Addressing the sustainable energy crisis in an objective manner, this enlightening book analyzes the relevant numbers and organizes a plan for change on both a personal level and an international scale—for Europe, the United States, and the world. In case study format, this informative reference answers questions surrounding nuclear energy, the potential of sustainable fossil fuels, and the possibilities of sharing renewable power with foreign countries. While underlining the difficulty of minimizing consumption, the tone remains positive as it debunks misinformation and clearly explains the calculations of expenditure per person to encourage people to make individual changes that will benefit the world at large.
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Customer Reviews71 of 74 people found the following review helpful
A Must Read if discussing sustainable or renewable energy, March 5, 2009 By Amazon Customer – See all my reviews
This book is an essential resource for understanding energy policy as it relates to conservation and to renewable resources.
I’ve just been listening to yet another “news” report pointing out that compact fluorescent light bulbs don’t save much energy because an incandescent light bulb will also heat your house.
Coincidentally I had just read the part of this book dealing with this myth, so I was able to confidently mutter under my breath “true, but only in the winter (when you need the heating) and only if you are heating inefficiently using electricity.”
This book puts real numbers to a lot of hand-waving arguments which are used to justify grandiose claims made for different renewable energy sources or to imply that we could save the world if we all just unplugged our mobile phone chargers. Some of the arguments stand up when the numbers are put in, but many don’t. When you see what the numbers are, it becomes evident how unrealistic and ineffectual many of the proposals are.
Is it worth unplugging a power block when not in use? Can planes be made more efficient? How much space would solar farms or a wind farms need to occupy to meet our energy needs? How much agricultural land would be required for bio-diesel? All these questions (and many more) are answered.
What makes this book really stand out is that it converts energy amounts to comprehensible units (kilowatt-hours per person per day), supplies copious references for the numbers used, and provides the calculations on which the arguments are based. (Detailed calculations are presented in appendices for the math-averse and should be accessible to anybody with a basic knowledge of physics).
Note. Although this book is primarily aimed at a UK audience (energy consumption figures are based upon UK patterns, and land use proposals are related to UK locations), the discussions are of global applicability.
This book is essential for anyone thinking about energy policy. It excels because MacKay does not espouse one specific solution, but rather teaches the reader how to create solutions and evaluate them. He emphasizes that the numbers must add up — total energy production must equal total energy consumption.
In a way the book is very simple. He leads the reader by the hand in estimating the energy requirements of society – transportation, heat, food, gadgets, and so on. He similarly helps you make credible estimates of achievable production from sources such as sunlight, tides, hydro, nuclear, wind, coal, and oil.
Like a good physicist, MacKay is able stand back and estimate these numbers top-down from first principles, with just enough depth to generate numbers that are credible to you and good enough for policy making.
The charts, graphs, tables, and pictures are extensive and clear.
If you have a particularly loved energy source [wind?] or a particularly hated one [coal?] you can “do the numbers” and build your own energy policy. The only requirement is that the numbers add up!
Essential purchase, August 9, 2009 By D. BULL (Wellington, New Zealand) – See all my reviews
I work for an environmental watchdog in New Zealand. I flicked through the first few pages of “Sustainable Energy – without the hot air” as it sat on a colleague’s desk, took it back to my own desk and read it for two hours straight, got online and bought my own copy. It’s that good.For a start, this is how environmental science should be communicated; crystal clear text and honest graphs, with simplified theory and ballpark calculations that anyone can follow, backed up by empirical data as a check on results, real examples, frequent references, and explanations of limitations.
But the thinking behind it is every bit as good. MacKay is entirely pragmatic about energy supply and demand, never preachy, and he is game enough to admit when his results surprise even himself. If he is cautiously optimistic in his conclusions, it is because he has laid out a number of justifiable options.
Buy it. Better still, buy it and read it.
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