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Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air Paperback – 1 Dec 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: UIT; First Edition Softback, Later Print Run edition (1 Dec 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0954452933
  • ISBN-13: 978-0954452933
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 2 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,657 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

Review

"This book is a tour de force...as a work of popular science it is exemplary." --The Economist

"This is to energy and climate what Freakonomics is to economics." --Cory Doctorow, boingboing.net

"This year's must-read book about tackling our future energy needs." --The Guardian

"...A high priority book on a high priority problem." --William W Hogan, Harvard University

"For anyone with influence on energy policy, whether in government, business or a campaign group, this book should be compulsory reading."
--Tony Juniper-Former Executive Director, Friends of the Earth

About the Author

David MacKay is a professor in the department of physics at Cambridge University, a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Climate Change, and a regular lecturer on sustainable energy.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

104 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Dr. F. Stajano on 11 Feb 2009
Format: Paperback
Where will our energy come from? Oil and coal are running out and cause global warming, nuclear plants are potential Chernobyls that nobody wants in their back yard, wind turbines kill birds and spoil the landscape... We've got a serious problem, right? Right. But it's not "Which technology should we shift to?", it's rather "Why can't people add up?".

In a nutshell, David MacKay's brilliant book is about working out a budget, as if on the back of an envelope, with the red column listing how much energy we consume and the green column listing how much we produce (or could produce using various technologies). Can this budget be balanced? And how? In one brief but insightful chapter after another, the author gives us a few simple intellectual tools to figure out the answer for ourselves: not much more than the four operations and a bit of common sense, plus a useful human-scale framework for thinking sensibly about energy. With the sharp mind of the scientist, to the tune of "numbers, not adjectives", he mercilessly cuts through the fog of empty propaganda words that has surrounded the energy debate to date.

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you feed him for life", says the Chinese proverb. MacKay gives no answers; instead, he gently and entertainingly teaches readers how to fish them out for themselves. The author, who is a professor in the Physics department at Cambridge, couples open-mindedness and intellectual rigour with an admirable talent for making quantitative ideas easy to understand and even satisfyingly fun to work out.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Quentin SF on 8 Jan 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's rare to find a book that is so full of good, scientific facts and well-researched figures, and yet is so enjoyable to read.

Well-worth reading from beginning to end, it's also fun to dip into. The prose is light-hearted and chatty - by far the best way to get across a serious message - and the book is beautifully produced, with interesting charts, page layouts and illustrations - even some of the captions make for amusing reading. You can feel the author's sense of humour leaking through all over the place.

I think we should be lobbying the BBC to make this into a documentary series. It would also be a great basis for A-level physics teaching. There aren't many books which fit both roles so well.

A splendid gift for anyone you know who is interested in realistic, rather than emotional, ways to deal with today's energy challenges. Recommended.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By J. Callan on 24 Feb 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is the book I was waiting for: someone has done the research and put credible broad-brush energy numbers down on paper, and it's surprisingly entertaining as a bonus.

If you want to know the scale of the sustainable energy/climate change problems we face, and what scale the possible solutions need to be, get this book. If you'd prefer to believe that buying a Prius will save the world, don't get this book.

It's a stunning achievement and it should be made compulsory reading for anyone involved in government.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By RickJ on 17 Jan 2009
Format: Paperback
Renewable resources are "huge", our energy needs are "huge" - but which huge is bigger? David MacKay believes in numbers, not adjectives and has done a marvellous job of setting out our energy use - for heating, electricity, food, transport, iToys and so on - in one consistent unit of power, the kilowatt hour per person per day. This is admittedly a bit of a mouthful, but it is a lot simpler than converting between our usual mish-mash of kWh, BTUs, litres, standard cubic feet, barrels etc - and makes it brutally clear that you cannot unplug your phone charger and then head off on a long haul vacation with a clear conscience.

He also reviews the UK's sustainable energy options, and comes to the rather depressing conclusion that we use about ten times our plausible local resources. Nonetheless, he proposes a menu of sensible policies which could actually work, and are not the result of some industry pushing its own interests. This is an excellent and unique book full of data, analysis, insight and wit; buy it, read it, make sure your friends buy it too.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Julian G. Paren on 24 Sep 2009
Format: Paperback
The world needs physicists and engineers like never before to ensure that Mankind can live peacefully and sustainably in the future. This book is the best material to inspire intelligent youngsters who may be choosing to do a science subject at university that science can really be used to solve Mankind's problems. By working through the topics especially in the additional chapters they will begin to see that what they have learned at school is the building block of what they will learn at University and how these tools can have a real application to the problems of the world.

For all intelligent adults who have had a science training, this book is the one to reassure you that science (even simple science - not rocket science) allows a refreshing view on energy that puts all the waffle you hear on the media into stark contrast.

How pleased we should be that Professor David MacKay has been appointed Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government's Department of Energy and Climate Change. If he can persuade the policymakers with the same humour and candour we find in Sustainable Energy - without the hot air then the UK should be able to play an authoritative role in international deliberations on energy and climate change. Roll on Copenhagen.
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