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In Energy at the Crossroads, Vaclav Smil considers the twenty-first century's crucial question: how to reconcile the modern world's unceasing demand for energy with the absolute necessity to preserve the integrity of the biosphere. With this book he offers a comprehensive,accessible guide to today's complex energy issues — how to think clearly and logically about what is possible and what is desirable in our energy future.After a century of unprecedented production growth, technical innovation, and expanded consumption, the world faces a number of critical energy challenges arising from unequal resource distribution, changing demand patterns, and environmental limitations. The fundamental message of Energy at the Crossroads is that our dependence on fossil fuels must be reduced not because of any imminent resource shortages but because the widespread burning of oil, coal, and natural gas damages the biosphere and presents increasing economic and security problems as the world relies on more expensive supplies and Middle Eastern crude oil.Smil begins with an overview of the twentieth century's long-term trends and achievements in energy production. He then discusses energy prices, the real cost of energy, and "energy linkages" — the effect energy issues have on the economy, on quality of life, on the environment, and in wartime. He discusses the pitfalls of forecasting, giving many examples of failed predictions and showing that unexpected events can disprove complex models. And he examines the pros and cons not only of fossil fuels but also of alternative fuels such as hydroenergy, biomass energy, wind power, and solar power. Finally, he considers the future, focusing on what really matters, what works, what is realistic, and which outcomes are most desirable.
"The most sober, thorough, and thoughtful integrated text on energy available, and it embodies core facts and some fundamental truths that any analyst of energy issues should ponder." Michael GrubbNature
The MIT Press
"...[Zeroes] in on the issue of reconciling the world's accelerating demand for energy..." Peter D. BlairAmerican Scientist
The MIT Press
This book, pulling together the mature reflections of a Czech-born Canadian who has devoted nearly four decades to studying energy, is a thorough introduction to the subject and a thoughtful consideration of the conundrums it presents. Smil skillfully guides readers through the forest and the trees. Energy is above all a quantitative subject — an idea that is good in principle can be quantitatively insignificant — and this book is not for the numerophobic. But given the pervasive importance of energy, Smil conveys well the complexity and uncertainty of the energy system and its social and environmental impacts. (An especially instructive chapter recounts the dismal record of long-term energy forecasts.) Still, Smil believes that current energy practices cannot continue indefinitely, not because fossil fuels will be exhausted but because the environmental impact of their use will become increasingly unacceptable and even dangerous. He sees promising technical and economic potential for change but is pessimistic when it comes to the possibility of intelligent, concerted action in that direction.
Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)
Meet the Author
Vaclav Smil is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba. He is the author of more than thirty books, including most recently Made in the USA: The Rise andRetreat of American Manufacturing (MIT Press). In 2010 he was named by Foreign Policy as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers. In 2013 Bill Gates wrote on his website that "there is no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil."