Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Words of Caution on Amory Lovins

Today's Washington Post contains a profile of Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, and I suggest you read it all. There's a lot to like about his work to get America to kick the oil habit, and his ideas to improve energy efficiency are very compelling.

However, when he makes claims about nuclear energy, I suggest that the world check his math very closely:

Unlike some environmentalists, Lovins remains adamantly opposed to nuclear power, which he says doesn't make economic or nonproliferation sense. New U.S. subsidies in last year's Energy Policy Act, he notes, "are equal to the entire capital cost of the next six reactors . . . but is similar to defibrillating a corpse: it will jump but not revive."
Not so fast, Amory. Beginning last year Summer, my colleague David Bradish began taking a hard look at RMI's research and found a lot of it wanting when it came to its methodology. A couple of months later, Lovins sent us an email asking David to correct the record. But when David went back to check again, he found even more reasons to distrust RMI's conclusions.

To say the least, it's been a frustrating process to see media outlets from around the world accepting RMI's positions uncritically. Nevertheless, we've continued to chronicle RMI's errors whenever we see them mentioned in the press. You can look through the list of links below to see what I'm talking about:

Rod Adams vs. Amory Lovins
More Bad Data From Amory Lovins
Revisiting RMI's Bad Data
Revisiting RMI And Amory Lovins
Doublechecking The Numbers
Checking The Data With Peter Ausmus
Drinking Amory's Kool-Aid
Amory Lovins, Subsidies and Environmental Action

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3 comments:

Rod Adams said...

Eric:

I happened to see Amory's smiling face staring at me from the front page of the Washington Post Business section this morning.

The reporter did a pretty good job of capturing the essence of the man - long on ideas, short on actual accomplishments, long on wealthy friends and consulting contracts, short on solutions that really work.

I personally feel vindicated that the article did not describe Lovins as a physicist and pretty much came right out and declared that Oxford did not consider random investigations of energy issues to be a serious academic pursuit WORTHY of a DEGREE.

Of course, the article was generally favorable and painted him as a Don Quixote type, but us English majors know a thing or two about the windmills in that story.

Rod Adams

Whitehall said...

Another problem with many of Lovins' proposals is that they lack controls and are subject to abuse. Here's an article about how Enron used "negawatts" to rob the people of California of millions:

http://www.energypulse.net/centers/article/article_display.cfm?a_id=488

GRLCowan said...

I know of nothing Lovins has said that would not, if believed, have the effect of preserving the dominance in energy markets of petroleum and natural gas.

Why couldn't the Washington Post capture the essence of the man in 15 words?

--- G. R. L. Cowan, former hydrogen fan
Boron: internal combustion, nuclear cachet