An evaluation of the potential energy technologies of the future that draws on a sports metaphor to choose a winner.

The Future of Clean Energy

WHO WINS AND WHO LOSES AS THE WORLD GOES GREEN

A debut book examines the most likely energy developments of the next decades.

In this science and policy volume, Schwendiman uses the Super Bowl as the organizing metaphor for a discussion of the competing visions of the future of energy in the United States. Technologies belong to either the Fuel Conference (gasoline, ethanol) or the Electricity Conference (nuclear, solar) and face off against each other as the author evaluates their potential as primary power sources in the 21st century and beyond. The book comes down firmly in favor of both nuclear power and ethanol production and does not hesitate to make sweeping pronouncements: “Nuclear energy is the solution to all electricity problems in the world.” The supporting arguments are largely persuasive, although many of the book’s citations point to news articles and industry publications as opposed to independent research. Schwendiman favors the small modular reactor, a compact form of the device that overcomes many of the objections to large-scale nuclear plants. He makes largely compelling arguments for the technology’s safety, although his tendency to attribute the problems of Chernobyl and Fukushima to shortcomings in Soviet and Japanese cultures is less convincing. The book also examines the futures of wind, hydroelectric power, solar energy, and natural gas and finds them far less viable in the long run. Schwendiman is clearly knowledgeable about both the scientific and financial aspects of the energy processes described in the volume, although he sometimes oversimplifies the data, as in a graph of oil prices showing a smooth curve increasing from 1985 to 2050 that ignores the price fluctuations to date. Although this work is not authoritative enough to put an end to debates over the future of energy or inspire universal enthusiasm for nuclear power and ethanol, it does an excellent job of organizing current knowledge of the technologies and their potential for meeting the world’s energy needs.

An evaluation of the potential energy technologies of the future that draws on a sports metaphor to choose a winner.

Pub Date: Dec. 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4969-4042-1

Page Count: 216

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2016

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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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