Thomas Friedman Touts Efficiency as Critical Step, Cites Lovins and Reinventing Fire

Energy efficiency got a boost Sunday.

Thomas Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and best-selling author, argued in his New York Times column that energy efficiency “has to be the next great global industry” and referenced Rocky Mountain Institute’s Reinventing Fire to help make the case.

“Rising populations, with growing appetites, will lead to both increasing scarcity of resources and dangerously high pollution, waste and climate change. This will force us to decouple consumption from economic growth,” Friedman wrote.

He added: “The only way to grow without consuming more resources is through systemic breakthroughs in efficiency—developing new business models to deliver mobility, heating, cooling and lighting with dramatically fewer resources and pollution.”

And here he turns to the pioneer of “negawatts,” the concept of saving energy through efficiency: Amory Lovins, RMI’s co-founder, chairman and chief scientist, who has worked on the issue since the 1970s.

“Everything we do to raise energy efficiency will make money, improve security and health, and stabilize climate,” Lovins told Friedman.

Friedman cites Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era, noting that RMI “and its business collaborators show how private enterprise — motivated by profit, supported by smart policy — can lead America off both oil and coal by 2050, saving $5 trillion, through innovation emphasizing design and strategy.”

With the New York Times reaching the largest Sunday print audience in the United States, this is exciting news in raising awareness of energy efficiency, a huge and underused energy resource.

For example, the U.S. wastes more than $500 billion worth of energy every year due to poor generation and end-use efficiency, research for Reinventing Fire found.

Lovins offers more examples in the current issue of Foreign Affairs:

  • “Investing an extra $0.5 trillion on existing or emerging energy-efficiency technologies and better-integrated designs could [by 2050] save building owners $1.9 trillion by tripling or quadrupling energy productivity.”
  • “If the United States, Europe, China, and India merely adopted highly efficient lights, air conditioners, refrigerators, and TVs, they could save $1 trillion and 300 coal plants.”
  • “Germany’s campaign for renewables and energy efficiency helped push unemployment in the country to its lowest rate in a decade.”

(To read the Foreign Affairs article go here, or download it from RMI’s library

“We can’t let the climate wars continue to derail efforts to have an energy policy that puts in place rising efficiency standards, for buildings, windows, traffic, housing, packaging and appliances, that will drive innovation—which is our strength,” Friedman wrote.

RMI and Lovins agree, because whether you care most about profits and jobs, or national security, or environmental stewardship, climate, and health, building a new energy era based on efficiency and renewables makes sense and makes money.