The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy

Overview

A myth-shattering book that explains why energy is not scarce, why the price of energy doesn't matter very much, and why "waste" of energy is both necessary and desirable.

The sheer volume of talk about energy, energy prices, and energy policy on both sides of the political aisle suggests that we must know something about these subjects. But according to Peter W. Huber and Mark P. Mills, the things we think we know are mostly myths. In The Bottomless Well, Huber and Mills show ...

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The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy

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Overview

A myth-shattering book that explains why energy is not scarce, why the price of energy doesn't matter very much, and why "waste" of energy is both necessary and desirable.

The sheer volume of talk about energy, energy prices, and energy policy on both sides of the political aisle suggests that we must know something about these subjects. But according to Peter W. Huber and Mark P. Mills, the things we think we know are mostly myths. In The Bottomless Well, Huber and Mills show how a better understanding of energy will radically change our views and policies on a number of very controversial issues.

Writing in take-no-prisoners, urgently compelling prose, Huber and Mills explain why demand for energy will never go down, why most of what we think of as "energy waste" actually benefits us; why more efficient cars, engines, and bulbs will never lower demand, and why energy supply is infinite. In the automotive sector, gas prices matter less and less, and hybrid engines will most likely lead us to cars propelled by the coal-fired grid. As for the much-maligned power grid itself, it's the worst system we could have except for all the proposed alternatives. Expanding energy supplies mean higher productivity, more jobs, and a growing GDP. Across the board, energy isn't the problem, energy is the solution.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Contrary to "Lethargist" Chicken Littles who champion gas taxes and mileage standards, this free-market-oriented, techno-optimist manifesto insists that "[h]umanity is destined to find and consume more energy, and still more, forever." Huber, a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute (Hard Green; Galileo's Revenge; etc.), and venture capitalist and former Reagan administration staffer Mills contend that, in conjunction with our ever-increasing scientific know-how, consuming energy yields good things, including the ability to find and harness more energy. The authors develop intriguing contrarian challenges to the conventional wisdom (improved energy efficiency, they argue cogently, boosts energy demand instead of curbing it) and their discussions of new technologies-electric drive trains, awesome lasers, "dexterous robots"-that may profoundly reshape energy usage is illuminating. But their treatment of energy-consumption pitfalls like global warming is cursory and unconvincing, and they devote too little space to explaining exactly where new energy supplies will come from, and too much to assurances that "[f]uels recede, demand grows... but logic ascends, and with the rise of logic we attain the impossible-infinite energy, perpetual motion and the triumph of power." Long on Nietzschean bombast but short on some crucial specifics, theirs is an intriguing but incomplete vision of energy policy and prospects. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465031160
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 1/16/2005
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.48 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Huber is a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute's Center for Legal Policy, where he specializes in issues related to technology, science, and law. His previous books include Hard Green, Liability, and Galileo's Revenge. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland. Mark P. Mills, a founding partner of Digital Power Capital, is a physicist who once served as a staff consultant on technology to the White House Science Office. He lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

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Table of Contents

1 The twilight of fuel and the ascent of power 1
2 Voracious technologies 24
3 The virtue of waste 44
4 Saving the perilously efficient grid 58
5 Fueling the silicon car 75
6 Bulbs, radios, and negawatts 91
7 The paradox of efficiency 108
8 Power, productivity, jobs and GDP 124
9 Insatiable demand 138
10 Saving the planet with coal and uranium 156
11 Infinite supply 172
12 The power of life 189
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2006

    Interesting, but...

    The parts of this book that cover the history of energy use and technical aspects of efficiency and the refining of power are interesting and somewhat of a fresh prespective. The thing that bothers me is that the authors basically discount any possibility of fossile fuels becoming suddenly scarce. If the fuel disruptions of the 70s sent ripples through the political and economic system, what would happen if actual supplies really did drop permanently in a short period of time? It seems like their whole defense of letting energy extraction and use continue its present course hinges on the impossibility of a sudden drop in oil and gas production in the face of rising demand. If the peak oil people are wrong then these guys are probably close to being right. I hope that they are, but I fear that they are not.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2005

    E for effort, F for content

    Gee, another GOP conservative telling us high gas prices are good (like the brown outs were good for California) and all the independent minds who say otherwise are just... alarmists. Creative statistics aside, take a good look at who is writing and/or endorsing this book before you accent their logic.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2005

    Pump our energy to the next level

    Energy begins with ideas, not hype. At last we have positive ideas about the impact of energy in our lives. Ideas that shed light on the dark ages of disinformation about the human presence. Climbing the efficiency food chain yields progress for society, for the economy and for ecology. Those who advance false scientific theory to promote lethargy appear to be concerned about protecting the environment. This new light exposes the defeatism of the tax and conserve mantra. Global warming and the energy shortage are a shill for defeatism and lethargy. 'The Bottomless Well' exposes the farce by re-affirming the second law of thermodynamics - 'every system left to itself will change to a position of maximum entropy'. Better energy policy proceed from energy. Maximum entropy is achieved by freedom and entrepeneurialism independent of political interference. This is the process consumption fosters: MORE EFFICIENT consumption - to the end that energy sources are nurtured rather than exploited. 'Lethargists' have no such vision...we just GET LESS. J.F. - Missouri

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2005

    Insightful !

    Most books on energy proceed with all the plodding predictability of an oil station pumping up and down in the middle of Nowhere, Texas: There's only so much oil, it's being consumed faster and faster, so someday the spigot must squeak dry. Authors and contrarians Peter W. Huber and Mark P. Mills stand up in the court of global opinion to pound loudly on the oil drum of iconoclasm. The question before the world jury: Is this a work of genius, or a perfect illustration of the fact that some energy is indeed wasted? This book reflects diligent-if-tendentious research and unapologetically advances highly unpopular, and potentially inaccurate, theories. These include the notion that making industrial processes more energy efficient results in increased consumption. It asserts that energy development is a perpetual motion machine that rewards increased consumption with ever-expanding supplies, and that wasting energy is both inevitable and virtuous, as it leads ultimately to greater supply and production. This last notion is not so far-fetched in light of nuclear fusion and the ongoing convergence of digital and genetic technologies. We recommend this unique perspective to those interested in a different take on the world's sustainability dilemma. If nothing else, it will give you something extremely controversial to read while the jury is still out.

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