Geologists Wright and Conca have compiled a colorfully illustrated manual for understanding energy sources, energy usage and its future around the world.
The authors take a new tack in exploring future energy needs: They consider the usage that will result when the entire population achieves a reasonable standard of living, as this provides a desirable ethical endpoint as well as a politically secure world. Wright and Conca explore the means of meeting this energy requirement by reviewing energy sources such as fossil fuels; renewables including biomass, hydroelectric, solar and wind; and geothermal and nuclear fuel. The discussion progresses with many details for the average reader, as well as charts and other illustrations, though those of a scientific bent might prefer reference citations for the many statistics and details provided. Following a section on energy use around the world and the economics of various power sources, the authors conclude that the future power source distribution should be evenly split among renewables, fossil fuel, specifically oil, and nuclear. The final third of the book is primarily devoted to explaining nuclear energy and waste handling, including the use of nuclear power around the world and in the United States. Wright and Conca outline the basic chemistry behind nuclear power and how it differs for weapons versus energy, as well as its impact on carbon dioxide emissions and recycling/waste handling. Drawing on their training and professional experience, the authors explain the geology of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and Yucca Mountain Repository in detail that is not often found in energy discussions. Finally, Wright and Conca conclude with recommendations for achieving the desired energy future: educate world citizens, begin building immediately to have needed energy 30 years from now, increase environmental consciousness at the governmental level, help developing nations avoid the mistakes of the past and implement a carbon tax. This is an easily absorbed, knowledge-enhancing introduction to energy usage, distribution and goals.
A useful educational title for a classroom or any citizen’s home.