Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute founder and author of “Reinventing Fire” is the first to give a presentation at this year’s Beyond Oil Conference, one of the first events to kick off Seattle’s Next Fifty month of commerce.
Lovins opens his presentation, aptly named Reinventing Fire, by asking us a question: “What if we had energy do our work without working our undoing?” According to Lovins, today 90% of America’s energy comes from non-renewable sources. Oil is risky. Prices yo-yo for both user and buyer, and at this point it’s costing the U.S. $6B per day. Add that to the environmental impacts and the fact that petroleum products are a finite resource and we have a problem. What’s the first step to fix the problem? Make automobiles oil-free. Technology makes electrification accessible. Lovins gives an example of an electric car that has only 14 parts, meaning 99% less tooling, 2/3 smaller powertrain, less time spent and eventually, less cost. In the end, Lovins asserts that first we need to get efficient and then we need to switch fuels, keeping in mind that electricity is key to the new energy era.
After other speakers remind us of electric trolley cars and the Bonneville Power Administration, John Boesel, CEO of CALSTART gives his presentation, entitled Multi-Fuel & Tech Future=Choice & Optimization. Boesel’s main objective is to explain and promote the EV Employer Initiative. This initiative encourages companies to offer their employees on-site electric vehicle charging stations. Google has some of their 300 parking spaces equipped with solar canopies and EV chargers. Not only does this make long commutes possible for electric vehicle drivers, but the charging stations also serve as workplace showrooms, inspiring conversations and informing more people about the benefits of electric vehicles.
Bob Lutz of GM talks about his love of electric vehicles, especially the Chevy Volt, and warns that as long as gas cars are cheaper to buy and run, driving electric will be a hard sell to consumers. In the end, Lutz affirms that accessible and affordable petroleum in its various forms will be around a long time before the long-term solution ultimately becomes electric cars.
Hosted by Event Chair Steve Marshall, Beyond Oil offers us a diverse array of professionals with interesting perspectives on the roles oil and renewable energies will play in the future. It’s safe to say this conference gives audience members plenty of valuable insight into the numerous possibilities that we face as we think about moving from oil to renewable energies like wind and solar power. I want to know how we can get Lovins’ presentation shown to all U.S. auto manufacturers and policy makers. And how do we provide irresistible incentives for companies to utilize the EV Employer Initiative? If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to share!