A passionate, valuable, and detailed blueprint for remaking the shape of everyday energy production.

FREEING ENERGY

HOW INNOVATORS ARE USING LOCAL-SCALE SOLAR AND BATTERIES TO DISRUPT THE GLOBAL ENERGY INDUSTRY FROM THE OUTSIDE IN

An energy book discusses the many possible alternatives to fossil fuels.

At its heart, Nussey’s wide-ranging work on the renewable and alternative energy possibilities is about disruption—of the status quo and the complacency of the fossil fuel industry. He cites a well-known series of such disruptions even from comparatively recent technological history: The internet decimated newspapers; email and services like FedEx largely replaced snail mail as a means of communication and delivery; electric lights displaced gas lamps; and so on. “In each case, existing market structures were upended,” the author writes. “Enormous new companies emerged as incumbents became less relevant.” His book presents a wide array of possible disruptors to those existing market structures, fuels like “green hydrogen” and of course the ubiquitous “super-abundant electricity” designed to free millions of people living without access to cheap, easy energy. Nussey refers to this group of alternative sources as “fuels 2.0,” and he stresses that he’s talking about local energy: individuals, communities, and area businesses finally taking control of “one of the most essential parts of our lives—energy.” This small-scale, local focus stands in contrast to the current situation, where, as the author points out, energy is exclusively controlled. In most parts of the world, electricity services are monopolies, with only one company allowed to sell kilowatt hours. “With no competition,” he writes, “innovation is stifled and often non-existent.” Hence, the disruption represented by rooftop solar panels and “microgrids.”

Nussey writes engagingly, and he’s strongest in the most crucial element of a book like this: lucidly and vigorously explaining the science and technology behind fuels 2.0. He’s interviewed many key players in the potential energy revolution, which he characterizes as both top-down and bottom-up: “The power industry is slowly (very slowly) shedding its roots as a fuel-driven, asset heavy, top-down business into something that is increasingly defined by the economics of technology.” He’s clear that one of the key aspects of that revolution is the refinement and widespread deployment of batteries and storage systems for the power generated by renewables. Batteries and storage systems are going to be a core part of the future of electric power, he writes, “be it a grid-scale wind farm, a community solar project, a solar rooftop, or a tiny system that can power a few LED lights in Africa after the sun goes down.” The author is passionate in advocating for change, but he’s also unfailingly realistic. Skeptics wary of overly idealistic daydreaming on the subject of clean energy will find Nussey a doggedly cleareyed guide to what he rightly calls “the treacherous divide between wild-goose-chases and billion-dollar opportunities.” He tackles the implementation of these alternatives on every level of manufacture and production, and his emphasis on individual options will deeply engage readers who feel trapped on the treadmill of big energy.

A passionate, valuable, and detailed blueprint for remaking the shape of everyday energy production.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7325446-3-5

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Mountain Ambler Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2021

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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