Forty years ago, key members of OPEC embargoed oil exports to the U.S. and other countries. Oil was scarce and prices soared. So what have we learned from the 1973 incident?
In short, not much. We are still largely living under the illusory belief that we can burn oil forever.
Four times since 1980, U.S. forces have intervened in the Persian Gulf to protect not Israel but oil. The Gulf hasn’t become more stable. Readiness for such interventions costs a half-trillion dollars per year—about ten times what we pay for oil from the Gulf, and rivaling total defense expenditures at the height of the Cold War. And burning oil emits two-fifths of fossil carbon, so abundant oil only speeds dangerous climate change that destabilizes the world and multiplies security threats.
In 2011, Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute penned a comprehensive guide to weaning the United States completely off oil and coal by 2050. Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era details how, by 2050, the United States could triple its energy efficiency while switching to more renewables and increasing the economy with no oil, coal, or nuclear energy and one-third less natural gas. All of this could cost $5 trillion less than “business as usual” and allow the United States to run a 158 percent bigger economy.
“Reinventing Fire is a wise, detailed and comprehensive blueprint for gathering the best existing technologies for energy use and putting them to work right now to create jobs, end our dependence on climate-changing fossil fuels, and unleash the enormous economic potential of the coming energy revolution,” writes President Bill Clinton.
Now, as we approach the 40th anniversary of the oil embargo, we’re releasing Lovins’ book in an updated paperback edition.
Fracked oil and gas, Canadian tar sands, Saudi oil—none can beat modern efficiency and renewables on direct cost, price stability, or impacts, notes Lovins. The end of the conflict-creating, climate-threatening Oil Age is coming clearly into view, and not a moment too soon.
“Imagine fuel without fear,” writes Lovins in the Preface. “No runaway climate change. No oil spills, dead coal miners, dirty air, devastated lands, lost wildlife. No energy poverty. No oil-fed wars, tyrannies, or terrorists. Nothing to run out. Nothing to cut off. Nothing to worry about. Just energy abundance, benign and affordable, for all, for ever. That richer, fairer, cooler, safer world is possible, practical, even profitable—because saving and replacing fossil fuels increasingly works better and costs no more than buying and burning them. We just need a new fire.”
Reinventing Fire (Paperback edition) is available now and on sale for 35% off until October 23rd. Read an excerpt of Chapter One: Defossilizing Fuels below.