From today's Observer:
Scientist, 60, Rocky Mountain Institute, Colorado
Interview by Lucy Siegle
Sunday March 23, 2008
The US can cut its oil imports to zero by 2040, eliminate oil use entirely by 2050, and make money. What's stopping us? Well, as Marshall McLuhan said: 'Only puny secrets need protection. Big discoveries are protected by public incredulity.'
I'm not an environmentalist. I'm a cultural repairman. It's all about efficient and restorative use of resources to make the world secure, prosperous and life-sustaining.
I am a man without a furnace. My windows are insulated by 19 sheets of glass which cost less than installing a heating system. I have harvested 28 crops from my indoor banana plants, all grown in a house at 2,200 metres elevation, with outdoor temperatures down to -44C.
Rocky Mountain Institute now works with upwards of 10 of the world's top 50 brand names, such as WalMart. Many of those companies now have business strategies so radical you'd mistake them for being written by Greenpeace activists.
There's no reason that energy policy need be a multiple-choice test asking: Would you prefer to die from a) climate change, b) oil wars, or c) a nuclear holocaust? I choose d) none of the above.
The US's electric bill could be halved through energy-efficiency measures and renewables that would mostly pay for themselves in a year. That's not a free lunch. It's a lunch you're paid to eat.
Progress is being made. The US has cut by half the total amount of energy used to make a dollar of GDP. It has cut oil use per dollar by 54 per cent and electricity use by 17 per cent. The UK has started to think about ways of catching up.
The markets make a good servant but a bad master, and a worse religion.
Public discourse about climate change has resulted in the erroneous idea that it's all about cost, burden and sacrifice. If the math was correct, everyone would see it's about profit, jobs and competitive advantage. Smart companies have figured this out and are making billions.
I hang my laundry in a room with a glass ceiling and it dries by nightfall. Two days for jeans.
Every investment in nuclear expansion will worsen climate change by buying less solution per dollar. That's as dumb as a possum.
I lived in the UK for 14 years until 1981 and never needed a car. Last time I went back I did, because the rail links weren't as good. But I was very pleased by the revival of the Welsh language.
I'm a practitioner of elegant frugality. I don't feel comfortable telling other people what to do, so I just try and lead by example.
'Eat more lamb - 50,000 coyotes can't be wrong.' That's the bumper sticker on my Honda Insight. The meat in our freezer is from 20km up the road and made only from organic grass.
A nega-watt is a watt of electricity that does not have to be generated because an energy-saving measure has obviated the need for it. Replace a 75-watt incandescent light bulb with a 14-watt compact fluorescent bulb and you produce 61 nega-watts.
My way of dealing with doom-mongers is to let the person talk for a while and then I ask, gently: 'Does feeling this way make you more effective?'
I am concerned at the amount I have to fly. I do more and more of my lectures by internet videoconference. That way I just ship the electrons and leave the heavy nuclei at home.
We will soon discover whether this bold evolutionary experiment of combining a large forebrain with opposable thumbs was really a good idea. Over the next decade, our species takes its university finals. Get revising.