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Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air [Paperback]

David J.C. MacKay
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
RRP: £19.95
Price: £13.97 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Dec 2008
Addressing the sustainable energy crisis in an objective manner, this enlightening book analyzes the relevant numbers and organizes a plan for change on both a personal level and an international scale--for Europe, the United States, and the world. In case study format, this informative reference answers questions surrounding nuclear energy, the potential of sustainable fossil fuels, and the possibilities of sharing renewable power with foreign countries. While underlining the difficulty of minimizing consumption, the tone remains positive as it debunks misinformation and clearly explains the calculations of expenditure per person to encourage people to make individual changes that will benefit the world at large.

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Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air + Renewable Energy: Power for a Sustainable Future + Energy Systems and Sustainability: Power for a Sustainable Future
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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: 20.7 x 21.3 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

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Product Description


"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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
104 of 106 people found the following review helpful
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Sense, and sensibility 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the best book I have ever read 24 Feb 2009
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Numbers, not adjectives 17 Jan 2009
By RickJ
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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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read, re-read, then buy it for everyone you know 10 Feb 2009
Quite staggeringly brilliant. Real science, real numbers, and real, strong conclusions, but with such a light, accessible approach that the reader doesn't even notice how difficult the concepts are that they have just understood. This book explains exactly why we need to urgently find sources of sustainable energy, painting a complete picture of where all the energy goes, and the pros and cons of every potentially sustainable option: changes to fossil fuel use, improvements in energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, nuclear, everything.

What makes it particularly good is that the book's stated goal is primarily to work out how, for the foreseeable future, we could possibly keep on using the same amount of energy we use today. If nothing else, this book shows beautifully that questions of energy and questions of environmental catastrophe can be de-coupled. Whether people believe that the Earth is warming up or not is irrelevant: we need sustainable energy sources either way! So buy it for the eco-sceptic in your life, and then they may just stop whinging about low-energy light bulbs...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential facts for your future.
Love or hate the "green energy, low carbon " debate, this book gives you facts, you can build your own scenarios. Everybody should have a copy.
Published 19 days ago by Malcolm George
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Good read
Published 2 months ago by Phil
3.0 out of 5 stars Good books for the beginners but the content is not 100% true
It's a 2008 book. The world has changed a lot since 2008. Some of the content is not true. The author's evaluation of different kind of energy sources is biased with his opinion. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mr. W. H. Lio
5.0 out of 5 stars A revealing walkthrough of the alternatives to fossil fuels.
We have to get off fossil fuels. This is the book about what the alternatives are in order to achieve that.
Published 4 months ago by Cecilia Burman
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, thought provoking book.
I was interested in a good objective assessment about the potential role of sustainable energy in meeting total energy demand. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Nick
3.0 out of 5 stars Very comprehensive and impartial.
This book gives a great sense of authority. But I am still bracing myself to read it thoroughly. Not for the faint-hearted.
Published 7 months ago by Eric Morrell
5.0 out of 5 stars energy explained
if u need to know about energy usage in the uk this is the book, make me sad to learn the trouble we are in
Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Fantastic overview of sustainable energy: You know the surface area of a country; you know the population of a country; you know the energy consumption per person; so, you know how... Read more
Published 8 months ago by James Seddon
5.0 out of 5 stars Do the math
Excellent book about sustainable energy. It's contents could be used to argue for or against large scale investment in renewable sources, and successfully underlines the challenge... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Juko Vähätiitto
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book!
Excellent in depth information throughout the book coupled with simple analogies that everyone can relate too.
Brilliant for use in education.
Published 13 months ago by k i latty
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