Ever since its discovery, humans have been fascinated by and feared fire. In Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era, by Amory B. Lovins and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), fire is energy.
Over thousands of years, the wood burning fires of our ancestors have become the fossil fuels we burn to generate the energy that powers our current civilization. Reinventing Fire presents a vision and road map for carrying out a new energy strategy by 2050.
The essence of Reinventing Fire can best be summarized by an excerpt from the book.
“RMI launched its Reinventing Fire initiative to answer two questions: Could the United States realistically stop using oil and coal by 2050? And could such a vast transition toward efficient use and renewable energy be led by business for durable advantage? The answer to both questions proved to be yes.”
The book covers goals for 2050 and ideas on how to achieve them. It outlines business opportunities, jobs, costs, and economic benefits. Suggestions include how government and non-governmental organization (NGO) policies and actions can encourage and support innovation. Although the focus is the United States, the Reinventing Fire new energy era blueprint has global applications and implications.
Chapter 1 Defossilizing Fuels
Readers are provided an overview of the hidden costs of fossil fuels and oil as a national security issue. A glimpse is given of how the United States energy future can be transformed by 2050 through three main concepts: Do More with Less, Modulate Demand, and Optimize Supply.
Chapter 2 Transportation: Fitter Vehicles, Smarter Use
A brief physics lesson of how cars work and auto industry historical highlights lead into how to design and build autos differently, better. The real cost of driving is explored along with ways to use autos more productively. Heavy trucks, airplanes, trains, boats, and other vehicles are also covered. Various fuel sources are reviewed.
Chapter 3 Buildings: Designs for Better Living
This chapter deals with residential, commercial, and industrial building energy use and efficiency. The benefits of integrative design for new and existing buildings is explained. In this process, all components and systems are designed and evaluated together instead of as individual systems like electrical, plumbing, etc. Energy data and management systems are explored as ways to understand how buildings perform and identify areas for improvement. Examples demonstrate how building owners, investors, and users have reduced energy use and saved money.
Chapter 4 Industry: Remaking How we Make Things
Energy efficiency is looked at as it relates to industrial processes and practices. Examples show that significant reductions in energy use are also possible in the manufacturing sector through integrative design. Harnessing the knowledge and experience of employees is discussed as an effective way to identify and implement energy reduction ideas and innovations. How customers can impact energy use through the products they buy and companies they choose to do business with is touched upon.
Chapter 5 Electricity: Repowering Prosperity
Four scenarios illustrate potential energy models: Business-as-Usual, Migrate, Renew, and Transform. The business-as-usual approach covers supply and demand, aging infrastructure, global technology shifts, and security concerns. Migrate provides a scenario for “carbon-free” energy via more nuclear power and carbon sequestration. Renew looks at renewable energy sources and electricity storage. Transform focuses on renewable energy and intelligent micro grids versus our current centralized distribution grid system.
Chapter 6 Many Choices, One Future
The final chapter shares what it might be like to look back from 2050 if the ideas and solutions presented throughout the book are implemented and fire is reinvented.
The Bottom Line
Amory B. Lovins is a physicist, leading expert on energy, and co-founder of Rocky Mountain Institute, an independent, nonprofit, think-and-do tank.
Reinventing Fire contains a plethora of information. Data and projections are illustrated through the use of comprehensive charts and figures. Readers need to be actively engaged in reading the book—one does not skim over the material. An open mind is helpful, a science degree is not needed.
Lovins conveys information, concepts, and ideas, in a straightforward manner and shows us a doable energy future that does not rely on burning fossil fuels.
Anyone interesting in learning about realistic energy solutions and actions will benefit from reading Reinventing Fire.