Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future

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Overview


The promise of "green jobs" and a "clean energy future" has roused the masses. But as Robert Bryce makes clear in this provocative book, that vision needs a major re-vision. We cannot--and will not--quit using carbon-based fuels at any time in the near future for a simple reason: they provide the horsepower that we crave. The hard reality is that oil, coal, and natural gas are here to stay.

Fueling our society requires that we make good decisions and smart investments based on ...

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Overview


The promise of "green jobs" and a "clean energy future" has roused the masses. But as Robert Bryce makes clear in this provocative book, that vision needs a major re-vision. We cannot--and will not--quit using carbon-based fuels at any time in the near future for a simple reason: they provide the horsepower that we crave. The hard reality is that oil, coal, and natural gas are here to stay.

Fueling our society requires that we make good decisions and smart investments based on facts. In Power Hungry, Bryce crushes a phalanx of energy myths, showing why renewables are not green, carbon capture and sequestration won't work, and even--surprise!--that the U.S. is leading the world in energy efficiency. Power Hungry delivers a clear-eyed view of what's needed to transform the gargantuan global energy sector.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
"Oil is greener than nearly everything else that might replace it," writes Texas-based energy journalist and Energy Tribune managing editor Bryce in this contrarian, discontented approach to renewable energyEnergy sources must be judged, the author writes, by the four imperatives: power density, energy density, cost and scale. By that measure, oil is a good source of energy, while corn ethanol is not, since corn-ethanol production requires huge swaths of agricultural land put in the service of making something that is inferior to gasoline, containing "just two-thirds of gasoline's heat content." So far, so good-and indeed, the ethanol craze has already passed. But Bryce has it in for other much ballyhooed forms of energy production as well. Wind doesn't cut it because it takes lots of land to build towers that in turn don't produce much electricity, whereas a coal-burning plant performs wonders. The author harbors special hopes for nuclear energy, observing that many of its former foes-Stewart Brand notably among them-have since recanted. He is right to note that even if the United States succeeds in reducing carbon emissions to Kyoto Protocol levels, the rest of the world, and particularly the energy-poor world, will not "ignore the relatively low-cost power than can be derived from hydrocarbons." Though his arguments will provide comfort to the drill-baby-drill set, Bryce's recommendations are not without qualifications. He opposes mountaintop removal for coal, for instance, and has hope for an expanded role for solar power. Though he defends some of the old sources of energy production by assuming that technological improvements will remediate environmental damage, the author seemsreluctant to allow that renewable forms of energy are not static-wind generation technology is steadily improving, for instance, while biofuels are becoming ever easier and more cost-effective to produce. A little less sneering and fewer straw men would have improved this statistics-rich and generally capably argued case. Al Gore won't be blurbing this one, but advocates of renewable energy should familiarize themselves with the book, since oil, gas and coal lobbyists surely will.
Publishers Weekly
Journalist Bryce, author of Gusher of Lies and managing editor of online industry newsmagazine Energy Tribune, is nothing if not polemical. While his swings are sometimes familiar ("The essence of protecting the environment can be distilled to a single phrase: Small is beautiful") and sometimes bizarre ("The world isn't using too much oil. It's not using enough"), the points he raises merit serious consideration. In this informed, opinionated state-of-the-industry overview, Bryce contends that energy policy must be based upon four imperatives: "power density, energy density, cost and scale." Wind and solar power, he says, fail those standards due to storage problems and the vagaries of weather; Denmark, the poster child for renewable energy, nevertheless imports hydroelectric power from Norway and Sweden, relies heavily upon North Sea oil and coal, and increased its greenhouse gas emissions by 2.1 percent between 1990 and 2006. Pointing to the environmental cost of hydropower ("ruining habitats for aquatic life"), oil spills, and coal mining, Bryce makes a strong case for heavier reliance upon natural gas, a relatively clean and readily available carbon fuel, as a bridge technology: "The smartest, most forward-looking U.S. energy policy can be summed up in one acronym: 'N2N'," for "natural gas to nuclear power."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher

Kirkus
“Capably argued… advocates of renewable energy should familiarize themselves with the book, since oil, gas and coal lobbyists surely will.”

Philadelphia Inquirer
“Bryce is especially good at explaining why fossil fuels have become entrenched as our main energy sources.” 

Library Journal
“Bryce uses copious facts and research to make a compelling case that renewable sources have their place in our energy future but they aren't the viable panacea we're led to believe.”

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, April 23, 2010
“Any new Robert Bryce book, in my opinion, had one tough hurdle to clear: I’d found Bryce’s first book, Gusher of Lies, impossible to put down.”

American Spectator, April 26, 2010
“Endlessly fascinating reading.”

Wall Street Journal, April 27, 2010
“A brutal brilliant exploration… If Power Hungry sounds like a supercharged polemic, its shocks are delivered with forensic skill and narrative aplomb…. It is unsentimental, unsparing and impassioned; and, if you’ll excuse the pun, it is precisely the kind of journalism we need to hold truth to power.”

Washington Times, May 31, 2010
“[Bryce’s] magnificently unfashionable, superlatively researched new book dares to fly in the face of all current conventional wisdom and cant…. I have never yet found any book or author who does a more thorough, unanswerable job of demolishing universally held environmental myths than Mr. Bryce does…. Mr. Obama is reputed to be an omnivorous reader of serious intellectual volumes. He should drop everything else and put Robert Bryce’s invaluable book at the top of his list. So should every senator and Congress member and every self-important, scientifically illiterate pundit in America, right and left alike. They will all learn a lot.”
 
National Review, August 2, 2010
“Should be mandatory reading for U.S. policymakers.”

Library Journal
Most Americans view green jobs and green energy as our path to a clean energy future. Not so fast, proclaims energy journalist Bryce (Gusher of Lies); he challenges the scalability of renewable energy required for the world's enormous energy demand and explains why hydrocarbons (oil, coal) will be needed for a long time. With a strong stab at T. Boone Pickens's wind plan, he discredits wind power as a solution to environmental problems because all wind turbines must be backed up with gas-fired generators. Bryce considers unrealistic such ideas as carbon capture and sequestration, cellulosic ethanol, and electric cars. The solution for transitioning to a cleaner, lower-carbon future is N2N—natural gas to nuclear—because it has a higher power density and can provide the quantities of energy we need. VERDICT Bryce, whose home has solar panels, uses copious facts and research to make a compelling case that renewable sources have their place in our energy future but they aren't the viable panacea we're led to believe. Recommended for readers interested in both sides of the energy debate.—Eva Lautemann, Georgia Perimeter Coll. Lib., Clarkston
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586489533
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 4/26/2011
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 332,986
  • Product dimensions: 8.04 (w) x 5.56 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author


Robert Bryce has been producing industrial-strength journalism for two decades. He is the author most recently of Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of "Energy Independence." He lives in Austin.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 16 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A bracing look at our energy reality

    Few subjects carry as much doomsday weight as the battle over the future of global energy. Climate-change Cassandras and deniers, offshore-oil advocates and their opponents, all jostle for position amid a general consensus that the nations of the world need to move sooner rather than later to renewable sources of energy. But energy expert Robert Bryce, in more than 400 heavily footnoted, graphics-packed pages, simply whips out his calculator and does the math, with devastating results for that basic assumption. The modern industrialized world is utterly reliant on abundant supplies of affordable energy, he writes, and hydrocarbons - oil, coal and natural gas - are far and away the best sources for the cheap juice people want for their Macbooks and Maseratis. Forget wind and solar energy; they are simply too diffuse under current technology to make much of a dent in the world's thirst for power. So what's a worrier about melting ice caps to do? Bryce makes a very good case that a two-step plan is the only way out for the U.S.: America has enormous reserves of natural gas, so the nation should start with that, and use it until it can build an adequate number of nuclear reactors. Bryce tries a little too hard to make his point, including cracking lame jokes, but you'll never think about this issue with anything less than clarity again. getAbstract recommends this book to IT managers, heavy-industry executives, politicians and other big-picture planners seeking a real understanding of how to keep the lights on, long term.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2010

    This is a great book

    Picked it up for a quick look in a store, ended up reading it all the way through while there. It should be required reading for high school and college students. Bryce does an excellent job of laying out the fallacies underlying the use of "alternative" sources of energy. His tone mirrors that of strident eco-marxists, but his conclusions are based on facts, not politically-correct supposition, ignorance of natural law, and utopian daydreams. And that might be the main shortcoming of the book. It relies primarily on factual argument when most advocates of green solutions believe science should be subservient to a greater good defined by collectivism and nature worship. As far as I'm concerned, the book doesn't go far enough in stating how disastrous implementing the energy policies currently being advocated would be.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 2, 2011

    Poor Choice

    I found this book to be nothing more than a stale diatribe filled with misinformation that offers very little insight to an important topic.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

    Solar & Wind Boondoggles

    Haven't finished it yet but the disclosure of how inefficient these two energy sources are is upsetting because politicians seem to believe they will be the power of the future. Not!

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2010

    Well Thought Out and Clearly Presented

    This is a wonderful overview of the relative costs and potential of many potential energy sources. While it is not close to an exhaustive tome nor is it a comprehensive source, it is an excellent introduction to the problems that we face. The author makes a compelling case for a coherent energy policy, and he backs that case up with clearly explained reasons and just enough data to make his points. For those of us not 'in the know' in the energy world, this book is a great way to learn where we've been and where we should be going.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Energy needs, Present or Future

    Very informative book on a subject now upon us. What are our energy demands and how can we meet them, now and in the future.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2010

    well-done

    Although this certainly is not scholarly report, I would say, for the first time in a while, it combines the creativity of agnst of journalism with the empirical research to back.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    "Green energy," "climate change," "envi

    "Green energy," "climate change," "environment," "sustainability" are some of the very prominent buzzwords that that pup up with some frequency in the media these days. The planet is in grave peril, and unless we do something drastic about it we are all going to die. Or something to that effect. And the drastic measure almost always means abandoning fossil fuels, and replacing them with "sustainable" sources of energy, such as biomass, wind, solar, etc. Putting aside the validity of the danger that the environmental pollution may be causing, the notion that there are easy fixes in the form of alternative energy sources laying around are just not valid. After decades of subsidies, media coverage and promotion, the simple fact remains that these alternative sources of energy are far inferior to whatever we are using right now and no amount of additional funding will change that. And this has nothing to do with our efforts - this is all based on simple laws of physics. The mainstream sources of energy - primarily fossil fuels - are by far the most readily available, portable, and concentrated sources of energy that we have.




    "Power Hungry" is a great source of information on some of the basic principles that underlie any energy considerations. Robert Bryce provides considerable background on many of the more popular "alternative" energy solutions - wind, solar, ethanol - and why they are all based on hype that is well beyond anything that is reasonable to expect, either now or with any future technology. I was particularly shocked to find out how much additional "dirty" energy infrastructure needs to be built for the purpose of backing up some of the renewable power sources - wind and solar in particular. These sources of power are very inconsistent and unsuitable for providing sustained energy needs of any modern society. These considerations are, unfortunately, almost never discussed in the media.




    This is a very important book that goes well beyond the hype and the usual sanctimonies about the need for "clean" energy. Regardless of where you stand on the whole issue of climate change and the need to combat it, this book could provide you with some clear understanding of very real and very physical limits of what "clean" energy can provide. It's an important book that can add a lot of value to our public policy debates.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2012

    A Real Eye-opener. Finally getting to read something based on sc

    A Real Eye-opener. Finally getting to read something based on science. It is a shame that energy policy in this country is being created by non-scientists, non-economists. At a recent "green building" conference sponsored by a solar PV salesman, a lady raised her hand and asked, " I dont understand why we dont generate all our power with solar."

    If you are reading this and are wondering the same thing, you are part of the problem.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2012

    Unemotional Examination of Energy Needs

    This book is not for eco-warriors that dismiss facts out of hand without a fact based rebuttal. This is a practical examination of our energy needs and should be required reading for all of our politicians.

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    Posted November 7, 2010

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