Interesting Energy Reads

 This is a list of good books that deal with energy that I have read over the past few years. If you have any favorites let me know.

"The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World", Daniel Yergin. 2011

A great update to Daniel Yergin's first energy book, "The Prize" which was published back in 1992. A sweeping introduction to modern energy issues covering the geopolitics of energy, some recent events, renewable energy and alternative fuels. Required reading for my Energy and Sustainability MBA students.

"Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" Energy and Real Fuels of the Future", Robert Bryce, 2010.

A no-holds barred critique of renewable energy and quite entertaining in parts. Robert Bryce takes a long hard critical look at our energy futures and sees only two options - nuclear and natural gas. Required reading for my Energy and Sustainability MBA students.

"Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Area" Amory Lovins and Rocky Mountain Institute, 2011

Amory Lovins and his Rocky Mountain think-tank provide an optimistic look at possible solutions to our future energy needs. It's all about the more efficient use of energy and that solutions are at hand if we are willing to implement them. Thought provoking indeed. Required reading for my Energy and Sustainability MBA students.

"The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization's Northern Future" Laurence C. Smith, 2011.

Smith is a geography professor out of UCLA where he teaches with Jared Diamond, the author of "Collapse" and "Guns, Germs and Steel". He has spent a great deal of his career in the Arctic and these studies have informed his world view. In this book he looks at the effect of five forces that will force change in the next 40 years - demographics, resource demand, globalization, climate change and technology. In this very readable book, he takes a look at the effect of these forces on the Arctic zones and what the implications might be for people presently living in more temperate zones. The basic message " Go North, Young Man"

"Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines" Richard A. Muller, 2012.

Regardless of your personal opinion about Muller and his recent turnaround from climate change skeptic to "Yes, humans are almost entirely the cause", this is a good introduction to energy. He introduces and dissects all aspects of the energy business and comes to the conclusion that the future is all about nuclear and natural gas. You may not like it, but the logic is pretty compelling. I found his analysis of the BP Gulf oil spill and Fukushima to be particularly thought provoking.

"The Conundrum: How Scientifc Innovation, Increased Efficiency and Good Intentions Make Our Energy and Climate Problems Worse" David Owen, 2012

David Owen writes for The New Yorker and has written some intriguing and highly readable books. One of his most recent is "Green Metropolis" in which he makes the point that  densely populated Mahattan is our best model for a sustainable life style. In "The Conundrum" he makes the point that technological change and energy efficiency is not doing anything to promote a sustainable lifestyle. If anything, it contributes to increased energy usage. This is very much the same point made by the Jevons Paradox which states that as technological progress increases our efficiency of resource utilization, our rate of consumption of those resources increases. Owen believes we have everything right now to live sustainably but that we choose not to do so. Owen's book is highly readible and full of interesting, thought provoking stories but I don't completely buy into his whole premise. He writes from his privileged upper middle class point of view where his ideas might make sense but it's a lot different if you are at the other end of the economic scale living in a shack with no electricity, a leaky roof and an open wood fire to cook on. From this vantage point any technological breakthrough that provides more and cheaper energy is very welcome. Nevertheless, it's a quick, easy read and will leave you thinking about some interesting ideas.

"Command and Control; Nuclear Weapons, The Damascus Accident and the Illusion of Safety" Eric Schlosser, 2013.

Eric Schlosser has taken a well researched and very critical view of the safety of our nuclear weapons and what you will learn from this book will astound you. The number of close calls we have had is incredible and it is remarkable that we have not had an accidental detonation of a nuclear weapon. Our negligence in the handling of these weapons over the past 70 years verges on insanity. This is a bedwettingly compelling read that should leave you lobbying for complete nuclear disarmament.


  1. Forget the arguments about GW/CC ! Private companies are developing the technology that will make all the "alternatives" obsolete and put the GW/CC people out of business. The U.S. can be the supplier to the world of very safe, carbon free, green and inexpensive power plants, including the fuel.
    We will build the plants here if we can stop the Dept. of Energy using your money to give the technology to China and India.
    So I ask that you put your energy into educating the politicians and the public instead of arguing about an issue that is costing the people of the world more money then they will ever have, while making the con artists filthy rich. The government built and tested the MSR in the 1960's, but development was halted and the money given to California for failed projects; the Greens had their chance to do what was necessary to stop man-made GW/CC, but didn't and are not going to now. See the molten salt reactor, especially the one being developed by Transatomic Power in Massachusetts.
    William Fortune, Industrial Consultants Inc, Lee, NH 03861 603 365 0251

  2. Where are you getting solar installed for $3/watt? Can you tell me who to call to get this pricing? I have received 5 quotes on solar and they have ranged from $3.79/watt for inferior chinese panels, to $4.50/watt for higher quality stuff with better warranties.


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