As I said last week, I’m a fan of Robert Bryce’s book Power Hungry. His points are clearly stated, largely supported by data and quantitative analysis, and his style is very readable. But, being a fan doesn’t mean I agree with all of the statements he makes in his book – climate change being the perfect example. Here is a section of his pages on why he’s not a climate change believer:
My skepticism about the conventional wisdom on global warming arises from two main points. First, I adhere to one of the oldest maxims in science: Correlation does not prove causation. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere may be increasing, but that does not necessarily prove that the carbon dioxide is causing any warming that may be occurring.
Power Hungry ~pg. 150
I am glad that Bryce is a skeptical individual – the results of this skepticism resulted in a very good book full of quantitative analysis on subjects that have largely become qualitative debates, focused on sound bites and voter approval. I like that he questions the validity of global climate change accelerated by human actions – the best beliefs are those acquired after a large amount of questioning, soul-searching, and data crunching.
But, while I agree that “correlation does not prove causation” I find that this section of Bryce’s book lacks the quantitative analysis and scientific approach that most of the other pages include. This feeling is reinforced when Bryce states that:
For me, in many ways, the science [of climate change] no longer matters because discussions about the science have become so vituperative and politicized.
Power Hungry ~pg. 150
Dismissing a concept because the arguments surrounding them have become intense, negative, and political is a poor choice. Many important issues are highly contested and debated – exiting the conversation and closing your mind to the reality of climate change because the debate has gotten a bit hairy… I just don’t support that choice at all. Further, I feel that the statement “the science no longer matters” flies in the face of what this book is trying to do – dispute myths and support truths through quantitative analysis (the science).
That being said, Bryce’s statements regarding the difficulty of substituting enough hydrocarbons to decrease U.S. carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 are nicely discussed.
There is no doubt that, should the U.S. choose to aggressively tackle its carbon emissions “problem”, replacing hydrocarbons will not be easy.
But, difficulty is not a good justification for inaction.
“We don’t give a damn about energy. What we want is power.”
~Power Hungry, Ch. 1
The difference between energy and power…
- Energy is the ability to do work.
- Power is the rate at which work gets done.
The two can be related using time:
- Power = Energy/time
We care about how much power we have, not how much energy. It is more power that allows us to move more quickly. Power is what accomplishes tasks – energy is just lip service.
This week, I read Robert Bryce’s book, Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future. The book was published in January 2010 and for those who have grown tired of dated commentary that has lost its applicability, Bryce’s writing is a great find. The ideas and analysis presented run head-on into the tangle of political ideologies, propoganda, and other qualitative discussions – refuting them not through more words, but through more quantitative analysis and discussion of results. All presented in a readable fashion that doesn’t require an advanced engineering degree to decipher.
That being said, I should add that I do not necessarily agree with all of the conclusions drawn in this book. But, these differences occur not because of a lack of quantitative data to support Bryce’s conclusions. Rather, I believe that in the energy debate and drive toward a sustainable energy future, there are many paths that we could take. Bryce refutes several currently held beliefs in the energy community and presents his ideas on how our energy systems can most successfully evolve. While I like certain aspects of his energy development plan, if I were queen for a day (as he is king for the purpose of his book), I would choose a slightly different path.
Over the next (probably) few weeks, I will write about different arguments and discussions presented in this book.
First up – Americans vs. the Danes: Who’s winning outside of the pitch?
This week, I’m diving into a book written by Austin-based author, Robert Bryce.
Of Bryce’s four books, I’ve decided to first dive into Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future. This choice was ultimately made when this book was the first to become available via the Austin Public Library system. The book arrived at my local branch yesterday.
I’m currently on page 24 – my goal is to finish the book this week, while still finishing all required reading for my summer school classes, writing a chapter of my thesis, and meeting all of my research goals. Fingers crossed.
What I’ve learned (more accurately, what I’ve been told – I haven’t looked at the footnotes to check into the calculations yet) so far:
- Bryce puts a lot of emphasis on quantitative analysis – the data. (Sweet!)
- Quantitative analysis shows that a “green” energy future isn’t feasible unless we’re willing to forgo the cheap energy that has afforded the United States many of its opportunities for growth and advancement.
- The best option for the U.S. is to first transition to natural gas (short-term) on the way to nuclear power as the main energy source for the country (TBD how the transportation sector fits in here – assume Bryce will discuss this later in the book).