No Immediate Danger: Volume One of Carbon Ideologies

No Immediate Danger: Volume One of Carbon Ideologies

by William T. Vollmann


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“The most honest book about climate change yet.” —The Atlantic

The Infinite Jest of climate books.” —The Baffler

A timely, eye-opening book about climate change and energy generation that focuses on the consequences of nuclear power production, from award-winning author William T. Vollmann

In his nonfiction, William T. Vollmann has won acclaim as a singular voice tackling some of the most important issues of our age, from poverty to violence to the dark soul of American imperialism as it has played out on the U.S./Mexico border. Now, Vollmann turns to a topic that will define the generations to come—the factors and human actions that have led to global warming. Vollmann begins No Immediate Danger, the first volume of Carbon Ideologies, by examining and quantifying the many causes of climate change, from industrial manufacturing and agricultural practices to fossil fuel extraction, economic demand for electric power, and the justifiable yearning of people all over the world to live in comfort. Turning to nuclear power first, Vollmann then recounts multiple visits that he made at significant personal risk over the course of seven years to the contaminated no-go zones and sad ghost towns of Fukushima, Japan, beginning shortly after the tsunami and reactor meltdowns of 2011. Equipped first only with a dosimeter and then with a scintillation counter, he measured radiation and interviewed tsunami victims, nuclear evacuees, anti-nuclear organizers and pro-nuclear utility workers.

Featuring Vollmann's signature wide learning, sardonic wit, and encyclopedic research, No Immediate Danger, whose title co-opts the reassuring mantra of official Japanese energy experts, builds up a powerful, sobering picture of the ongoing nightmare of Fukushima.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399563492
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/10/2018
Pages: 624
Sales rank: 1,164,752
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.40(h) x 2.20(d)

About the Author

William T. Vollmann is the author of ten novels, including Europe Central, which won the National Book Award. He has also written four collections of stories, including The Atlas, which won the PEN Center USA West Award for Fiction, a memoir, and six works of nonfiction, including Rising Up and Rising Down and Imperial, both of which were finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His journalism and fiction have been published in The New Yorker, Harpers, Esquire, Granta, and many other publications.


Sacramento, California

Date of Birth:

July 28, 1959

Place of Birth:

Santa Monica, California


Attended Deep Springs College and Cornell University

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When We Kept the Lights On

Excerpted from "No Immediate Danger"
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Copyright © 2019 William T. Vollmann.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

List of Maps and Illustrations xvi

0 When We Kept the Lights On 1

About* the "Primer" Section 17

About Tables 19

About Photographs 20


What Was the Work For? 25

Power Wastage by Group-Driven Machine Tools, ca. 1945 32

About Waste 33

Power Wastage During Machining Operations at an Unspecified Toyota Factory, ca. 2000 38

Power Wastage by Devices in Standby Mode, 2000-2010 41

About Demand 42

What Was the Work For? (continued) 44

Ratios of Per Capita Power Consumption to Per Capita Gross Domestic Product 51

Comparative Energy Requirements, in multiples of 1 British Thermal Unit I 55

About Power 60

Per Capita Power Consumption, ca. 1925 and ca. 2014, in multiples of the 1925 Japanese average 63

Comparative Power Requirements and Energy Usages, in multiples of what was needed per minute ca. 1975 to operate a plug-in vibrator 67

What Was the Work For? (continued) 76

Energy Required to Move an American Car One Mile, 1949 and 2010 76

Carbon Ideologies Approached 79

About Data 89

About Data Suppression 91

About Disbelief 93

"Consider It Good Fortune" 96

Carbon Dioxide Concentrations in Our Atmosphere, as Recorded at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, 1959 and 2004, in multiples of the 1959 value 96

Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Fuel Combustion, World and Selected Countries, 1971 and 2004, in multiples of the U.S. percentage increase over that period 98

Carbon Ideologies Defined 104

About Carbon 106

About Agriculture 111

The Three Most Dangerous Greenhouse Gases as of 2011, their percentage increases since 1750 and their percentages of total national emissions 120

About Industrial Chemicals 124

The Parable of Adipic Acid 128

About Manufacturing 132

Energy and Coal Requirements to Manufacture One Pound Each of the "Big Five" Materials, ca. 2013, in multiples of the energy needed for cement 134

About Transportation 143

The Three Most Dangerous Sectors of Human Activity, 2012-14 144

Maximum-Range Carbon Dioxide Emissions of Selected Aircraft, in multiples of the "Pampa" Argentine attack jet's (2003) 148

About Power Plants 150

Innate Energies versus Actual Electric Power Generated: Oil, Coal and Natural Gas, in multiples of the energy loss for oil (U.S.A., 2014) 152

Comparative Power Efficiencies, in multiples of lowest gas-turbine efficiency as of 1957 155

Power and Climate 158

Power Generation's Share of Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Selected Countries, 2007-14, in multiples of the 2012 European Union value 158

Primary Greenhouse Gas and Precursor Emissions from American Power Generation, 2014, in multiples of the value for nitrous oxide 159

About Solar Energy 161

Solar Energy En Route to Earth's Surface, by seasonal angular alterations and by atmospheric absorption and refraction, ca. 1957, 1976 161

About Greenhouse Gases 170

Comparative Carbon Dioxide Emissions of Power Plants, 2014, in multiples of those released by natural gas facilities 170

Comparative One-Century Global Warming Potentials, in multiples of carbon dioxide's 176

Comparative Responsibilities for Greenhouse Gas Emissions, 2007, in multiples of the figure for food production 188

About Fuels 189

Average Fuel Consumption in Moving One American Electric Light Rail Car One Mile, ca. 1979, in multiples of pounds of gasoline required 192

Carbon Dioxide Emissions of Common Fuels, in multiples of natural gas's (2007) 199

Carbon Dioxide Emissions of Common Fuels, in multiples of lignite's 200

Criticisms of Common Fuels, 1980-2012 205

Comparative Calorific Efficiencies, in multiples of the thermal energy of blast furnace gas 208


Nuclear Ideology 221

About Uranium 228

Calorific Efficiencies of Coal, Oil, Natural Gas, Uranium-235 and Plutonium-239, in multiples of the thermal energy of coal 234

About Nuclear Reactors 236

1 Lower than for Real Estate Agents 241

Comparative Measured Radiation Levels, 2014-15 (with Hiroshima readings from 2017), in multiples of lowest Sacramento interior reading 244

March 2011: When the Wind Blows from the South (Fukushima) 257

Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Fossil Fuels: Japan, U.S. and World, 1980 and 2011, in multiples of the 1980 Japanese value 275

February 2014: Harmful Rumors (Fukushima) 322

Relative Strontium-90 Concentrations in Perch Lake (Canada), 1963 342

October 2014, with a Hanford Excursion in August 2015: The Red Zones (Hanford, Washington; Fukushima) 396

Lowest and Highest Measured One-Minute Average Radioactivities in Selected Safe Cities, 2014-15 410

Concentrations of Radioactive Phosphorus at Hanford Nuclear Site, 1954-58 417

Other Concentration Factors at Hanford, 1954-58 417

Measured Radioactivities of Selected Drainpipes and Sewer Gratings, 2014-15 419

Comparative Average Radiation Levels, 2014, in multiples of the Sacramento average 425

Cesium Concentrations in Iitate Mushrooms, 2014 442

Cesium-137 Released in the World's Two Worst Nuclear Disasters 469

How Radioactive Was It? or, Extracts from an Official Website 487

Normalization on the Rocks 499

Lowest and Highest Radiation Measurements in Selected Red Zone Cities, 2014 502

Their Standard Is as Arbitrary as Ours: Some allowable cesium concentrations in food, Ukraine and Japan 506

Postscript: Japan Sees the Light 513

Global Distribution of Nuclear Reactors in 2014, with added statistics 513

Definitions, Units and Conversions 517

Table 1: Commonly Mentioned Radiocontaminants in Fukushima 537

Table 2: Other Isotopes of Interest 539

Radioactivity of Selected Library Interiors, 2014-15 542

Dosimeter and Frisker Readings at Various Dental X-Ray Settings, 2015 552

Multiples of Outdoor Background Level at Dentist's Office, 2015 553

Carbon Dioxide Emissions of Various Fuels When Producing 2013 American Winter Peak Electrical Load Capacity, in multiples of natural gas's 598

Acknowledgments 601

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