High-order muckraking and an excellent primer for addressing the real question: How are we going to handle energy...

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GUSHER OF LIES

THE DANGEROUS DELUSIONS OF “ENERGY INDEPENDENCE”

America’s energy discussions contain “far too much religion and far too little science,” writes the author, who carefully, gleefully throttles the meaningless rhetoric driving the cry for energy independence.

Energy Tribune managing editor and Texas Observer contributor Bryce (Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, America’s Superstate, 2004, etc.) offers mostly convincing arguments that don’t require an advanced degree to follow. Our nation is hungry for energy, he notes. Our energy is dominated by oil, no alternative comes close to it in cost and efficiency, and none will for decades to come. We haven’t produced enough oil for our needs for half a century; we no longer can, nor ever will again. Bryce starts by systematically debunking grandiose claims made for alternative energy sources. Corn ethanol is his bête noire, a subsidized hoax on the American taxpayer that could never meet more than a fraction of our energy needs. Cellulosic ethanol and coal-to-liquid are both way down the road, he declares; wind and solar, his personal favorites, are fractional producers. In a voice ardent and beseeching, Bryce urges Americans to educate themselves about the world’s biggest enterprise, to have at least a modest grasp of thermodynamics, to rationally assess the costs and potential benefits of available resources. That last step includes taking a realistic look at the above alternative fuels, as well as nuclear energy, coal and algae-based biodiesel. A meaningful energy policy requires taking in hand the economic, political and military shenanigans that beset it: cleaning out the pork barrels, engaging rather than bullying the global community, sinking the neocon agenda. For all his research, stark realism and common sense, Bryce can occasionally be crudely nearsighted, as when he dismisses concerns about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore drilling to supply but a year of Florida’s gas needs.

High-order muckraking and an excellent primer for addressing the real question: How are we going to handle energy interdependence?

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-58648-321-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2008

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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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