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Small Change, Big Gains: Reflections of an Energy Entrepreneur


A thoughtful contribution to the climate change debate, with a unique, businesscentric approach to setting energy and...

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
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Debut author Stoner provides an in-depth look at climate change and the world’s energy use, offering bold, new policies that could save the planet and the global economy.

Drawing on more than 25 years’ experience as an energy company executive and capital formation expert, Stoner displays a wide-ranging grasp of the political, economic, historical and scientific issues surrounding climate change and energy policy. He maintains that rising global temperatures and sea levels and escalating superstorms such as Katrina and Sandy present an existential threat to human survival rivaling previous threats such as nuclear proliferation. Stoner avoids debate about the science of climate change and whether it’s man-made; instead, he takes a pragmatic approach, suggesting that determining the best forms of renewable energy for a healthy environment is essentially a business problem. And, like all business proposals, it’s essential that the interests of all the stakeholders are met—in this case, lender, supplier, user and environmental steward. Stoner contends that a market-based approach will lead to inexhaustible energy supplies, a better environment and a thriving economy. Using forecasts created by Project Butterfly, his not-for-profit clean-energy enterprise, Stoner establishes a worthwhile business goal for this century: “[I]f we can keep atmospheric CO2 concentration below 550 ppm, the Project Butterfly Financial Model forecasts that the increase in average global temperatures will slightly exceed 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), a situation to which humans may still be able to adapt.” But how? He advocates using natural gas as a transitional energy source and promoting voluntary carbon credit exchanges. However, his primary recommendation is carbon taxes, for which he advocates using what could become the next political slogan: “[T]ax what you burn, not what you earn.” Although the material reads at times like a textbook, the author’s references to his family lend a personal feel, and interesting historical side notes—about topics such as the failure of Solyndra, rural electrification under FDR and the rise of nuclear power—also help enliven the text. His ideas are well-supported with extensive citations found in the endnotes, and dozens of charts effectively explain the complex data behind climate change and energy use.

A thoughtful contribution to the climate change debate, with a unique, businesscentric approach to setting energy and environmental policies.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62634-002-2

Page Count: 556

Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014


Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011


Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“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. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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