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Clean, Renewable Energy Could Power U.S. by 2050


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By Max Havins
April 13, 2012 

SAN DIEGO, CA — Author and clean energy advocate Lovins has mapped a plan to completely eliminate U.S. consumption of oil, coal, and nuclear power by mid-century, all while boosting the U.S. GDP by more than 150 percent. Importantly, this can be achieved without having to push legislation through a gridlocked U.S. Congress.

This week, he outlined RMI’s roadmap at an event hosted by CleanTECH San Diego, the California Center for Sustainable Energy, and Xconomy, and attended by Sierra Club Green Home.

“We need a new fire,” Lovins told the group, which included clean tech companies and entrepreneurs from across Southern California.

Lovins pointed to the opportunities to improve “vehicle fitness,” creating lighter and stronger vehicles. With existing technologies and materials, like carbon fiber, cars could go 50 percent further on a tank of gas. A car getting 30 miles per gallon could be getting mileage comparable to a Prius.

Lovins also spoke about the big opportunities to reduce electricity demand. Efficiency improvements in buildings, together with a smarter power grid and increasingly affordable renewable power, would make us able to meet all of our electricity needs with clean energy—even during a summer in Texas.

All this might sound too ambitious or even impractical if not for the evidence at Lovins’ own home in Snowmass, Colorado. His house, built in 1984 and renovated in 2009, showcases the opportunities integrated design and passive solar heating present.

Located in the Rocky Mountains (20 minutes north of Aspen), Lovins’ home needs no furnace—even in the winter. In fact, it is famous for growing bananas and other tropical fruit. It has a greenhouse that absorbs heat from the sun in the summer and stores that thermal energy to help heat the home through the cold Colorado winters. Lovins uses the home to demonstrate cutting-edge green building technologies, as well as many that are affordable and cost-effective today. Meanwhile, he pays a monthly electricity bill of $5.

The house stands as one small example of a much bigger economic and environmental opportunity. Lovins and RMI are working to turn small examples into the big changes that lead to the $5 trillion of economic benefit they see in the coming decades. Their Superefficient Housing Initiative, for example, includes collaborations and competitions to design and retrofit homes to realize energy savings far beyond incremental improvements on today’s building energy codes.

With each step towards a clean energy economy—without oil, coal, or nuclear power—the U.S. can turn RMI’s vision into reality. As Lovins told CleanTECH San Diego CEO Jim Waring on Wednesday, the big changes will be a result of millions of individual decisions. Much like past transformations with computers and mobile phones, he noted, before long the changes will be everywhere.

For related article, see:
Passive Solar Heating

 

© 2012 SCGH, LLC.

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