Recently I have been having an interesting exchange with Rod Adams regarding Amory Lovins. I made an offhand comment that Harvey Wasserman's misunderstanding of the Jevons Paradox reminded me of Lovins, to which I received several incredulous responses. We had no disagreement about whether the paradox is compatible with Lovins' declared theories about the economic implications of energy efficiency- rather, we disagreed about Lovins' honesty. According to Rod Adams and Stewart Peterson, Lovins is perfectly aware of the implications of Jovens' paradox, but is mendacious about it because he knows that its true economic implications keep filthy fossil-fuel lucre rolling into Snowmass.
Now, I don't like Lovins any more than Rod Adams does, but I'm inclined to think he's not dishonest. He actually reminds me of a deluded cult leader more than a con man. One of the main reasons I think so is that Lovins has earnest acolytes who emerge from Snowmass and actually attempt to implement his theories in the real world. Take, for instance, this article in Business Week, which describes the misadventures (and partial disillusionment) of one such RMI apostle. On the other hand, Rod has far more experience with Lovins than I do, and uncovered his dishonest portrayal of his educational credentials. Perhaps I need to get to know Lovins better.
I think that Lovins has a fetish for certain things- energy efficiency, small, local generation, and so forth- and an irrational disdain for others, particularly nuclear power. The problem is that Lovins' theories make economic assumptions that are utterly heterodox- neither Karl Marx nor Milton Friedman would ever accept them. This is because Lovins assumes that individual people want to "do more with less" rather than "get the best deal they possibly can"- i.e., maximize utility. Lovins actually claims that "doing more with less" = maximizing utility, but this logic is so flimsy that I cannot understand why the man has gotten away with saying it for thirty years. Resource efficiency can be a critical aspect of maximizing utility- but as Jevons discovered back when my mustache was in style, the results of this are increased resource utilization.
Similar to the Communists of old, I think Lovins has a vision for social transformation that begins with the individual. The New Efficient Man will waste little or nothing, because this will be the New Morality. But besides this, he will embrace "soft" technologies that tread lightly on the earth, apparently because he will share Lovins' disdain for things like biotechnology. For reasons I don't really comprehend, making these "right" choices would somehow result in utopia, or at least a much-improved world. I have a hard time taking any of this seriously, to be honest. Compared to Marxism or other coherent ideologies with similar utopian goals, it's a half-baked, illogical mess.
Any thoughts? Also, does anyone know of a bonified economist who's taken the time to refute Lovins?