"Short of building an ark or two, this sensible, readable handbook offers the best prospects for collective investment in an uncertain future."
by Carol Van Strum, Department of the Planet Earth
Every day, more people finally “get it.” Global warming is for real and getting worse faster than previously expected. M. King Hubbert’s oil peak looms, and cheap petroleum is a thing of the past. We face an energy crisis. This book tells you what you need to do to meet the challenge. The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook provides a/em>… See more details below
Every day, more people finally “get it.” Global warming is for real and getting worse faster than previously expected. M. King Hubbert’s oil peak looms, and cheap petroleum is a thing of the past. We face an energy crisis. This book tells you what you need to do to meet the challenge. The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook provides a clear-eyed view of the current energy situation and points toward a sustainable path forward. Greg Pahl examines renewable energy technologies currently available and homes in on strategies that can be adopted by individuals and, especially, communities. Such cooperative initiatives have been common in Europe for years and are beginning to gain a foothold in the U.S. because these medium-scale projects successfully bring people together to create collective energy security for a neighborhood, town, or region while strengthening the local economy. Each chapter focuses on a different renewable energy sector—solar, wind, water, biomass, liquid biofuels, and geothermal—then reviews their advantages and disadvantages and describes numerous examples of proven local initiatives. The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook is an eloquent appeal and a practical handbook for community and regional action to deal head-on with environmental challenges and to take responsibility for energy supplies now controlled by large, distant utilities and consortiums. This is the book for anyone ready to take meaningful steps toward a more sustainable future.
Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook
I've just set down The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook: Community Solutions to a Global Crisis by Greg Pahl.
He's the guy who wrote Biodiesel: Growing a New Energy Economy, which we sell at the Co-op. We also sell his Natural Home Heating book. Neither one hold a candle to his latest. This book is fantastic.
When a copy arrived in a cardboard box in the control room, I set it next to my phone for about a month. It's a long title, with a boring cover, and I was afraid it was going to be an exercise in "listing."
I remember doing an interview with Greg a long time ago. Back when he was working on this book. And he ran some of the biofuels section past me--as sort of a fact checking thing. And when that was done, I forgot all about it.
Having recently reviewed Small is Possible--which is an object lesson in how to turn a list into a book--and having a vague memory of Pahl's Biodiesel book, which lists some B20 trials, I was worried that I had another "list" book on my desk.
I should note that my review of Greg's Biodiesel book was the first book review on Energy Blog, and that it was seventeen reviews ago…
But I figured that if I was to dig into a list, I'd like to revisit Homer's catalogue of ships in the Iliad. On first blush, that seemed more appealing than delving into this book.
But I was wrong about that. The foreword by Richard Heinberg is "Heinberg as Usual," only with a more positive spin.
And Pahl's introduction, followed by a chapter on "Energy Choices" should be required reading for everyone in the country. In thirty some odd pages he lays down a primer on energy that is clear, concise, and accurate.
And he then embarks on a crawl through of solar, and wind, and water, and biofuels, etc.
What I especially like about this book is that Pahl is part of the story. Gone is the cold objectivity of his biodiesel book. He puts in photos of the solar hot water system on his own house in Vermont. And of the pellet stove in his basement. He talks about taking the train to a Peak Oil Conference, and how when he arrives he and one other attendee has taken public transportation. Everyone else showed up in cars.
His move into first person journalism makes the book much more compelling. Dr. Hunter S. Thompson would be proud. This is a book about successful renewable energy projects written by a guy who has clearly thought deeply about his own energy consumption, and invested heavily in the game.
His own experiences give him credibility on the subject and make his reporting of other people's projects seem much more powerful. The other day the Abundance Foundation did some tabling out in Research Triangle Park. They were beset upon by a chiropractor from Cary who was pro nuclear, and anti biofuels, and when they returned from the experience they came to me for some guidance.
I lent them this book.
They are so jazzed by what they have read, they are buying a dozen copies, to give to every County Commissioner and Town Councilor they can find. Which is genius.
When Rebecca encountered the book, she yawned. But she has read all of Heinberg, and most of the energy canon, and she's a solar installer. Same was true of Matt's response. Matt also panned Biodiesel America, which I found to be a great book. It's a good thing Pahl isn't writing for energy snobs.
People who have read every book they can find about biodiesel, and peak oil, and climate change, are not going to find the Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook full of radical new ideas that set them on fire.
Which means the renewable energy hardcore fringe is not the target for this book. This book is a survey. It surveys energy paradigms, and it surveys successful projects. It also stays positive. It is masterfully written. The fact that Johnny Weis, the founder of SEI wants Carbondale Colorado to adopt micro-hydro, makes micro-hydro a real possibility. The fact that Carbondale is powered by coal is not the point.
This book is about what is possible. It should be embraced by the folks at Yes! magazine.
And every politician in the land should be reading it tonight.
I learned a lot from reading this book. And I tried to read it from the perspective of a newcomer to the energy scene. It inspired me. And I am glad to have it on the shelf.
Which is not quite true. The copy in our library is checked out right now. My advice would be to buy a copy for your own collection. It's the kind of book you will want to have on hand…
Piedmont Biofuels, Energy Blog
"As the world passes through Peak Oil and society begins to Powerdown and Relocalize, this book will be of tremendous assistance to citizens and communities. Greg Pahl succinctly outlines why we need to use much less energy and then gives options and examples of how renewable energy can be produced locally. This handbook should be on the work-desk of anyone planning for a Post Carbon world."
--Julian Darley, founder and director Post Carbon Institute
"The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook should be in the hands of every community activist across North America. It promises to be the catalyst that finally moves community ownership to the forefront of renewable energy development.
--Paul Gipe, author of Wind Power: Renewable Energy for Home, Farm, and Business
"Greg Pahl's Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook is a lucid, easy-to-read guide to what citizens of the planet can do about our energy dilemmas."
--Dan Berman, author of Who Owns the Sun?
"If you have read enough already about our problems and are motivated to get to work, this book is for you. It goes far beyond being a primer on renewable energy technologies. By placing renewable energy into a broad social context, it will help citizens work cooperatively with governments and businesses to create community-scaled solutions. I wish I'd had this book years ago."
--Dr. Jason Bradford, Willits Economic LocaLization
"As oil reserves dwindle and global warming accelerates, a rapid switch to renewable energy is imperative. The question is whether it will lead us into a solar-powered corporate dictatorship, or a decentralized mix of autonomous and geographically appropriate energy sources. Greg Pahl's Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook provides an inspiring vision and a wonderfully specific blueprint for beginning to save both the planet and our other greatest natural resource--our own shredded sense of community."
--Ross Gelbspan, author of Boiling Point and The Heat Is On
Solar roof panels, backyard wind turbines and biofuel stills: in this how-to vision of a future without hydrocarbon fuels, small really is beautiful. Faced with the paired (and frightfully imminent) dangers of global warming and the point at which half the total recoverable oil on Earth has been extracted and production begins to decline, Pahl champions a spectrum of alternative energy sources. Separate chapters on water, geothermal and biomass (firewood and plant matter) energies in addition to solar, wind and biofuel (the distillate of corn, soy and other crops) sources are both practical and inspirational. First comes technical information; then Pahl reports on community and cooperative alternative-energy successes. In Asheville, N.C., 24 clustered townhouses use solar panels for heat and hot water. Toronto powers 250 homes with a cooperative-owned lakeshore wind turbine. Micro-hydro projects (100 kilowatts or less) power small businesses and homes in Nepal, Pakistan and off-the-grid American communities. A short-run train in Sweden�a nation committed to achieving an oil-free economy by 2020�runs on biogas generated by fermenting cow guts; it gets about two-and-a-half miles per cow�proof, as this readable book illustrates, that ingenuity and small-bore efforts are one way to deal with an energy crisis. (Mar.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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