55 of 61 people found the following review helpful
Lovins opens with a hopeful note - that the 'tipping point,' where alternatives work better than oil and coal-fired energy, is here. Unfortunately, since he wrote that the price of natural gas has fallen greatly, and that is not the case. Transition, per Lovins, will cost $5 trillion LESS than business-as-usual, and will require no new federal taxes or subsidies. Improved efficiency is the primary driver, with new renewable sources the secondary, contrary to former V.P. Cheney's stating that conservation is simply a "sign of personal virtue" and that relying on renewables would threaten "our way of life."
Origins of Major Energy Problems: Burning oil and fueling power plants each release over 40% of America's and the world's CO2; nearly 75% of the former fuels mobility, and the same proportion runs buildings - the rest powers industry. In 2000, if Gulf oil imports had been charged the cost of forces poised to intervene in that area, they would have been priced $77/bbl higher; subsidizing the costs of oil consumption in the U.S. puts American automakers at a disadvantage and complicates efforts to reduce consumption. (Eg. Ford's truck plant in Wayne, MI. earned $3.7 billion in 1998 making 12 mpg Ford Expeditions and other SUVs. The U.S. 54.5 mpg standard for 2025 is still about 17% less than Europe's for 2020.) Two-thirds of Saudi oil flows through one processing plant and two terminals; a Pentagon study found that a handful of people in one evening could cut off 75% of the oil/gas to the eastern U.S. without leaving Louisiana. Transportation of coal and the distribution of electricity within the U.S. is not secure either. Half our fossil-fuel withdrawals have occurred since 1985.
Reducing weight is the simplest route to improved auto fuel efficiency. Manufacturers have learned how to make thermoplastic body parts in less than a minute, vs. hours for their predecessor carbon-fiber parts. Composites also all about a 10X reduction in the 100 - 200 parts needed for a typical auto body, and the molding/welding processes are also simpler. Vehicle size, not weight is a key safety factor - thus, safety can be improved by building lighter cars, or reducing the weight of all cars/pickups. Carbon-fiber composites are about 6X better at absorbing crash energy as aluminum, which is about 2X better than steel.
New engine technology (eg. electrically-actuated values - Sturman; opposed piston-opposed cylinders instead of mechanically-operated via camshafts - OPOC) offer possible 50% improvement in efficiency.
A study from a consortium of 35 steel producers showed auto structures could be made 25% lighter using advanced steels and manufacturing, at no extra cost - eg. varying the thickness according to need. A major automaker found it could cut aerodynamic drag about 30%, and boost fuel economy 14%. Changing from the least to the most efficient tires would improve mileage 8 - 12%, without added cost. VW's XL1 carbon-fiber two-seater plug-in hybrid with a .8L 48 hp. diesel and 27 hp electric motors weighs 1,752 lbs, had a 0.186 coefficient of drag, and offers 230 mpg gasoline-equivalent performance - it is scheduled for limited 2013 production. Placing an electric motor in each wheel eliminates the need for a transmission, clutch, drive shaft, axles, U-joints, and differentials.
Other opportunities include less driving (eg. insurance based on miles driven cuts mileage 8% - 'PAYD;' car-pooling - spontaneous and standardized), lower speed limits. Mesilla Valley Transportation averages 8.5 miles/gallon, and limits its trucks to 63 mph. Turnpike doubles, APUs, 50' trailers, raising the truck limit (England allows 110,000 lbs), consolidating shipments via 3rd parties, making products closer to customers, removing water from eg. detergents, and shifting from truck to rail (49% of U.S. freight, with 9% of the freight-sector fuel) are trucking opportunities.
Fuel/airline seat-mile has fallen 82% from 1958 to 2010. Lovins contends that strut-braced wings (longer, lighter, thinner) would offer another 70% fuel-use reduction. Other options include teleconferencing, and more direct routes (SWA) instead of the hub-spoke system.
Lovins sees the potential to save $1.9 trillion in U.S. building energy costs by 2050, at a cost of $0.5 trillion. The Empire State Building is cutting 38% off its energy bills and peak electrical demand by 35% via $106 million in improved windows and insulation, plus equipment retrofits.
Options for commercial and residential energy savings include windows that darken in response to a small electric current or heat (Pleotint, Ravenbrick), windows using a printable liquid-crystal coating to vary the amount of incoming heat energy (Serious Energy's 'AdaptivE'), enhanced evaporative cooling that dries incoming air (DEVap) - shaves 50 - 90% off the energy used by traditional AC in even humid areas (Advantix Systems, Trane), silica-based insulating gels (R-40 with only an inch of covering) that have recently become more affordable (Proctor Group, Aspen Aerogels), LEDs, OLED screens, efficient rotors (eg. PAX Scientific), pots that stay flat when heated on a stove.
Joe Romm and Paul Krugman add some interesting points regarding solar power. In most applications, it competes with retail prices, not the far lower wholesale prices because it is hooked up on a roof and plugged directly into the grid - avoiding expensive transmission. Costs are declining are 7%/year. They too believe we are, or at least should be, on the cusp of an energy transformation - and that's not even taking into account estimates of the rapidly rising estimates of the external costs of carbon-fueled power.
126 of 146 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2012
Amory Lovins is a genius, and RMI is a really great outfit. This is a good and extremely important book, but the Kindle edition is unreadable. RMI's insistence on using sidebars on practically every page, and the Kindle format's attempt to integrate the sidebars into the text render the Kindle edition disjointed to the point of unintelligibility. Get it on paper. Don't bother with the Kindle edition.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2012
Finally, an objective look at critical issues that have become too political. Whether you are a global-warming zealot or skeptic, this book is an important contribution to what we might do and what we should do for a better future.
Clearly laid out, easy to read, great graphics, and most persuasive arguments.
Lovins and the staff at RMI have made a huge contribution to an important topic.
The subtitle says it all: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era.
Not a doom-and-gloom or here-is-how-we-must-all-sacrifice tome, this book lays out how global business and the unbounded creativity of people can address a critical issue with a win-win for everyone.
Now all we need is the leadership from business, government, and all of us to get it done.
Nice work, RMI.
I will recommend this book to many friends.
(BTW, I have no affiliation with RMI.)
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2012
Amory Lovins is the most rigorous and accomplished energy economist in the world. His original work, ridiculed at the time by the energy industry, has since been embraced and implemented by that very same industry, worldwide.
His new book, Reinventing Fire, covers energy systems: fuels and electricity and energy uses: vehicles, buildings and industry.
Each section presents the considerable data as a series of well designed charts, explanations and up to date anecdotal success stories of improved energy efficiency, real world examples proving the possible. His forecasts show how adoption of those improvements can impact energy use until 2050.
The text is readable by the non-specialists and would even make an excellent textbook for older high school students through graduate school. For energy professionals, the anecdotes are backed by over 750 footnotes and 37 pages of references. It's a distillation of many years of research at the Rocky Mountain Institute, the consulting practice of Lovins and his team. The references extend to 2011.
For specialists, Lovins graphs will become industry standard references. The anecdotes can form a powerful narrative to work into presentations.
For the public, the book provides a fact-based explanation of our current and potential future utilization of energy, backed by original sources. It would be well to be read by the press, and can provide a fact checking reference - a critical need today.
This book is a critical reference, and a clear, readable roadmap to one energy future, by the foremost expert in the field and his research team.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2012
Amory Lovins is a remarkable guy. Lovins became interested in energy policy about four decades ago, when he was the youngest Oxford Don in several centuries. Today, he is a widely recognized global authority on energy as it relates to the economy, national security, development and the environment. He actively pursues that interest as lead scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a "think-and-do tank". Lovins' extraordinary new book, Reinventing Fire, brings fresh and much needed actionable insight to an important and timely subject.
To refer to Reinventing Fire as a "book" is understatement. More correctly, it is a comprehensive, extensively documented, peer reviewed research document which provides a visionary national energy strategy, presented in a quite readable format suitable for anyone from undergraduate to global business or political leader.
Succinctly, Reinventing Fire insists that the United States can realistically stop using coal and petroleum as fuel by the year 2050, by transition to efficient energy utilization and by substitution of renewable energy sources, even as the U.S. economy continues to grow at presently projected rates. Further, Reinventing Fire demonstrates that this can be done by business, using currently available technologies, employed at normal rates of financial return. Government could help through policy shifts that relieve some of the existing barriers to implementing innovations. Beyond that, no Acts of Congress are required, no new energy or carbon taxes or subsidies are needed. Instead, the projected net cost for pursuing this course over four decades is $5 trillion (in 2010 net present value) less than the cost of continuing on our current path!
Reinventing Fire focuses on the four sections of the economy that consume the great bulk of the fossil fuel: industry, transportation, buildings and electric power generation. The book projects industrial energy consumption reductions of almost 50% (44.4 quads in 2010, down to 22.3 quads in 2050, where a quad = Quadrillion BTUs/year), while industrial output increases by 84% during the same period.
This is not smoke and mirrors. The `how to" is spelled out in a thoroughly transparent manner. The detail available is voluminous, mostly through hundreds of credible references. Beyond the book, even more information is available on a dedicated website.
22 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2012
The Kindle version is a disaster. Consider the following
* Dictionary does not work
* Hotlinks and footnotes do not function either .. simply unavailable
* Many missing graphs and photos
* Text size varies from page to page and even within a screenshot
Amory Lovins is great so if you want the value of this book buy the print version.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2012
I cannot even remember how I came across this book. But I am glad I did. It is the most informative, thoroughly researched book on the topic I have yet found. Not based on one point of view, it explores various options and paths we can take into the next forty years along with their likely outcomes. Using only technologies that are now available, the physicist Amory B Lovins and his team at the Rocky Mountain Institute, show how embracing alternative energy options can not only be good for the planet but also good for business. It makes good economic sense.
Several areas of our daily lives are considered one by one - fuels, transport, buildings, industry and electricity generation. Each section explores options with good visuals to illustrate the various elements that could be affected. Current options already being used are given with their results. Good links to the plethora of companies and initiatives that are involved in this change are noted. Follow up study on these is just the beginning of a continuing conversation. With the Rocky Mountain Institute's involvement in this area for over thirty years, there have been many useful contacts made over the years. The team is held in high regard throughout the world.
Suddenly the future looks significantly brighter. There are many options out there. Many more people just need to know about them. This is a great start.
For those who rated the Kindle edition of this book poorly, I would like to give some feedback.
The graphics are best viewed on the Kindle for PC or similar. But the text is readily accessible in the usual Kindle platform. There was no problem when using this. And both versions can be accessed when buying the Kindle product. It is still my preference in immediately accessing information I have decided I want to see now.
Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2012
This book is well written, contains tons of information about energy systems, energy efficiencies, new and upcoming technologies and many novel ideas. I recommend this book to to anyone who finds energy systems interesting and want to learn more about such technologies and techniques that individuals and companies are looking to bring to the forefront to change how we think about energy.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2014
Reinventing Fire was written by Amory B. Lovins and Rocky Mountain Institute. President Bill Clinton said this book was a wise, detailed, and comprehensive blueprint (Lovins,Cover). However, what is this important comprehensive blueprint? “Imagine fuel without fear. No runaway climate change. No oil spills, dead coal miners, dirty air, devastated lands, lost wildlife. No energy poverty. No oil-fed wars, tyrannies, or terrorists. Nothing to run out. Nothing to cut off. Nothing to worry about, Just energy abundance begun and affordable for all, for ever”( Lovins, Perface). This blueprint looks nice and ideal. But, is such a transformation in the realm of reality, or is it just something to dream about? If it is realizable, how can this blueprint come true? How would we realize it?
The depletion of natural energy resources is an urgent and realistic issue of creatures in the earth, especially for fossil fuels, which include oil, coal, and others. With the development of our society, people and industries need natural energy resources, like cotton textile industry, transportation, and manufacturing. Even most of our clothing is made from oil. One hundred years ago, the materials to make textiles were all from natural resources. However, the cotton, kapok, wool, soil, hemp, and other natural resources are easily limited by natural conditions. Human beings had to develop new material to satisfy the higher consumer demand for textiles. The new supplements and new replacements for the cotton, the wool, and other natural material is synthetic fibers, which is made of high polymers of oil. Nylon, Dacron and Orlon are the names of a few of these synthetic fibers. To some extent, we are wearing oil. This change increased the consumption of oil.
Of course, the vehicles also use a lot of oil. According to the Reinventing Fire " The United States burins 13 million barrels of oil a day driving to work, shuttling kids to soccer games, hauling cargo, jetting to meetings and vacations, and keeping its vast transportation system humming. The costs of this use are huge and often hidden, they included oil spills, air pollution, climate risks, and a billion dollars a day plucked from American's pockets to buy petroleum from other countries, some of them unfriendly"(p16). The problem is that petroleum is hard to purify. Although Americans can buy petroleum, one day, it will disappear. The second problem is some country has "rich" oil resources, but now, they are running out rapidly.
Some scientists predict that the world's known oil resources will run out early in the next century. What is the replacements for oil? Will the replacements for oil pollute our environment? How much will it cost to develop replacements?
Another thing is that we have to admit that oil and coal are necessary for the defense of the nation. Although we can find renewable energy like solar energy, geothermal, wind, and bio energy, who can ensure that these energies can apply for the defense of the nation? Other areas, like buildings, industry, and electricity also need use natural energy resources. Of course, in this book, the author also gives me some solutions to find out other energy replacements.
The author said that people can buy the lighter cars, because light car reduce the oil that it uses. The second is that scientists developed some new types of vehicles. There are electric and plug-in hybrids in the market. But what we should do that can make electric cars and electric plug-in cars as convenient and affordable as the cars that used gasoline for power. If we use electric cars, we need to establish the charging stations. How long we can let these charging stations cover the areas in the U.S? Can all people who live in the U.S have enough money to buy them? Perhaps, the most realistic solution and the first step of change is to add public transportation and improve our public transportation system now.
"What makes one building more energy-efficient than another? Energy use in an existing structure depends on the building shell, what's inside the shell, and how the stud inside the shell gets used. All three are important'"(P.81). To make buildings more energy-efficient is a good way to save energy. Of course, we can employ the designer to design the new building with the concept of energy-efficiency. Obviously, we need the new building system and more hi-tech materials. However, how we can deal with the old building? If we want to add a new energy-efficient system to building, how much will it cost? Is this system suitable for buildings in every area? Is this system really convenient for people?
The competitiveness of industry is sales volume. Good sales volume needs output of products. Products of the industry require more energy resources. With the development of living standards, the requirement of industrial products increased. We can enhance productivity. But to optimize the equipment, people also need more money to produce new machines that can improve production efficiency. Thus, what is the power of this new machine? I believe that most of new machines or new technology also need to use resource energy for their power.
We have already found that the solar energy, the wind, and the water energy could produce the electricity. Actually, many industries applied these new energies. The problem is if these energies could stay for a long time. And can this electricity of these renewable energies apply for every area？
I live in Vermont now. On May 4th 2012, Vermont began to ban fracking of natural gas, it is also the first state in America to take this measure. Fracking of Natural gas will cause many problems, such as pollution of water of underground, the stream was destroyed, and so on. This is also one step of saving natural energy. We need natural energy, we also need our environments. When we were the “oil”, did we think about how will we do, if we do not have “oil” to wear? When people ban the fracking of oil, human beings will try their best to discover another way to produce the energy that people need to. This is the requirements of people’s life. Perhaps, to ban fracking of oil is one of the step of solutions to energy crisis.
I recommend this book because this book give us directions to find new energies. Of course, we may meet many problems like the cost and the sustainability of these new energies, but the concepts and the idea of this book could give us lots of useful suggestions. This book also let us to recognize our world and to think about what could we do for our lives---after all, we are over drafting the natural energy of our offspring. How could we give them a better life with no production and no energy crisis? What is the right solution, when people are faced depletion of natural energy?
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2012
This book, with many concrete examples, shows we can reduce energy usage by huge amounts; 30% to 90% using current technology. In many cases, implementing such technology actually costs less than "we've always done it that way". In cases where it costs more, the payback time is often measured in a very few years. It shows clearly that businesses (and countries) that implement applicable ideas from the many presented will have a major competitive advantage over those that don't.
Example: Retrofits to Empire State Building: It was already being remodeled and upgraded. It was found that by spending an additional 13 million, energy savings of 38% and electricity savings of 35% could be achieved paying back the 13 million in just 3 years. These changes also improved tenant comfort.
The jobs that could be created world wide doing such upgrades would be enormous. The payback times very short. The improvement in profit margins for businesses are enormous because energy savings of $1 add directly to profit. If you have a 5% profit margin, you'd have to sell $20 of product to get the same $1. The same applies to government at every level.
The beauty of this book is that even the most die-hard climate change/peak oil denying person can find enormous incentives to implement the concepts described because of the incredible positive impact it will have on their bottom line. It also shows how countries implementing alternative energy sources can improve their energy security and competitive advantage.
The downside of reading the book: You will want to tear your hair out at the collective stupidity of those saying implementing these ideas will wreck our economy.
It also gives overwhelming proof that those who say "we've got to wait for technology break throughs" are wrong.
Shareholders should require their CEO's to read and report how they'll implement ideas from the book. It should be required reading for all executives in government at all levels. And congress, well, one can only hope some of them will read it.