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

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


“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. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019



A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020