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Reinventing Fire

Reinventing Fire

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Fossil fuels created modern civilization, but their rising costs—to health, security, and economic progress—are starting to eclipse their benefits, undermining the prosperity and security they enabled. At the same time,
technological innovation has quietly been making fossil fuels obsolete. In history’s greatest infrastructure shift, spanning
the entire economy, humans are inventing a new fire: not dug from below but flowing from above, not scarce but bountiful, and except for a little biofuel, flameless.
Fossil fuels created modern civilization, but their rising costs—to health, security, and economic progress—are starting to eclipse their benefits, undermining the prosperity and security they enabled. At the same time,
technological innovation has quietly been making fossil fuels obsolete. In history’s greatest infrastructure shift, spanning
the entire economy, humans are inventing a new fire: not dug from below but flowing from above, not scarce but bountiful, and except for a little biofuel, flameless.

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Published by: Post Carbon Institute on Oct 16, 2013
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11/23/2013

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REINVENTINGFIRE
AMORY LOVINS
 
This publication is an excerpted chapter rom
The Energy Reader: Overdevelopment and the Delusion o Endless Growth
, Tom Butler, Daniel Lerch, and George Wuerthner,eds. (Healdsburg, CA: Watershed Media, 2012).
The Energy Reader 
is copyright© 2012 by the Foundation or Deep Ecology, and published in collaboration withWatershed Media and Post Carbon Institute.For other excerpts, permission to reprint, and purchasing visit energy-reality.org or contact Post Carbon Institute.Photo: EcoFlight.
The old fre: The San Juan Generating Station, a coal-burning power  plant in New Mexico, typifes the old energy economy.
about the author
Energy visionary
Amory Lovins
is the author o hundreds o scientic papers and 31 books, the latest o which isthe 2011 “grand synthesis”
Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions or the New Energy Era.
He coounded and chairsRocky Mountain Institute, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprot think-and-do tank that collaborates with theprivate sector to drive the ecient and restorative use o resources.Amory Lovins adapted his essay “Reinventing Fire” rom
Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions or the New EnergyEra
(Chelsea Green Publishing), produced by Lovins and his Rocky Mountain Institute colleagues; © 2011 byRocky Mountain Institute.
Post Carbon Institute | 613 4th Street, Suite 208 | Santa Rosa, California 95404 USA
 
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1
F
ire made us human; ossil uels made us modern.Now we need a new re that makes us secure, sae,healthy, and durable.Oil and coal built our civilization. Fossil energy becamethe oundation o our wealth, the bulwark o our might,the unseen metabolic engine o modern lie. Yet thisenabler o our civilization, this magic elixir that hasenriched and extended the lives o billions, has alsobegun to make our lives more earul, insecure, costly,destructive, and dangerous. It puts asthma in our chil-dren’s lungs and mercury in their lunchbox tuna. Itsoccasional mishaps can shatter economies. Its wealthand power buy politicians. It drives many o the world’srivalries, corruptions, despotisms, and wars. It is chang-ing the composition o Earth’s atmosphere aster thanat any time in the past 60 million years.In short, the rising costs o ossil uels are starting toeclipse their benets, undermining the prosperity andsecurity they enabled. Fortunately, these problems arenot necessary to endure, either technologically or eco-nomically. We can avoid them in ways that tend to
reduce 
energy costs—because technological progress hasquietly been making ossil uels obsolete.What’s driving this transormation is basic economics.By 2009, making a dollar o U.S. gross domestic prod-uct used 60 percent less oil than in 1975, 63 percentless (directly used) natural gas, 20 percent less elec-tricity, and 50 percent less total energy. Oil is becom-ing uncompetitive even at low prices beore it becomesunavailable even at high prices: Peak oil has emergedin demand beore supply. Oil use in the industrializednations represented by the Organization or EconomicCooperation and Development (OECD) peaked in2005, U.S. gasoline use in 2007. In 2009, DeutscheBank said world oil use could peak around 2016.With today’s technologies, it is possible to build uncom-promised, sae, roomy, peppy, electric autos. Redesigningthe entire U.S. automobile feet to be superecientand electried by 2050 could achieve automotive ueleconomy equivalent to 125-250 miles per U.S. gallon(1.0-1.9 L/100 km) and would save oil at an average costbelow $18 per saved barrel—just one-th o today’sworld oil price. Buying that eciency and electrica-tion instead o burning oil to provide the same servicesrom today’s and ocially orecast autos would save$4 trillion. Such “drilling under Detroit” can win theequivalent o 1.5 Saudi Arabias or hal an OPEC, andthose “negabarrels” are all domestic, secure, clean, sae,and inexhaustible. The investments required or theseour- to eightold more ecient and oil-ree autos andor tripled-eciency trucks and airplanes could yield a17 percent internal rate o return (IRR) while greatlyreducing risks to the oil and automotive sectors andto the whole economy. The trucks and planes could
 
Fossil fuels created modern civilization, but their risingcosts—to health, security, and economic progress—are starting to eclipse their benefits, undermining theprosperity and security they enabled. At the same time,technological innovation has quietly been making fossil fuelsobsolete. In history’s greatest infrastructure shift, spanningthe entire economy, humans are inventing a new fire:not dug from below but flowing from above, not scarcebut bountiful, and except for a little biofuel, flameless.

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