Disruption of Electric…

Renewables are making headway in Europe and bringing a low-carbon electricity system to the forefront. Renewables were 69 percent of new capacity added in 2012 in Europe and 49 percent in the United States. Not surprisingly, this threatens utilities unwilling to let go of outmoded business models and fossil-fuel generation.

What Did the 1973 Oil Embargo Teach Us?

Forty years ago this month, Syria and Egypt launched a Yom Kippur surprise attack on Israel to regain land and prestige lost in the 1967 Six-Day War. Israeli forces were nearing Damascus and Cairo when a ceasefire took hold. But as the Soviet Union resupplied its Arab clients and President…

Separating Fact from Fiction In Accounts of Germany’s…

I recently wrote about—and debunked—the renewables “disinformation campaign” that spreads misinformed and falsely negative stories about the growth of renewable energy. A special focus of such disinformation has been reportage on Germany’s efficiency-and-renewables revolution. The impressive success so far of the German Energiewende (energy turnaround) is an important…

Debunking the Renewables “Disinformation Campaign”

According to Fox Business reporter Shibani Joshi, renewables are successful in Germany and not in the U.S. because Germany has “got a lot more sun than we do.” Sure, California might get sun now and then, Joshi conceded during her now-infamous flub, “but here on the East Coast, it’s…

Germany’s Renewables Revolution

While the examples of Japan, China, and India show the promise of rapidly emerging energy economies built on efficiency and renewables, Germany—the world’s number four economy and Europe’s number one—has lately provided an impressive model of what a well-organized industrial society can achieve. To be sure, it’s not yet the…

Asia’s Accelerating Energy Revolution

In late 2012, RMI’s cofounder, chairman, and chief scientist Amory Lovins spent seven weeks in Japan, China, India, Indonesia, and Singapore observing Asia’s emerging green energy revolution. In February 2013, he returned to Japan and China. Japan, China, and India—all vulnerable to climate change—turned out to be in different stages…

Lovins on Climate Change: No Breakthroughs Needed, Mr.…

In his recent New Republic interview, President Obama said we “need some big technological breakthrough” to tackle climate change. Mr. President—our nation already has the technologies to protect the climate while advancing prosperity. Here’s how. Your National Renewable Energy Laboratory showed just last June how to produce 80 to 90…

Lovins On How To End Blackouts Forever

Come hell or high water—and Sandy brought both to many Americans—most of us can’t get the electricity we need. More than two weeks after the storm’s departure, 25,000 homes were still without power. We live high in the Rockies and were unaffected, but a couple of Februaries ago snowstorms knocked…

Hot Air About Cheap Natural Gas

Would you build a buy-and-hold financial portfolio from only junk bonds and no Treasuries by considering only price, not also risk? Not for long. Yet those who say cheap natural gas is killing alternatives—solar, wind, nuclear—make the same error. In truth, they’re doing the math wrong: the gas isn’t really…

Opportunities and Challenges for a Sustainable Energy Future

Originally posted as a comment to “Opportunties and challenges for a sustainable energy future” by Steven Chu and Arun Majumdar, Nature, 488, 294–303 (16 August 2012)  My friends Steven Chu and Arun Majumdar ably review above the achievements, prospects, and challenges of the U.S. Department of Energy’s R&D…

Don’t Suppress Military-Led Innovation

In this letter, Amory Lovins responds to the wave of recent news on the Senate Armed Services Committee’s disappointing vote to limit the U.S. Department of Defense from pursuing their ambitious alternative fuels strategy. The Senate Armed Services Committee, echoing the House, recently voted 13–12 forbidding the Department of…

The Electric Car: Lighter, Less Costly, Plugged In

In writing “The Electric Car, Unplugged” for the New York Times of Sunday, March 25, John Broder and his informants assert that “enthusiasm over electrification in the industry has begun to flicker and the price of battery technology remains stubbornly high.” Yet they unaccountably omit the most promising…

My Response to WSJ’s “The Problem With Going…

David Owen continues to blame energy efficiency for the ills he ascribes to growth and wealth. His misunderstandings of “rebound” in energy use were devastatingly rebutted when he published them in The New Yorker, and now he’s expanded them to book length. But his post here lucidly confirms…