Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air: the Freakonomics of conservation, climate and energy

David JC MacKay's Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air may be the best technical book about the environment that I've ever read. In fact, if I have any complaint about this book, it's in how it's presented, with its austere cover and spartan title, I assumed it would be a somewhat dry look at energy, climate, conservation and so on.

It's not. This is to energy and climate what Freakonomics is to economics: an accessible, meaty, by-the-numbers look at the physics and practicalities of energy. MacKay, a Cambridge Physics prof, approaches the subject of carbon and sustainability with a scientific, numeric eye. First, in a section called "Numbers, not adjectives," he looks at all the energy and carbon inputs and outputs in Britain and the rest of the world: this is how many kWh of energy are needed to power all of Britain's vehicles. This is how many kWh you would get if you covered the entire British shore with windmills, or wave-farms. This is Britain's geothermal potential. Here's how much carbon vegetarianism offsets. Here's how much carbon unplugging your idle appliances saves (0.25%, making the campaign to switch off energy vampires into a largely pointless exercise -- as MacKay says, "If everyone does a little bit, we'll get a little bit done"). This is the carbon-footprint of all of Britain's imports, gadgets, office towers, and so on.

Using a charming, educational style that teaches how to think about this kind of number, how to estimate with it, and what it means, MacKay explains these concepts beautifully, with accompanying charts that make them vivid and clear, and with exhaustive endnotes that are as interesting as the text they refer to (probably the best use of end-notes I've encountered in technical writing -- they act like hyperlinks, giving good background on the subjects that the reader wants to find out more about while allowing the main text to move forward without getting bogged down by details).

Next, in "Making a Difference," looks at what it would take to balance Britain's (and, eventually, the world's) energy budget so that the consumption is sustainable (that is, so that it uses only renewables or fuels that would last for 1000 years -- and emits so little carbon that we avert a 2C' rise in global temperature). He looks realistically at conservation, considering the theoretical limits on efficiency for rail, electric cars, air, as well as factories, home design and so forth, giving examples ranging from better insulation to tearing down all the housing in Britain and rebuilding it for maximum efficiency (factoring in the energy and carbon costs of the new building, of course).

This chapter also has a lot of sensible personal advice for things you can do to reduce your energy consumption -- especially identifying those few badly designed devices in your home whose idle power-draw really is punitive and replacing them (one Ikea lamp he cites draws nearly as much switched off as running, because of a transformer design that was one penny cheaper to manufacture than a more efficient one would have been).

Finally, in a long technical appendix, MacKay delves into the physics of maximal performance in transport, manufacturing, housing and energy generation, explaining it in a way that I -- who have not studied physics since I was 18 -- was able to follow.

This reminded me of nothing so much as Saul Griffith's wonderful talk on climate change as an engineering problem. Add up all the energy we can make if we harness every erg, every photon. Subtract all the energy we want to use. Examine this difference and come up with strategies for bringing the two into balance. Once you get this approach, it becomes a lot simpler to figure out what is and isn't worth doing.

My only complaint about this book is its packaging: if it were tarted up to look like the transformative, important popular science book that it really is, I think it would be at the center of the environmental debate today.

The entire book is available as a free 10MB PDF download so you can start reading immediately

Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air (US)

Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air (UK)

Without Hot Air -- MacKay's site for the book, including the whole book as a free download


  1. International hackers? Feh. The best way to kill a server is to link it on BoingBoing! I’m on to you and your master plan to TAKE OVER THE WORLD! O__O *dramatic music*

    My other, perhaps more appropriate commentary is that I’ve looked over the PDF, and though I’m not in a position to assess the validity of the author’s figures, the book is concise and easy to understand, and so very informative. I find it fantastic. Two thumbs up from me!

  2. Does this book discuss the costs of conservation measures? I find that this is often overlooked in most analyses.

    Take, for instance, the Ikea lamp discussed in the article. Does it make sense to buy a new lamp, when you factor in the cost of the replacement, plus the disposal costs of the old one?

    Also, the summary has not a word about the potential economic benefits of reducing global warming. If, hypothetically, we could eliminate 80% of global warming with only 10% of the effort, does it make sense to try to eliminate 100% of global warming? I don’t think anyone has the answer to this, and until we do, it doesn’t make sense to start radical plans to reduce CO2 emmissions.

  3. Chroma –

    Huh? I’m not sure you have been paying attention. Most, if not all of the CO2 emission reduction plans I have seen have economic savings (in the medium or long term) as well. On the other hand, most, if not all of the business as usual projections I have seen have serious economic costs (not to mention environmental, social, etc.).

    Putting the two next to each other, it seems rather brainless to suggest that action is not desirable. Also, while one can hypothesize all one wants, I’m not sure I’ve seen any suggestion, even on the fringe, by anyone that there is a plan/action/technology that would cut global warming by 80% with only “10% of the effort” (whatever that means).

    (Of course it does depend on how you define “economic benefits.” The current way we measure GDP does include things like expenditures related to a trip to the hospital as a result of a car accident or payments made to a lawyer as a result of a divorce or money invested to chop down old growth forests. All these things are “good” and increase GDP and so would be reported on (in the aggregate) happily by the government and the press.)

    Cory – Doesn’t the book come to any conclusions? I would think they merit comment.

  4. Actually, Chroma, he *does* do the numbers on the cost of materials for discarding that Ikea lamp and buying a better one, based on the fact that it consumes GDP10 worth of electricity per annum (to save GDP0.01 in manufacturing) and converting that into carbon, multiplying it by the lamp’s total duty cycle, and then looking at the carbon implicated in making and shipping a new lamp, and concluding that it’s cheaper economically and environmentally to throw it away and buy a new one.

  5. I have this sitting here beside me but haven’t got round to reading it yet. The list of sustainability gurus bigging it up on the inside cover is impressive. I gather he’s rather enthusiastic for a massive expansion of nukes which I disagree with, but I’ll withhold judgement until I’ve read it.

    With regards to standby consumption being just 0.25%, this does not make it a pointless campaign. An 80% cut in emissions is going to take EVERYTHING we have at our disposal. Nothing is too small.

  6. The punchline (p. 250):

    “Because Britain currently gets 90% of its energy from fossil fuels, it’s no surprise that getting off fossil fuels requires big, big changes – a total change in the transport fleet; a complete change of most building heating systems; and a 10- or 20-fold increase in green power.

    Given the general tendency of the public to say “no” to wind farms, “no” to nuclear power, “no” to tidal barrages – “no” to anything other than fossil fuel power systems – I am worried that we won’t actually get off fossil fuels when we need to. Instead, we’ll settle for half-measures: slightly-more-efficient fossil-fuel power stations, cars, and home heating systems; a fig-leaf of a carbon trading system; a sprinkling of wind turbines; an inadequate number of nuclear power stations.

    We need to choose a plan that adds up. It is possible to make a plan that adds up, but it’s not going to be easy.

    We need to stop saying no and start saying yes.

    We need to stop the Punch and Judy show and get building.

    If you would like an honest, realistic energy policy that adds up, please tell all your political representatives and prospective political candidates.”

  7. Here’s how much carbon unplugging your idle appliances saves (0.25%, making the campaign to switch off energy vampires into a largely pointless exercise

    I was interested in this, since like lots of people I’ve heard differently. I haven’t read how he calculated it, but I calculated it myself and, while my figure is about 3 times greater than his, it’s still much lower than I had previously thought.

    21% of US Energy consumption is residential. [1]

    39% of residential energy consumption is electrical. [2]

    10% of residential electrical consumption is from standby power. [3]

    21% x 39% x 10% = 0.8%

    So nearly 1% of the total US power consumption is from appliances on standby. Is that worth a campaign? Maybe not. That said, 1% isn’t nothing, when you’re thinking about the entire energy usage of the United States. What percentage of energy usage is used by all the Hummers in America?

  8. Chroma –

    People buy lamps everyday, I think that the proposal would be to have them buy more efficient ones not necessarily throw out their existing ones now….. the money saved from using energy efficient lighting is staggering – typically about $30 US per bulb over its life, not to mention the environmental benefits.

    With regard to costs, abatement costs are typically not linear – they’re closer to exponential curves – getting at that last molecule in the universe would be an expensive proposition!

    All the best!

  9. Can someone address the pessimist in me?

    Trained as an engineer, I’ve been brought to believe that we can engineer our way out of problems. However, as I got out of school, I’ve observed that the causes of our major problems affecting a sizable population are largely non-technical. The causes can easily fall in three areas – business, politics, and people – (social behavior, human nature , culture, psychology, etc.). The pessimist in me says that unless the “energy problem” affects business, politics, and humans in a term on which they will focus (i.e. for business – if the problem affects quarterly results, for politics – if disaster will cost a re-election, for humans – affects way of life) then it is impossible to push ANY solution with ANY cost. I emphasize ANY because the numbers would not matter – the decision to do something is binary – yes or no.

    I’m depressed. Please let me know if there’s good argument against this type of though.

  10. Oh that idiotic “result” on phone chargers is so annoying. Using his idiotic measurement scheme if you switched off all the power and heating in your house and huddled in the dark not eating drinking or moving you would only cut your CO2 emissions by something like 30% — I can’t remember the exact figure. This is because he includes fixed industrial/commercial/transport costs which you can’t affect parcelled up and divided between everyone. Choose your measurement scheme stupidly enough and you can prove what you like. This isn’t “physics”, it’s just telling gullible people what they want to hear.

    Actually buy a power meter and go around your house measuring what kit on idle costs. If you’re even moderately geeky you are likely to find you can save between 10 and 20% of your electricity bill just by shutting off old VCRS you never use, switching off servers and computers you don’t need. I actually did this in practice. A bit more reliable than just putting an energy meter across a mobile phone charger and extrapolating from there.

  11. I am also just posting to note that MacKay’s Information Theory textbook is my all-time favorite textbook, I regularly pick it up just to browse for entertainment, even when I’m not working on a math problem.

  12. As is typical for me I headed straight for the appendices, where I found this little gem:

    “Some advertisements describe reductions in CO2 pollution in terms of the “equivalent number of cars taken off the road.” For example, Richard Branson says that if Virgin Trains’ Voyager fleet switched to 20% biodiesel – incidentally, don’t you feel it’s outrageous to call a train a “green biodiesel-powered train” when it runs on 80% fossil fuels and just 20% biodiesel? – sorry, I got distracted. Richard Branson says that if Virgin Trains’ Voyager fleet switched to 20% biodiesel – I emphasize the “if” because people like Beardie are always getting media publicity for announcing that they are thinking of doing good things, but some of these fanfared initiatives are later quietly cancelled, such as the idea of towing aircraft around airports to make them greener – sorry, I got distracted again. Richard Branson says that if Virgin Trains’ Voyager fleet switched to 20% biodiesel, then there would be a reduction of 34 500 tons of CO2 per year, which is equivalent to “23 000 cars taken off the road.” This statement reveals the exchange rate: “one car taken off the road” ?? -1.5 tons per year of CO2.”

    I think I’m going to enjoy reading this.

  13. Nice! I started studying/teaching about energy in the 1970s … pulling facts together was *difficult* … this book is a one-stop resource!

    E.g. in the Quick Reference (p. 329) we can learn what a “home” is in statements like “the windmills will power 200,000 homes”:

    “The “home” covers the average domestic electricity consumption of a household, only. Not the household’s home heating. Nor their workplace. Nor their transport. Nor all the energy-consuming things that society does for them.”

    These ARE the facts SOMEONE has to grapple with to resolve what *we need to get to work on now*. If we’re forced to wait until GW is self-evident to everyone … this book becomes worthless.

  14. Delightful. Inspiring. A model of clear use of graphical illustration. I would be embarrassed to admit what I learned about the units for power and energy.

  15. It’s very well written and illustrated. Just a shame MacKay isn’t an energy specialist really, otherwise this could have been a really useful book.

    There are quite a few problems with the book, as well as some crucial gaps in his knowledge; the author’s persistence in taking the most optimistic assumptions for nuclear, and pessimistic assumptions for renewables, undermine what could otherwise have been a good text.

    Nevertheless, his writing style is very good, so some misunderstandings and ignorance is forgivable. Still, reader beware: it feels authoritative, but in many areas it is simply wrong.

  16. After further reading, I wanted to add a couple of things.

    One – he is, indeed, quite careful and clear with his calculations. They are all laid bare and clearly form the basis for his conclusions. So it can be very educational.

    Two – I think that his conclusions do not leave enough room for technological progress. I can see, on the one hand, while he would want to be careful with that. Projecting the future is not what the book is about. He’s simply trying to provide a snapshot of production and consumption as it is or could be today. But just because things look almost impossible today doesn’t mean they will be tomorrow. To give just one example, in his discussion of solar power, he quotes a study from 1979 to set supposed limits on the efficiency of photovoltaic technology. However, computers still occupied entire rooms in 1979. I think the chances are quite good that many of the accepted physical “limits” understood to exist in 1979 will be meaningless in the future.

  17. How does it stack up against George Monbiot’s “Heat”. That’s a fabulous book that looks at a serious scientific target (90% reduction in emissions by 2050), and adds up a whole set of strategies to determine what’s possible. And Monbiot’s expertise is phenomenal.

    @#3 – Chroma: We don’t stand a snowball’s hope in hell of eliminating 100% of global warming. Historical emissions already commit us to a further 0.5 degrees of warming over and above what we’ve already seen (about 0.8 over pre-industrial levels). In other words, if humans were wiped off the face of the planet tomorrow, and emissions went to zero, the temperature would continue to increase over the rest of this century, because of what we’ve already done. Only once the ocean manages to absorb all that extra CO2 from the atmosphere would the earth ever return to it’s old energy balance, which will take hundreds of years (and possibly never, depending on whether other positive feedbacks kick in in the meantime).

    You wanna wait until you’re dead before you start believing the doctor’s suggestion that you need medicine?

    Go study these two charts:
    Then come back and report what you learned.

  18. SAMSAM @9, Wikipedia is referencing a BBC news article from 2006 stating that standby power ranges from “10 and 15 watts, and occasionally beyond” which seems pretty high from my measurements. (I’m an electrical engineer, and yup, I tend to measure stuff like this for fun.)

    My results are more like 3 to 5 watts, which would multiply your other numbers down to agree with MacKay’s. Here’s a graphic listing ranges and average standby power for a wide range of appliances, courtesy Lawerence Berkeley National Laboratories. Set top boxes appear to be the worst.

    That said, every little bit does help, however, I’m not likely to unplug something if it means that I have to reprogram it to do something because of that, like a DVR that forgets program info without power.

    I do try to shop with things like that in mind. My TV uses about 0.25 watts in standby. It takes an extra 5 seconds to turn on compared to the 2 watt standby mode, a small price to pay.

  19. chroma here. (Apparently logins have been disabled.)

    Cory: Good to hear. You could probably even find a sucker to buy the old lamp to recoup a few bucks.

    speonjosh: Reduced energy costs are pretty easy to measure. So I figure those will pretty much take care of themselves. I was specifically referring to the savings due to reducing global warming. How much is a 1 cm rise in sea level worth?

  20. Greebo: great graphs. I gotta wonder why water vapor isn’t considered on the first one, though.

    Do you have any evidence that we’ll all be dead? Where on the graphs does it show that?

  21. regarding #3 and #19 by CHROMA, I think the issue is certainly complicated and difficult to assess. Any estimates about the future have those challenges. However, your conclusion that the safe approach is to ignore the problem does not follow.

    It’s hard to assess precisely how much climate change will occur and what specific properties will emerge from those climate changes and greenhouse gases. Worst case scenario is greenhouse effects on the scale of Venus where methane, CO2 and other gases completely destroy the Earth’s capability of sustaining any life. We can’t put a precise probability on that outcome, but what price would we put on it anyway. If it happened tomorrow? Next year? 100 years? 1000 years? If we could prevent it at all, what would that be worth?

    Other possible outcomes include drought and rising seas that could displace thousands or even hundreds of thousands from their homes and eliminate our access to natural resources (though maybe creating access to others). Assessing the cost of that depends on how its dealt with. For example, if refugees from Indonesia and the Oceania are shot, then maybe it’s only the cost of the bullets might be counted for the Australians. If the refugees are instead welcomed and provided with homes, then the cost is in providing new homes for those who already previously had homes, but whose homes are now underwater (and the costs associated with the social unrest of acclimating to the enormous influx of refugees).

    The point I get from Greebo however, is that most of the solutions conserve social costs and so it is misguided to pose the question of whether it’s worth it. In other words independent of those catastrophic outcomes, it costs us less to convert from fossil fuels to renewable and sustainable energy. It costs all of us less except those who own the extraction rights for the fossil fuels. It costs them more and they control our economy and our political apparatus. If it is left up to them, they will accept the immense costs to the rest of us since it avoid all the costs to them. They can easily afford to relocate their property away from the ocean and away from the torrent of refugees. They easily afford the ammunition to fend off the refugees. The costs to us are nothing to them.

    As for MacKay’s piece, it is an excellent resource. He does look to be favoring nuclear (not so much coal) as he whitewhashes the negatives surrounding coal. However, he has made this an open source free document so it is an invaluable resource that can easily be made more balanced by addressing the serious concerns surrounding the danger’s of nuclear catastrophe whic is particularly whitewashed.

    Most of the statistics he’s gathered appear to at least be a decent start even if biased on way or the other. For example, the overall estimates of transporation needs might be too high, but thees’ a lot of statistical details in there to be able to reconstruct what eneregy demand levels might be achievable. Similarly, I do sense an overall thrust towards nuclear as the solution, but oveall with a fairly honest use of statistics rearely seen in these types of documents.

    A few things I think are given short-shrfit are natural gas ans cogeneration. For example, he seems to neglect some of the cogeneration advantages to internal-combustion engine vehicles and also too easily dismisses combined heat and power and related decentralized solutions.

  22. in #19 CHROMA wrote “I gotta wonder why water vapor isn’t considered on the first one, though.”

    I think water vapor is generally excluded since it’s seen as a dependent rather than an independent variable. In other words the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere is not really anthropogenic. However, the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere is dependent on global climate temperatures and is one of the factors – as a greenhouse gas itself – that can have distrubing feedback effect compounding global warming problems.

  23. Since when was Freakonomics meaty, or even about economics? That sumo wrestlers cheat, for example, isn’t breaking down econ at all. It was a fun read that looked at some weird phenomena, but nothing more.

  24. However, your conclusion that the safe approach is to ignore the problem does not follow.

    I never said we should ignore the problem, only that we shouldn’t go off half-cocked with huge spending.

    We can’t put a precise probability on that outcome, but what price would we put on it anyway. If it happened tomorrow? Next year? 100 years? 1000 years? If we could prevent it at all, what would that be worth?

    Lots of bad things might happen, it doesn’t mean we should get into debt and make ourselves poorer to try to mitigate these problems. I can think of lots of bad things that might happen: an alien virus, a super earthquake destroying Tokyo, a mega-tsunami from an asteroid strike, a solar flare that wipes out all of our electronics, etc.

    it is misguided to pose the question of whether it’s worth it.

    I’m in favor of seeking the truth, so I don’t think that it’s misguided to ask the hard questions.

    In other words independent of those catastrophic outcomes, it costs us less to convert from fossil fuels to renewable and sustainable energy.

    So why talk about global warming at all?

    How does your mass refugee scenario fit with the IPCC’s prediction of a 18-59 cm rise in sea levels over the next 100 years? We’ve had a 20 cm rise in sea level over the previous 100, without anything close to what you’ve mentioned.

  25. “So why talk about global warming at all?”

    I didn’t raise the topic. However, if it’s raised I don’t see any reason to run from it. And I would add that the level of proof you’re looking for will only arrive after the climate has warmed and the oceans have risen. Given that conversion from fossil fuels costs us less and not more, then the bickering over these global warming concerns is silly.

    Other troubling issues are raised in the MacKay article even without considering global warming. For example, fossil fuels will not last forever.

    Also I would add that our cities have been rebuilt in a very short time to meet the needs of the auto corporations and not the needs of the urban inhabitants. If we can accomplish such a task to serve the needs of few dozen corporate giants, then surely we can undo that colossal mistake in an equally short interval.

    “How does your mass refugee scenario fit with the IPCC’s prediction of a 18-59 cm rise in sea levels over the next 100 years? We’ve had a 20 cm rise in sea level over the previous 100, without anything close to what you’ve mentioned.”

    The Ocean’s clearly have some great variability over time. I’m not sure that provides much comfort. As i said earlier, I don’t think we’ll have any great certainty about seal level rise until it has actually happened. If we modernize our fuel usage, we may have no way of telling it helped or not. Seal levels may rise anyway, but to a lesser extent. Or sea levels may rise because we acted too late or too slowly. The only reason I can see to continue with the fossil fuels is because we merely want those corporations and cartels running of those fossil fuel industries to have everything they ever wanted and damn everyone else. Sort of like on of those “make a wish foundations”, but for the wildly super rich. You keep raising the issue that modernizing our energy production will make us poorer, but I don’t see anything to indicate that. It has been our slavish devotion to the trasnportation and fossil fuel corporations that have made us poorer. We can only go up from here.

  26. I think I’ll love giving this a careful read.

    During earth hour I was getting skeptical, and estimated how much energy was saved by turning off a light-bulb for 1 hour. I was rather surprised it was only equivalent to driving a car 20m.

    It’s fine for people to do small, symbolic things to minimize their energy use. The problem is if they think they’ve done their bit, and carry on as normal afterwards.

    “Numbers not adjectives” is the only way to make policy decisions.

    Also, while reducing carbon emissions is crucial to lessen the poorly defined effects of climate change sometime in the future, peak oil will impact all of us dramatically in the next decade and beyond. We will simply have no choice but to greatly reduce how much energy we use, because demand will swamp supply.

  27. Thank you for all the interest and positive feedback! On the topic of standby power, I’d like to emphasize that I do think it is an excellent idea to pay careful attention to energy vampires, and switch them off. In the chapter on Efficient Electricity Use I show that, in my house, I saved 45W (1 kWh per day) by obsessively switching things off – especially stereos, DVD players, and computer peripherals, all sitting there doing nothing. 1 kWh per day is roughly 1% of the average European’s energy consumption, so (in my opinion) well worth paying attention to. Perhaps the source of confusion on standby is that in my book I do take the mickey out of the idea (widespread in the UK at least) that people are ‘doing their bit’ by switching off their cellphone chargers. Let me quote…
    Obsessively switching off the phone-charger is like bailing
    the Titanic with a teaspoon. Do switch it off, but please be aware how tiny
    a gesture it is. Let me put it this way:

    All the energy saved in switching off your charger for one day
    is used up in one second of car-driving.

    As for the commenter(s) who assert that I have underestimated the potential of renewables, please feel free to give details (with sources) on the book’s wiki (which you can reach from the website). I am eager to correct any errors. I actually feel I’ve bent over backwards to make the largest possible estimates of the potential of renewables, and I do compare my estimates with those of other organizations. [See page 106; As the figure on page 107 shows, my green total is bigger than all the others! If anyone thinks I have got any facts wrong, please write to me with details, giving sources. (A blanket statement that I have got “crucial gaps in my knowledge” isn’t specific enough to identify the scientific points at issue). Please don’t thrust me onto one side or the other of some tiresome old debate (eg ‘nuclear versus renewables’). As I hope you’ll see if you read the book, I genuinely want to help us have constructive conversations about energy. And, for the record, I am pro-renewables. But most of all, I am pro-arithmetic. Have a nice day! David MacKay

  28. I didn’t raise the topic.

    Cory did, so maybe he can answer.

    Also I would add that our cities have been rebuilt in a very short time

    At tremendous expense. You want to pay for your domicile and workplace to be completely rebuilt?

    The Ocean’s clearly have some great variability over time. I’m not sure that provides much comfort. As i said earlier, I don’t think we’ll have any great certainty about seal level rise until it has actually happened.

    I think the scale of evidence is on my side here: there has been no great flood of refugees due to a 20 cm sea level rise. All you have is just speculation.

    The only reason I can see to continue with the fossil fuels is because we merely want those corporations and cartels running of those fossil fuel industries to have everything they ever wanted and damn everyone else.

    There’s that, and the fact that coal and gasoline are very easy to extract and burn.

    modernizing our energy production will make us poorer, but I don’t see anything to indicate that

    One quick one: coal burning electrical power plants are now apparently going to have to buy emissions credits for CO2. The cost for those is going to be borne by consumers; that is, you and me.

  29. On nuclear catastrophe, one difficulty in getting people (even professors of physics with a speciality in Bayesian probability) to engage with it, is that it’s something of a black swan event: lots of people will tell you a catastrophic core breach is impossible … until it happens. Still, nuclear catastrophe can be fun!

  30. On today, Dr. MacKay made an important point about the magnitude of the nation’s energy needs and the capacity of today’s low-emission energy sources to meet them. The logical takeaway from his analysis is that to meet energy demand while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the United States – through our leaders in Congress – need to take multiple steps to boost energy diversity. First, we need policies that provide greater access to domestic energy resources such as petroleum and lower carbon natural gas. Expanded domestic energy supply, especially offshore, is essential to keep energy affordable as we develop low-emission sources and technologies; to free up some of the money saved to go toward clean energy development; and to help prevent the migration, or “leakage,” of industrial production, greenhouse gas emissions and jobs to more carbon-intensive nations. Leakage would subvert the nation’s entire GHG reduction effort because global emissions would increase, rather than decrease, as the U.S. loses GDP and jobs. Second, we need policies that encourage energy efficiency and conservation so that we can reduce energy use, save financial resources, and relieve some of the pressure on existing energy supplies. Third, we need large-scale public and private investment in low-emission energy sources and technologies such as renewables, alternatives, nuclear, carbon capture and sequestration and combined heat and power, to bring about transformational change to energy markets and create low-emission energy capacity.

  31. #34, as usual CNN cannot be trusted. Most of what you cite from them are just plain lies. The US is the largest per capita green house gas emitter. As jobs leave the US (as it currently structures its energy consumption) green house gas emissions will go down. Domestic hydrocarbon reserves only help the industries that profit from those reserves. Those who focus energy policy on securing domestic sources are at best the most naive and at most the most fascistic involved in the debate. The demonization of Arabs is meant to completely take our attention off of the real energy issues facing America (while the oil industry US and Saudi capitalists alike pick our pockets).

    We have the technology to produce all of our energy from renewable sources. All of our non-heating energy production could come from non-emitting sources entirely. Some portion of heating energy might involve biofuels and perhaps even a small proportion of natural gas, but we certainly do not need to rely on coal, oil, or nuclear (which also contributes to global warming through production of heat byproducts warming water and ground temperatures).

    Carbon capture and sequestration is a fantasy. A great way to sequester and capture carbon is to apply immense heat and pressure to it and make coal and then just leave it deep underground like that forever. Burning the coal releases the carbon into the atmosphere. Sequestration would require at least as much energy as we gain from the use of the coal. So for those excited about sequestration, they should just admit its already been sequestered for us and join in on the abolition of all coal fired plants.

  32. Hi
    I greatly enjoyed the book for the same reasons as those who posted above. I liked it so much I created a free online energy plan maker tool that enables you to create your own renewable energy plan choosing the types and amounts of energies you wish all based on the calculations in the book. You can also name and comment on your plan and then share it with others. It is available at:

    hopefully it will help the debate and increase the understanding


Comments are closed.