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Amory Lovins

Physicist Amory Bloch Lovins is a co-CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute, and author and co-author of books which make arguments for and popularize energy-efficiency principles to public and corporate audiences. Lovins' works include Factor Four with Hunter Lovins and Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, and Natural Capitalism with Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawken. In the 1990s, his work with the Rocky Mountain Insitute has included the design of an ultra-efficient automobile, the "Hypercar."

Amory Lovins has been one of the most influential American voices advocating a "soft energy path" for the U.S. and other nations. A trained physicist, he has been able to assemble a very impressive array of facts, computations, economic-analyses, forecasts, and arguments that appeal on a common-sense level. He has advocated energy-use and energy-production concepts based, on one hand, on conservation and efficiency, and on the other, on the use of renewable sources of energy and on generation of energy at or near the site where the energy is actually used.


Life & Work:

Born November 13, 1947 in Washington, D.C., he spent much of his early youth in Silver Spring, Maryland and in Amherst, Massachusetts. In 1964, as a former award-winning high-school science whiz, Lovins entered Harvard. After two years there, he transferred to Magdalen College, Oxford, England, where he studied experimental physics. He became a Junior Research Fellow in Oxford’s Merton College, where he studied for two years and took a masters degree. But, having become a devotee to Snowdonia National Park, in northwest Wales, he was lured out of academia. It was during this stint that his career as a writer began.

In 1971 he wrote about the endangered Welsh park in a book commissioned by David Brower, president of the environmental organization Friends of the Earth. Lovins spent several years as British Representative for Friends of the Earth. He wrote a number of other books published by FOE. During this time his interests settled specifically into the area of resource policy, and most especially, energy policy. An essay that he originally penned as a U.N. paper grew into his first book concerned with energy, World Energy Strategies. His next major work was co-authored with John H. Price and titled Non-Nuclear Futures.

Back in the U.S., Lovins guided mountaineering trips in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The shock of the 1973 energy crisis helped create an audience for his ideas, and he appealed to this new audience with the publication of his 10,000-word essay "Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken?" published in Foreign Affairs, in October 1976.

Lovins (not quite 29 at this point) described the "hard energy path" as involving inefficient liquid-fuel automotive transport, as well as giant, centralized electricity-generating facilities, often burning fossil fuels (e.g., coal or petroleum) or harnessing a fission reaction, greatly complicated by electricity wastage and loss. The "soft energy path" which he wholly preferred involves efficient use of energy, diversity of energy production methods (and matched in scale and quality to end uses), and special reliance on "soft technologies" (a.k.a., alternative technology)such as solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal, etc. For Lovins, large-scale electricity production facilities had an important place, but it was a place that they were already filling; in general, more would not be needed. One of his main concerns, and against which he wrought a very tight case, was the danger of committing to nuclear energy to meet a society's energy needs. (See radioactive waste, nuclear proliferation).

By 1978 Lovins had published six books, consulted widely, and was active in energy affairs in some 15 countries, as synthesist and lobbyist. In 1979 he married L. Hunter Sheldon, a lawyer, forester, and social scientist. Hunter received her under-grad degree in sociology and political studies from Pitzer College, and her J.D. from Loyola University's School of Law. In 1982, along with Hunter, Amory Lovins founded the Rocky Mountain Institute, based in Colorado. Together with a group of colleagues, the Lovinses fostered efficient resource use and policy development that they believed would promote global security. RMI ultimately grew into an organization with a staff of around 50. By the mid 1980s, the Lovinses were being featured on major network TV programs like "60 Minutes."

Lovins was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1984. He has received the World Technology Award, the Nissan, Mitchell "Alternative Nobel," and Onassis Prizes. He has also received half a dozen honorary doctorates.

Working with many specialists, Lovins's more recent work at RMI has focused on efforts to transform sectors including the automobile (they designed a hydrogen-powered "hyper car" to provide an example to Detroit), electricity, water, semiconductor, and real estate.

Quotes: "The average [television-program] viewer can save thousands of dollars a year added to your discretionary income by bringing the waste out of the energy and water you use in your house, how you travel, what you buy and you can do good for yourself and the Earth at the same time and improve your quality of life by making more careful choices."

"Phasing out nuclear power should make our electricity cost not more but less."

"What we thought of as isolated pathologies, scarcities of work or hope or security or satisfaction, are not isolated at all, in fact they're intimately related, they're all caused by the same thing, namely the interlocking waste of resources, of money, and of people."


Books authored or co-authored by Amory Lovins:

  • Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution
  • Small Is Profitable: The Hidden Economic Benefits of Making Electrical Resources the Right Size
  • Soft Energy Paths: Towards a Durable Peace
  • Harvard Business Review on Business and the Environment
  • Factor Four: Doubling Wealth - Halving Resource Use: A Report to the Club of Rome
  • A Road Map for Natural Capitalism
  • World Energy Strategies: Facts, Issues, and Options
  • Non-Nuclear Futures: The Case for an Ethical Energy Strategy
  • Energy/War: Breaking the Nuclear Link
  • Brittle Power: Energy Strategy for National Security
  • Energy Unbound: A Fable for America's Future
  • The Energy Controversy: Soft Path Questions and Answers
  • The First Nuclear World War: A Strategy for Preventing Nuclear Wars and the Spread of Nuclear Weapons
  • The Natural Advantage Of Nations: Business Opportunities, Innovation And Governance in the 21st Century
  • Nuclear power: Technical Bases for Ethical Concern
  • Least-Cost Energy: Solving the C02 Problem
  • Openpit Mining


  • Craig Lambert "The Hydrogen-Powered Future," in Harvard Magazine, January/February 2004. Web:
  • Kas Thomas "Interview with Amory Lovins," in The Mother Earth News, issue #48, November/December 1977. Web:

External links

Last updated: 06-01-2005 21:15:16
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