Review (Guest): Power Hungry–The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future

5 Star, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Complexity & Catastrophe, Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Economics, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
Amazon Page

Author Robert Bryce

92 of 93 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Nutrition Action for Energy Appetites,
 April 16, 2010
ByJon Boone (Oakland, MD USA) – See all my reviews

With Power Hungry, energy journalist and Austin apiarist Robert Bryce marshals lots of accurate numbers in context to make plain how modern culture exacts power from energy to save time, increase wealth, and raise standards of living. He also dispenses common sense to citizens and policy makers for an improved environment, a better, more productive economy, and more enlightened civil society. Inspired by the environmental economics of Rockefeller University’s Jesse Ausubel and the University of Manitoba’s prolific Vaclav Smil, he makes the case for continuing down the path of de-carbonizing our machine fuels–a process begun two hundred years ago when we turned from wood to fossil fuels and huge reservoirs of impounded water. As the world’s population continues to urbanize, people will inevitably demand cleaner, healthier, environmentally sensitive energy choices.

Today, the world uses hydrocarbons for 90 percent of its energy, getting a lot of bang for its buck. Bryce offers convincing evidence that, over the next several generations, particularly since broad energy transformations require much time and financial investment, relatively cleaner burning natural gas will provide a bridge to pervasive use of nuclear power–” the only always-on, no-carbon source than can replace significant amounts of coal in our electricity generation portfolio.” And if nuclear ultimately becomes the centerpiece for the electricity sector, which constitutes about 40 percent of our total energy use, this development would accelerate the de-carbonization of the transportation and heating sectors as well.

His narrative transcends the current climate change debate. He thinks the evidence on either side is equivocal, at best provisional, and, even if it could be proven conclusively that humans were responsible for precipitously warming the earth by producing a surfeit of carbon dioxide, there is little that could be done about the situation now that would be consequential or practical, except embrace imaginative adaptation approaches.

Bryce organizes his ideas around four interrelated “Imperatives” that serve as a prime motif for human history and explain much contemporary circumstance: power density, energy density, scale and cost. He shows that, although energy is the ability to do work, what people really crave is the ability to control the rate at which work gets done–power. Performing work faster means more time to do something else. This begets an appetitive feedback loop, where more power unleashes more time to produce more power. As the scale of this process increases, costs are reduced, making what power creates more affordable.

Continue reading “Review (Guest): Power Hungry–The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future”

Review (Guest): Gusher of Lies–The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence

5 Star, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Complexity & Catastrophe, Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Economics, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
Amazon Page

Author Robert Bryce

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars Energy Independence, Alchemy and Perpetual Motion, September 23, 2008
ByScrutinizing Consumer (Los Angeles, CA) – See all my reviews

“A Gusher of Lies” is a must-read for those wanting the cold, hard facts on the current state and future prospects of worldwide energy dynamics. Written by Robert Bryce, a fellow at the Institute for Energy Research and energy journalist and author for the past twenty years, “Gusher of Lies” is meticulously researched and footnoted (60+ pages of bibliography and references). It relies on numerical facts, realistic forecasts and opinions of key members of the scientific community to dispel any notion that the United States will ever achieve “energy independence” until another energy source/application, that does not currently exist, is invented. The alarming truth is the United States, along with every other developed country on the planet, are inexorably dependent on fossil fuels and will be for the foreseeable future.

While looking at the numbers, one should ask how “energy independence” has become such a dominant theme. Is it because the Middle East is evil and wants Westerners dead? Perhaps. Perhaps not. The oil behemoths of the Middle East need the West as much as, if not more than, we need them. Oil makes up ~7% of total U.S. imports but accounts for between 65 and 95 percent of Persian Gulf exports, depending on the nation. In the long term, economics tend to supplant all other factors. To claim energy independence will significantly reduce terrorism is a contrivance. While there is no denying that some Middle Eastern players have been linked to Islamic fundamentalists, most terrorist organizations are low-tech in nature and don’t need oil dollars. Their financing has been found to come from drugs, human trafficking, weapons trading and other criminal activities. The cost to finance terrorist operations is a rounding error compared to the $5 trillion in annual energy revenues. Not to mention other, rapidly expanding economies will happily buy up much of what the U.S. doesn’t in their laser-focused goal to enjoy what the U.S. has for many decades.

Why aren’t politicians and special interests clamoring for semi-conductor independence? Semiconductors are also a vital commodity, yet the U.S. imports ~80% of its total semiconductor needs compared to ~60% for oil. The U.S. is also dependent on others for many other crucial commodities – manganese for making steel (100% imported), bauxite for making aluminum (100%), graphite (100%), platinum (91%), tin (88%), titanium (85%)… The list of dependencies goes on and on. So why have so many people latched on to “energy independence” when a brief examination of worldwide energy sources and demand would reveal the absurdity of such a goal in a globally interdependent world? The answer might be found in the term, “energy independence” itself. In the year 2000, a news data base, Factivia, that tracks the use of terms and phrases in major periodicals counted 449 total stories using the phrase. Since 9/11, the use of the term has risen exponentially. In 2006 the term was used in 8,069 stories. Power misers (no pun intended) and others seeking to influence behavior of the masses are always looking for issues that will appeal to, and even manipulate, people’s emotions. It is worth mentioning that since “Gusher of Lies” was published in March 2008 the use of the phrase “Energy Independence” has dwindled and been altered. If one listens closely, phrases like “CLOSER to energy independence” and similar semantically adjusted phrases have become more common.

Continue reading “Review (Guest): Gusher of Lies–The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence”

Journal: Senators Kerry & Lieberman Fail the Smell Test

03 Economy, 05 Energy

My good friend Robert Bryce tries to inject a little truth into a green technology known as Carbon Capture. He is author of several energy-related books, including the the book shown below.

May 12, 2010

A Bad Bet on Carbon


 On Wednesday John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman introduced their long-awaited Senate energy bill, which includes incentives of $2 billion per year for carbon capture and sequestration, the technology that removes carbon dioxide from the smokestack at power plants and forces it into underground storage. This significant allocation would come on top of the $2.4 billion for carbon capture projects that appeared in last year’s stimulus package.


Amazon Page

That’s a lot of money for a technology whose adoption faces three potentially insurmountable hurdles: it greatly reduces the output of power plants; pipeline capacity to move the newly captured carbon dioxide is woefully insufficient; and the volume of waste material is staggering. Lawmakers should stop perpetuating the hope that the technology can help make huge cuts in the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions.


 See also, by the same author:

Amazon Page