Amory Lovins Stepping Down at RMI plus Other Green Tidbits from Aspen

I spent the week before Christmas skiing in Aspen, and, go figure, certainly couldn’t escape news on the greening of America there.

The big news, that I found reported earlier in the Aspen Times: Amory Lovins is stepping down as CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute, which he co-founded over 30 years ago. He will step aside to become RMI’s Chief Scientist, and RMI is looking for a new CEO. For those of you that don’t know, Lovins is one of the most recognized names in energy efficiency in America. If you think you can follow in his footsteps, take a chance and apply for the job! You can email RMI’s HR Manager at

Then while taking a brief time out from skiing (I am not actually very good) I went in to drink coffee in the sunny lodge of the Sundeck Restaurant on Aspen Mountain. The first thing you notice walking through the front door (besides the massage chair, which I really needed after a day of skiing) is the plaque which bills the Sundeck as one of the first 10 LEEDs buildings in America. Details of the Sundeck Restaurant project here. The total cost was $9.8 mm, or an eye-popping $425/square foot (I assume driven partly by LEEDs requirements, and partly by the top of a ski resort location!). But the part I liked the most was the re-use of 86% of the materials from the previous Sundeck building. Because at the end of the day, despite all the advances in cleantech – the real answer to our energy issues is still the same – Reduce, Recycle, Reuse.

This got me interested in what else Aspen was doing in its environmental program:

Aspen Skiing Company joined the fight for climate change this year and among other parts of its environmental program, is now 100% wind powered, through the purchase of wind energy credits.

Aspen also fuels its snowcats with biodiesel, from Blue Sun Biodiesel. The best part is they actually publish on their website an interesting description of the impact of the biodiesel use: “In the winter of 2002, ASC experimented with an 80% diesel/20% biodiesel blend. Mechanics noticed that the fuel, which makes snowcat exhaust smell like french fries, radically reduced black tailpipe smoke and that the snowcats ran smoother, a result of biodiesel’s higher lubricity, a quality that also extends the life of mechanical components. Based on our testing, ASC has now switched its entire fleet of snowcats to biodiesel. The cost is about 20 cents more per gallon, a small cost to pay for benefits that include hydrocarbon emissions reductions of 20% and CO and particulate reductions of 10%. The one drawback is that biodiesel typically increases NOx emissions by 2%. “More details here.

And finally, for someone keenly interested in the carbon credit /green tag sector, I noticed while standing in the lift lines, that Aspen Snowmass now sells carbon offset SkiGreen Tags ($20) and SkiGreen Mini-Tags ($2), so environmentally conscious skiers can offset their ski lift-driven C02 usage. They are doing this in partnership with the Bonneville Environment Foundaton. More info here.

Merry Christmas!

Author Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is the founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, and a Contributing Editor to

5 replies
  1. Mitra Ardron
    Mitra Ardron says:

    I'd be a lot more impressed if they were 100% green-power, rather than offering optional green tags, which are taken up by maybe 5% of their customers at most.The offsets of the 95% of their customers who don't take up the option are directly contributing to the climate change that will have a direct impact on their ski business.

  2. Erich J. Knight
    Erich J. Knight says:

    Carbon Negative Bio fuels and Fertility Too This new soil technology speaks to so many different interests and disciplines that it has not been embraced fully by any. I’m sure you will see both the potential of this system and the convergence needed for it’s implementation. The integrated energy strategy offered by Charcoal based Terra Preta Soil technology mayprovide the only path to sustain our agricultural and fossil fueled powerstructure without climate degradation, other than nuclear power. I feel we should push for this Terra Preta Soils CO2 sequestration strategy as not only a global warming remedy for the first world, but to solve fertilization and transport issues for the third world. This information needs to be shared with all the state agricultural programs. The economics look good, and truly great if we had CO2 cap & trade in place: These are processes where you can have your Bio-fuels, Carbon sequestration and fertility too. ‘Terra Preta’ soils I feel has great possibilities to revolutionize sustainable agriculture into a major CO2 sequestration strategy. I thought, I first read about these soils in ” Botany of Desire ” or “Guns,Germs,&Steel” but I could not find reference to them. I finely found the reference in “1491”, but I did not realize their potential . I have heard that National Geographic is preparing a big Terra Preta (TP) article. Nature article: Putting the carbon backBlack is the new green: Here’s the Cornell page for an over view: This Earth Science Forum thread on these soils contains further links, and has been viewed by 13,000 folks. ( I post everything I find on Amazon Dark Soils, ADS here): The Georgia Inst. of Technology page: There is an ecology going on in these soils that is not completely understood, and if replicated and applied at scale would have multiple benefits for farmers and environmentalist. Terra Preta creates a terrestrial carbon reef at a microscopic level. These nanoscale structures provide safe haven to the microbes and fungus that facilitate fertile soil creation, while sequestering carbon for many hundred if not thousands of years. The combination of these two forms of sequestration would also increase the growth rate and natural sequestration effort of growing plants. Here is a great article that high lights this pyrolysis process , ( ) which could use existing infrastructure to provide Charcoal sustainable Agriculture , Syn-Fuels, and a variation of this process would also work as well for H2 , Charcoal-Fertilizer, while sequestering CO2 from Coal fired plants to build soils at large scales , be sure to read the “See an initial analysis NEW” link of this technology to clean up Coal fired power plants. Soil erosion, energy scarcity, excess greenhouse gas all answered through regenerative carbon management This is the first I’ve seen of a pyrolysis process like Dr. Danny Day’s on the market: Lehmann at Cornell points out, “systems such as Day’s are the only way to make a fuel that is actually carbon negative”. and that ” a strategy combining biochar with biofuels could ultimately offset 9.5 billion tons of carbon per year-an amount equal to the total current fossil fuel emissions! ” The upcoming International Agrichar Initiative (IAI) conference to be held at Terrigal, NSW, Australia in 2007. ( ) .If pre-Columbian Indians could produce these soils up to 6 feet deep over 20% of the Amazon basin it seems that our energy and agricultural industries could also product them at scale. Harnessing the work of this vast number of microbes and fungi changes the whole equation of EROEI for food and Bio fuels. I see this as the only sustainable agricultural strategy if we no longer have cheap fossil fuels for fertilizer. We need this super community of wee beasties to work in concert with us by populating them into their proper Soil horizon Carbon Condos. I feel Terra Preta soil technology is the greatest of Ironies.That is: an invention of pre-Columbian American culture, destroyed by western disease, may well be the savior of industrial society. Thanks,Erich

  3. Erich J. Knight
    Erich J. Knight says:

    RE: Nature Article — the link given on the previous page,will not allow access without being a subscriber to Nature.I posted it Before Nature started requiring a subscribing membership, here is a link to the original pdf version. The pdf version is still accessible without a membership.…df/442624a…

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I know we have many reservations about the purity of green intentions and the total ecological footprint of some of these resorts and destinations, but in my mind, greening is a long journey and any vehicle that gets us closer to our destination is good to have around. I hope your articles and your reader comments will encourage the resort owners to go a deeper shade of green! Thanks again, Peggy Farabaugh Fine Furniture from Sustainable Sources

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