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ELECTRIFY by Saul Griffith Kirkus Star


An Optimist's Playbook for Our Clean Energy Future

by Saul Griffith

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-262-04623-7
Publisher: MIT Press

Positive news on climate change from an expert.

The degradation is well underway, and matters will get worse before they get better. However, according to this enthusiastic account by engineer and MacArthur fellow Griffith, real change is possible with today’s scientific know-how and an energetic effort. Overcoming the problem of global climate change—essentially by reducing carbon-dioxide emissions to zero—requires a tricky combination of politics and technology. Largely avoiding politics, Griffith emphasizes technology. His solution is to electrify everything. “America can reduce its energy use by more than half by introducing no other efficiency measures other than electrification,” he writes. This climate-friendly future will contain the usual familiar objects in our lives, affecting cars, homes, offices, appliances, etc., but miraculous breakthroughs (fusion power, sucking carbon from the atmosphere) won’t be necessary. Griffith warns that America is stuck in the 1970s mindset of conservation with the mantra “Reduce! Reuse! Recycle.” This has produced great improvements in gas mileage and home insulation and more efficient appliances, but you can’t “efficiency” your way to zero. In a torrent of technical explanation, graphs, and tables, Griffith shows how solar and wind power are already cheaper despite massive subsidies and tax breaks that support fossil fuel companies. He proposes that the government subsidize upfront costs of switching—about $40,000 per household—by guaranteeing low-interest “climate loans.” As he notes, “if US policymakers can offer [these loans] at the right rate, the transition to clean energy will start saving us money today.” To critics proclaiming that the Green New Deal would be a budget-busting government handout, he points out that the U.S. has launched similar programs in the past. For example, it began subsidizing long-term home mortgages in 1933, and predictions of a massive loss of taxpayer money never happened. Indeed, writes Griffith, the result will be prosperity: more jobs and less poverty, with no sacrifice of our current lifestyle.

Surprisingly optimistic, realistic, and persuasive.