If Wal-Mart can go green, so can the Pentagon. That was how Rocky Mountain Institute co-founder and energy pioneer Amory Lovins drove home his message that when big business executes efficiently, it's not just about eco-image. It's about making money.
Lovins, sitting down for a conversation with Seniorhelpline at the first session of the 2007 Breakthrough Conference before he accepts this year's Leadership Award, stressed that it has become "hard to get things done" in reducing emissions and increasing efficiencies on a national government level and that corporations need to take the lead.
"One CEO says to another on the golf course, `I'm getting an extra 9 cents per share every quarter from saving energy. What are you doing?" Lovins mused, in his typical analogous, number-crunching language while speaking with PM editor-in-chief James B. Meigs at the Hearst Tower in New York. "You really can't afford not to do these things, and we're really finding a revolution in boardrooms."
Lovins has worked with Wal-Mart since 1993, moving the world's biggest retailer toward a doubling of its truck fleet's fuel economy by 2015 (he says the mega company will be half way there by January). Jaws dropped in the crowd of scientists, journalists and bloggers here when he said that every single mile-per-gallon improvement in Wal-Mart's deliveries--aided by an auxiliary power unit on the back of its cabs--drops off $42 million from its bottom line.
That led Lovins, normally a spitfire voice of practical solutions, to offer an inspired backing of the Pentagon's work in fuel economy. He has worked on two national science defense panels, finding improvements from Abrams tanks and their 75-percent idling time and on down the line.
"The Pentagon is an emerging leader within the federal government in getting this country off of oil," Lovins said. "Ultimately, we won't need to fight wars over it in the first place--making a mission in the Gulf unnecessary."
And it doesn't end there, Lovins promised. He said he had recently met privately with several key players in the automotive industry, and that there was "a lot of interest, analysis and activity going on" in reconsidering distributions of size and weight in American cars.