Back in March, I promised you a review on Amory Lovins’ new book Reinventing Fire. Well, Mr. Greenbacks delivers! Sort of. This book is an absolute monster – a game changer of dramatic proportions . . . and I only have limited time on my hands between work and school to share it with you. So, I am going to dissect this book and write about it in stages, but in return, you have to keep checking in and giving me feedback – letting me know if you think this is something we, as a country, can do and what challenges we might face. Reinventing Fire is rational, thorough, and extremely impressive. I think we all owe it to ourselves to hear Mr. Lovins arguments, maybe THE BEST I have read thus far.
The first sector of our economy that Mr. Lovins takes on is transportation, and he does so with panache. Currently the US uses 13 million barrels of oil a day on our transportation needs. Thats almost a billion dollars a day, every day, and much of it is wasted on low mpg vehicles. In order to get the most mpg from our cars, we need a complete revamping of the car building process. Using integrative design and advanced materials such as alloys and carbon fiber we can dramatically reduce the weight of the frames, using stronger, heavier metals only where it is needed. Composites allows for even lighter and stronger frames that can be molded instead of assembled, thereby reducing costs and parts. The integrative design means that a lighter body allows for a smaller engine and so forth, further reducing weight and costs. The final boost in efficiency is created by switching to an electric powertrain (engine and transmission – what makes the car move), that can be run on battery power, fuel cells, or a hybrid engine. Electric motors are lighter, smaller, cheaper, quieter, cleaner, and more efficient, and can even recover more than half of the energy lost as heat from the brakes. By taking these actions, we should have no problem not only reducing demand for oil for personal transportation, but eliminating it all together.
The biggest issues that I see with this transition is the costs associated with the new materials and ways of thinking. However, we can overcome this by utilizing economies of scale and ramped up production. Please keep in mind that these ideas are based on currently existing technologies and will create new jobs as these industries expand. It should also be noted that innovations will abound as we being to master these new processes and technologies, thereby creating more room for improvement. So what do you think, can we do it?