"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.
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."
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“Capably argued… advocates of renewable energy should familiarize themselves with the book, since oil, gas and coal lobbyists surely will.”
“Bryce is especially good at explaining why fossil fuels have become entrenched as our main energy sources.”
“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.”
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