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Winning the Oil Endgame

In 2004, Rocky Mountain Institute's Chief Scientist, Chairman and Co-founder Amory Lovins and a team of RMI collaborators accomplished a highly complex and innovative task—the drafting of a roadmap for the United States to get completely off oil by 2050, led by business for profit.

The result became a thoroughly researched, highly analytical yet practical book called "Winning the Oil Endgame" (WTOE).

Following its release, RMI began working with key industry stakeholders to accelerate key components of the WTOE strategy. To aid in its implementation, RMI raised $3.6 million from private donors and foundations.

This has led to many critical projects, including:

  • Wal-Mart Hybrid TruckSupporting the initial stages of Walmart's efforts with its suppliers to increase the efficiency of the firm's new heavy trucks by 25 percent through 2008 (the actual reduction in fuel intensity vs. 2005 was 38 percent), and to set a goal of doubled efficiency by 2015.
  • Working with a consortium of industry leaders, including Google, Alcoa, Johnson Controls and Turner Foundation, to found Bright Automotive, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) development company.
  • Convening industry and policy leaders to devise optimal structures for "feebates"—an innovative, revenue-neutral way to get very efficient cars on the road faster. France adopted a similar policy in late 2007, and in the following year, sales of inefficient cars fell 42 percent while sales of efficient cars rose 50 percent.
  • Partnering with a major automaker to create a transformational, super-efficient vehicle concept that has now entered production development.
  • Partnering with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and major industry players to host an accelerated innovation lab focused on catalyzing next generation cellulosic biofuels.
  • Helping the U.S. Department of Defense adopt and analyze new rules that valued saved fuel at its fully burdened cost delivered to the platform in theater in wartime (often tens and sometimes hundreds of dollars per gallon), thus driving efficiency innovation that will accelerate efficiency in civilian vehicles.

Learn how RMI multiplied the original funding into at least $375 million in measurable benefits.

Although "Winning the Oil Endgame" is centered on the United States, RMI is expanding its reach, especially given that most of the growth in oil consumption comes from developing markets. To that end, we recently completed the translation of WTOE in Chinese (Simplified Characters) with Tsinghua University.

The Innovation Dial

While many of these projects involved for-profit clients, philanthropic funding enables RMI to “turn up the innovation dial." RMI’s hybrid grant/consulting model enables our organization to propose and push for breakthrough changes that ultimately bring the biggest mission — and margin — value.

The Road Ahead

Chinese oil explorationWhile WTOE has helped accomplish tremendous efficiency achievements, we still have a long and arduous path ahead. The United States is still about 60 percent dependent on imported oil. World oil consumption is still increasing, especially with growth in developing nations like India and China.

We are therefore increasing our efforts and launching Phase II of WTOE implementation. Retaining the best practices from Phase I, our efforts to implement WTOE in Phase II will have four characteristics:

  • High-level influence
  • Entrepreneurial innovation
  • Company engagements
  • Public outreach

The areas of focus will continue to include the military, the automotive and trucking sectors and next-generation biofuels, and become more involved with aviation and freight.

Here's what industry experts are saying about Winning the Oil Endgame...


President Jimmy Carter
    "This exciting synthesis of how to eliminate America's oil dependence could be the most important step in many years toward secure and affordable energy. Its novel but persuasive ideas, which hold promise of revitalizing American industry and agriculture, should appeal to conservatives and liberals alike."


Richard N. Cooper

Maurits C. Boas Professor of International Economics at Harvard University
    "...[T]his fact-filled study...[p]art technology handbook, part cool-headed advocacy...argues that a dramatic reduction in oil dependency is both possible and desirable during the next two decades, at economic savings compared with business as usual."
    Printed in Foreign Affairs, February 2005


Bill Glover
Director, Environmental Performance Strategy, Boeing Commercial Airplanes
    "Winning the Oil Endgame is a masterpiece in terms of stimulating ideas and discussion around how we move forward to realistically address our energy future. Rocky Mountain Institute has developed and analyzed the data in a compelling way—worthy of much consideration."


William Martin
Chairman, Council on Foreign Relations Energy Security Group
    "Amory Lovins has had more impact on our energy use than any single person in the world. Now his team has produced one of the most important energy studies in decades. It merits careful examination as a profitable strategy for achieving energy security, economic prosperity, and environmental quality through smart business strategies accelerated by efficient government policy."


Robert C. McFarlane
National Security Advisor to President Reagan
    "Recent expert analysis suggests...that...within a generation we can be truly independent-free of all reliance on foreign oil....Perhaps the most rigorous and surely the most dramatic analysis...was tasked by the Pentagon and carried out by...Rocky Mountain Institute, a respected center of hard-headed, market-based research....[T]he book's powerful summary...argues persuasively that by 2035 we can be entirely independent of imported oil and that 'it will cost less to displace all of the oil that the United States now uses than it will cost to buy that oil.'...[T]he means of achieving near-term energy security and ultimate independence from foreign oil are at hand. Courage and leadership are all that it takes to get us there."


George P. Shultz
Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University
former Secretary of State, the Treasury, and Labor
    "We can, as Amory Lovins and his colleagues show vividly, win the oil endgame...[A]n intriguing case that is important enough to merit careful attention by all of us, private citizens and business and political leaders alike."


Peter Schwartz

Chairman, Global Business Network
former Head of Scenario Planning, Royal Dutch/Shell Group
    "[T]horoughly comprehensive and imaginative."


Sir Mark Moody-Stuart
Anglo American plc
former Chairman, Royal Dutch/Shell Group
    "[T]his compelling synthesis...demonstrates that innovative technologies can achieve spectacular [oil] savings...with no loss of utility, convenience and function. It makes the business case for how a profitable transition for the automotive, truck, aviation, and oil sectors can be achieved....The refreshingly creative government policies suggested...merit serious attention,...and I suspect they could win support across the political spectrum....This report will help to launch, inspire, and inform a new and necessary conversation about energy and security, economy and environment. Its outcome is vital for us all."


TIME Magazine
    "One of the best analyses of energy policy yet produced."


R. James Woolsey
Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton
former Director of Central Intelligence
    "...Rocky Mountain Institute has recently published a report, Winning the Oil Endgame, which emphasizes the promise of using in automobile construction less expensive versions of the very strong carbon composites now used in aircraft construction—a step that could further contribute to our having vehicles that are lighter and substantially more fuel efficient but also stronger and safer than existing vehicles."