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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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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