Book review : Reinventing Fire, by Amory Lovins


Reinventing FireSince I started this blog – and even before – I have read quite a serious amount of books on energy and climate issues. But today I can say I have found my favorite : Reinventing Fire, by Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Mixing the maths of Sustainable energy – without the hot air and the vision of Hot, Flat and Crowded, Reinventing Fire clearly shows the importance of efficiency, just like Crossing the Energy Divide and Factor five.

This is really a great book I would recommend to both professionals and the general public interested in building a new society and economy based on efficiency.

The book contains six parts, which I will briefly sum up below.

1. Defossilizing fuels

This short introduction provides an overview to our situation and shows how expensive oil is wasted all the time in the United States and how the country is addicted to the fossil fuel.

It shows how dangerous is this addiction and how we can do much more with much less energy.

2. Transportation : fitter vehicles, smarter fuels

Everybody knows how electric cars are awesome, and expensive. But what if carbon fiber was used to make them ? By being much lighter, electric vehicles could be more competitive as their batteries would carry them further or would cost less (as they would be smaller).

To the RMI, cars that get 125 to 240 MPG can be achieved within a decade. Two examples of this  – the Volkswagen XL1 (pictured right ) and the BMW i3 – would be produced by as early as this year.

Similarly exciting prospects are to be achieved for trucks, planes and so on. Even the military would benefit from efficiency…

3. Buildings : Designs for better living

Like in Europe, a lot of energy is consumed in the United States to heat and cool buildings and by the people in them; hence the importance of energy efficiency in buildings.

The Rocky Mountain Institute shows that US  buildings in 2050 would represent a 70% bigger stock but would consume up to 69 % LESS than the current stock.

All this can be done thanks to integrative design, which can really help cut energy use and can even cost less than routine renovations.

4. Industry : remaking how we make things

Reinventing Fire : recyclingWith a bottom line of $900 Billion (680 billion euros approximately) with an investment representing only a third of that, the potential of energy efficiency in the American industry is tremendous.

From basic things such as recycling and cogeneration to more elaborate ones such as factor ten engineering or industrial ecology, Reinventing Fire brings a lot of ideas to achieve such cuts in energy consumption.

5. Electricity : repowering prosperity

This part present four scenarii on how electricity could be generated by 2050 : Maintain, Migrate, Renew and Transform.

While maintain presents just a status quo, transform offers a vision of a future where the American economy would be powered solely by renewables.

6. Many choices, one future

The final part provides an interesting history of how people living in four decades could see their lives transformed by the various technologies and ideas presented in a book.

It also addresses the typical questions you could ask yourself while reading the book and sums it up all. This part ends the book very nicely.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed reading Reinventing Fire and strongly recommend it to anybody interested in the upcoming energy transition.

While full of examples and data and figures, the book manages to stay very interesting. A must-read !

Last but not least, the book’s website is very well done and completes the book. So make sure you visit it.

Grade : a perfect 20/20

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