[Carfreeliving] Kunstler / Amory Lovins Debate on cars
Coffin, Richard S.
Coffin at jacobssf.com
Mon May 30 20:19:47 MDT 2005
Great exchange, although I always find it amusing when enviros get into the "I'm greener than you" battle, since there is ALWAYS someone greener than you. This happens to me all the time in San Francisco when I start espousing walkable living and the unacceptable impacts that an auto-dependent lifestyle have on our communities.
I also tend to side with Kunstler by agreeing that in general, living and conducting business in a city is far more efficient in general than any remote campus could ever be, although it sounds like they developed a few good "green" technologies at RMI.
From: Carfreeliving-bounces at livablecity.org on behalf of Jason Henderson
Sent: Mon 5/30/2005 11:40 AM
To: Carfreeliving at livablecity.org
Subject: [Carfreeliving] Kunstler / Amory Lovins Debate on cars
I thought this would be interesting to this list. I noticed a session on
"clean fuel" cars at World Env Day event on Wednesday. -jh
Kunstler / Amory Lovins Debate
Salon - Lovins / Kunstler exchange
May 26, 2005 | In his recent interview with Salon, "After the Oil
Is Gone" author James Howard Kunstler, doomsayer of the oil age,
disses alternative energy guru Amory Lovins, CEO of the Rocky
Mountain Institute, for promoting the institute's ultralight Hypercar
as a panacea for the coming oil crunch. After reading the interview,
Lovins e-mailed Salon his response. We then gave both energy experts
another chance to zap one another. The following exchange begins with
Kunstler's comments from the interview.
James Howard Kunstler: I regard Lovins' Hypercar venture as a stupid
distraction, if for no other reason that it tends to promote the idea
that we can continue being a car-dependent society. Clearly we can't,
no matter how good the gas mileage is. I'm not against efficient
cars. I'm against the idea that somebody in Amory's position would
focus on cars at the expense of something else like promoting
walkable communities. The New Urbanist movement, for example, was
campaigning for a much more intelligent response to suburbia at
around the same time. And the solutions that they were promoting made
a lot more sense than underwriting the continuation of the suburban
fiasco. I think that this was perhaps an unintended consequence of
Lovins' venture. It shows the limits of our imagination.
Amory Lovins: James Howard Kunstler criticizes me for supposedly
suggesting superefficient cars at the expense of walkable
neighborhoods. If he'll kindly look at my 1999 book "Natural
Capitalism," he'll find that Chapter 2, "Hypercars and
Neighborhoods," emphasizes the importance of both, and strongly
supports New Urbanism. It suggests practical and profitable ways to
build very efficient cars and not need to drive them much, so we can
have communities worth living in and traveling to. I can't imagine
why this approach should be deemed objectionable -- unless, of
course, he simply didn't ascertain my actual views.
His claim that there is no practical alternative to current oil
dependence, other than dramatic changes in settlement patterns and
lifestyles, is also extensively rebutted in our peer-reviewed,
independent study "Winning the Oil Endgame." If Mr. Kunstler thinks
our study is wrong, he would do a public service by explaining how.
Meanwhile, serious students of this subject may be forgiven for
preferring our well-documented analysis to his qualitative contentions.
Kunstler: Amory Lovins claims his study, "Winning the Oil Endgame,"
was "peer-reviewed." This may mean little more than that his ideas
were endorsed by friends and associates. I think that Mr. Lovins'
intentions are good, but I stick by my assertion that his work on the
Hypercar has been a waste of time and intellectual capital and has
only led the public to believe that we can continue a car-dependent
way of life. In Mr. Lovins chapter "Hypercars and Neighborhoods," he
devotes 24 pages to the technical discussion of designing Hypercars
and slightly less than two pages on the discussion of neighborhoods
-- none of the latter including any technical discussions of civic
(i.e., human habitat) design. I think this demonstrates pretty
clearly that he is not paying attention to the right things.
I also stand by my assertion that we will not be able to run the
Interstate Highway System, Disney World, the New Jersey suburbs, or
any of the other furnishings and accessories of the American dream on
any known alternatives to petroleum and its byproducts. For
substantive argument, I recommend Chapter 4 ("Beyond Oil") in my
book, "The Long Emergency." Finally, I find it ironic that the
"green" headquarters of Mr. Lovins' Rocky Mountain Institute is
located in the back country of Colorado, in a place that his 40-plus
employees all have to drive to. It is, in effect, a hyper-suburban
corporate campus masquerading as an environmentally sensitive and
ecologically meaningful establishment.
Lovins: Three more shots from the hip, three misses.
1. Under RMI's policy of rigorous peer review, "Winning the Oil
Endgame" was sent in draft, in whole or in part, for comment by 139
experts, chiefly in industry. A partial list is on Page 278, and
other informants are acknowledged on Pages 279-280. The thoroughness
and diversity of this review process, and the transparency of RMI's
posting the book and all its technical backup free at
www.oilendgame.com <http://www.oilendgame.com>, have contributed, since
its September 2004
release, to the absence of any substantive critique of its analytic
content or logic -- as distinct from Mr. Kunstler's mere refutation
by emphatic dismissal.
2. Those who read Chapter 2 of "Natural Capitalism," "Reinventing the
Wheels: Hypercars and Neighborhoods," will find that it equally
emphasizes and carefully integrates these two topics, though the car
section's technical content makes it longer (17 pages vs. nine pages
for settlement patterns and policies to reduce driving). Green real-
estate development, a field RMI pioneered, is more fully described in
Chapter 5, and there's an outstanding example of integrated urban
planning in Chapter 14. Mr. Kunstler reinforces the impression that
he hasn't read the arguments he's criticizing, let alone RMI's
industry-standard text "Green Development: Integrating Ecology and
Real Estate" and its accompanying CD of 200 case studies.
3. Calling RMI's main campus (at 7,100 feet in Old Snowmass, Colo.)
"a hyper-suburban corporate campus masquerading as ...
environmentally sensitive" seemed too bizarre to merit reply when
David Owen, in the New Yorker (Oct. 2, 2004), said we'd promoted
sprawl by not building in a city. But before this notion gains more
currency by Mr. Kunstler's further embroidery, some facts should be
RMI's main building is among the world's most energy-efficient,
saving 99 percent of space- and water-heating energy, 90 percent of
household electricity (the rest is solar-generated), and 50 percent
of water, all with a 10-month payback in 1984. It has received more
than 70,000 visitors and produced 28 indoor banana crops with no
conventional heating system, down to -47 outdoors. Other RMI
buildings also use solar micropower, exceptionally energy- and water-
efficient appliances and fixtures, daylighting, superwindows and
other sustainability-enhancing features.
RMI's organization-wide practices also include: On-site housing
nearby (with high-speed wireless Internet) and bike parking for
roughly half the staff and their families, with carpooling and free
or discounted bus passes for the rest and a hybrid company car
available to all employees; virtual and distributed offices (with
similar car-displacing policies) linked by a high-speed virtual
private network and Internet videoconferencing, which we also use
worldwide to displace much travel; flextime, work-at-home, inclusive
staff coordination, and community-building; buying 94 percent of
electricity as certified-green, plus 100 percent solar-powered
hosting of several Web sites; associate membership of the Chicago
Climate Exchange, where we offset our small net carbon dioxide
emissions, and of Climate Neutral Network; and comprehensive recycling.
Though RMI's practices doubtless can be further improved (suggestions
are welcome), and are being continuously improved, I hope Mr.
Kunstler will find these achievements consistent with the goals he
espouses. It has never been true that all our staff must drive to
work: Thanks to our nearby staff housing, many staff walk, bike or
(in season) ski to work, or telecommute from home, and we encourage
the rest to use our valley's outstanding bus system. One recent
employee who lives up the hill wanted to hang-glide to work, though
he couldn't flap hard enough to get back up. My own commute is about
10 yards across the banana jungle.
Facts are more mundane than fantasies, but a better basis for
San Francisco CA
jhenders at sbcglobal.net
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