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The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy Paperback – 6 Jul 2006


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; New Ed edition (6 July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046503117X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465031177
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 1.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 923,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"This is the only book I've seen that really explains energy, its history, and what it will be like going forward." Bill Gates"

About the Author

Peter Huber is a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute's Center for Legal Policy, where he specializes in issues related to technology, science, and law. His previous books include Hard Green, Liability, and Galileo's Revenge. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland. Mark P. Mills, a founding partner of Digital Power Capital, is a physicist who once served as a staff consultant on technology to the White House Science Office. He lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

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WHAT MOST FRUSTRATES those who feel passionate about energy is that most Americans don't. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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A guest speaker to the university department where I am studying recommended this book. I wasn't too impressed with the speaker: he said climate change was massive conspiracy. He also said all energy comes from the sun, which is not entirely true because there's nuclear, tidal and geothermal. Then I saw one of the authors being interviewed on a YouTube clip and he didn't seem like a complete idiot. I gathered the book was a bit on the right of centre, politically speaking, but you shouldn't just read stuff that confirms your biases, so I decided to read it.

I thought much of it was superb. Especially good were the descriptions of how it is not merely the quantity of energy, but the quality that is so important. For example, laser light is a higher quality form of energy form than electricity, which is a higher form of energy than heat. I'm not sure there is a term that decribes the quality of an energy form. There's a term called entropy, but that describes the disorder of a system, not its quality. I also liked the section that explained how knowledge, for example in the form of digital communications or logic circuits, and power, for example in power electronics, were separate sides of the same coin.

Although, the thermodynamics part of the book was great, I was not so sure of the economics. The authors quote Einstein saying to the effect that Sadi Carnot's ideas of thermodynamics was a theory that would never be overturned. Well, you can't say the same thing about any economic theory. The book seemed to argue that politicians should just leave market forces to sort out society's energy problems without interfering - yeah, right.
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Format: Paperback
I've read a number of the other reviews, and wondered whether the other readers actually read the same book. The premise of the book is very simply that energy production relies on harvesting suitable fuels, and that even with the twilight of oil production there are still a plethora of alternative fuels to power modern economies for many years to come. The point that other reviewers have alerted us to is that we will continue to use increasing stocks of fuel to exploit ever more new fuel sources with even higher calorific values. Whilst these already exploitable sources are theoretically finite, they are so abundant that in relation to our foreseeable level of consumption, they are to all intents and purposes infinite.

The point that other reviewers have alerted us to is that the authors suggest we will continue to use increasing stocks of fuel to exploit ever more new fuel sources with even higher calorific values. This is not as some people suggest, blind faith in the power of technology to save mankind from a Malthusian nightmare, but simply a summary of man's historical relationship with energy production and his ability to increasingly harness his understanding of physics and chemistry to exploit new energy fuel sources. Whilst they do look into a future where miracle technologies will exploit the power of nuclear fusion, they actually mostly concentrate on the ability of existing fuel sources to power the future.

The book does give very scant attention to the environmental damage that might accrue from the continuing consumption of fossil fuels, but one could argue that that subject deserves another book in it's own right. Their mission is simply to tell us that the planet has plenty of fuel resources, if we care to exploit them. The authors may refer to energy markets and a right wing agenda in other books, but I think to condemn this book in the context of their others works is to miss the central "largely optimistic" points that it raises.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By richyrich78 on 2 Mar. 2006
Format: Hardcover
The Bottemless Well is a very optimistic book. At the moment there are lots of scare stories regarding energy - energy supplies running out and people telling us to be energy efficient. The authors expalin why energy will never run out. They also explain why energy efficiency leads to more energy use not less (efficiency paradox). Hence this books shatters many misconceptions.
My main criticism is the author's unashamed pro-Americanism (and i'm pro-American!). For example they point to an article which shows that North America does not release any net CO2 emissions because fossil fuel burning is absorbed by tree growth. Even if this is true the author's underhandedly apply this to the US. But surely most tree growth has been in Canada? Whilst the authors doubt golbal warming in many ways global warming does not matter to their core arguments (they explain that even if global warming is happening why energy use will continue to rise and investigate the economics and science of carbon capture and other technologies).
That said on the whole this is a good book. I fully agree with the authors that energy consumption will rise forever and this will make humans live ever happier and more prosperous lives.
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12 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Uncle Travelling Mac on 22 Jun. 2007
Format: Paperback
This is undoubtedly a very interesting book even if its tone is horribly smug and patronising and its conclusion monumentally wrong-headed.

In essence it is a simple trotting out of the tired ostrich-head-in-the-sand Anglo-American idea that technology will come to the rescue of humanity. It contends that our boundless ingenuity and brilliance will avert the Malthusian notion that we might one day run out of "energy" with disastrous consequences for our continued existence as a species.

The fundamental premise is that we silly lay-people don't understand "science" and the strict Newtonian notion of "energy". Humanity strives to bring order from chaos, say the authors, and we've been getting increasingly good at it in recent history. SO WHAT?

The trouble is that whilst these authors may have a splendid understanding of how the semi-conductor industry continues to adhere to Moore's law and just how clever our technology is at rooting out BTUs where-ever they be (12kms beneath us rather frighteningly now we've found all the easy stuff), they seem to have no grasp at all of history or geo-political reality or the very real advent of resource scarcity all over the world TODAY.

All this wonderful technological wizardry clearly looks unstoppable from the naive ivory towers of US academia but there are already quite literally billions of people on this planet living with the apocalyptic implications of real energy scarcity (war, famine, disease, genocide) NOW.

The projected 11 billion global population by 2050 into one planet simply doesn't go - no matter how ingenious our conversion of sunlight or wind power is or how brilliantly our supercomputer-driven, LED-lit submarines find new oil resources at the bottom of the ocean.
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