Amory and Hunter Lovins: Spokespersons for a Sustainable-energy Future

A Plowboy Interview with Amory and Hunter Lovins who believe that investment in energy efficiency and renewable sources of power is less expensive than increased dependence on fossil or nuclear fuel.

| July/August 1984



While many of us dream about an America that runs entirely on efficient, clean, renewable sources of energy, Amory and Hunter Lovins are doing a great deal to help bring such a future about. Indeed, as authors of some of the most important works in the field and consultants to governments and utilities, they are without doubt our nation's most effective spokespersons for a sustainable-energy future.

There are two main reasons for the Lovinses' unique impact. First, they give hard data for the soft path. All their conclusions are based on accurate (and numbingly thorough) research and calculations, and their analyses prove—over and over againthat investment in energy efficiency and renewable sources of power is simply less expensive than increased (or even continued) dependence on fossil or nuclear fuels. Second, they use a warm, positive, cooperative approach when dealing with advocates of hard, centralized technologies ... partly because that's good strategy (Hunter calls it "Aikido Politics ") and partly, we suspect, because both Lovinses are just naturally friendly people.

Amory first turned the energy world on its head when he was just 29 with his famous paper "Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken?" (Foreign Affairs, October, 1976 ). That article said we should tackle the energy

shortage not by looking at ways to increase supply—the accepted build-more—power-plants solution—but by starting at the other end and analyzing use. As Amory later put it, we should "talk about who's going to require how much of what kind of energy for what purposes for how long." Mr. Lovins' "least-cost, end-use" plan thus called for matching up specific energy needs with the most appropriate source for that purpose. And it clearly showed that improved energy efficiency plus renewable sources coul d more than supply our nation is current and future energy needs.

The whole idea was so radically positive that, in spite of Amory's air-tight reasoning and data, it sounded naively idealistic to most governmental and energy leaders. Ah, but that was back in 1976. Today—as the following interview will demonstrate—Amory's words are being proved true ... by the ordinary public, not our so-called leaders. (As both Lovinses are fond of stating, "Washington will be the last to know.")

Of course, other changes have occurred since that landmark essay. Mr. Lovins married lawyer/political scientist/community organizer Hunter Sheldon in 1979, and the two have worked together as a perfect, complementary team ever since. (Hunter estimates that since they were married they've rarely been separated for even a few hours.) Although they both work mainly with energy policy — speaking, teaching, writing, testifying, and consulting — they've broadened their efforts into several other areas as well. And they've shown that they practice what they preach by building a totally passive solar home in Colorado's snow-blessed Rocky Mountains. (A full report on the Lovinses' remarkable, innovative house begins on page 134.)

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