Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Day #2: Energy & Oil

Ok, so we mentioned that energy concerns, especially peak oil, are very important topics right now.  A fellow blogger, John L. Clark, has written an interesting piece that explains some of the interdependence of oil, population and consumption, and also has some ideas about what the average citizen can do to address these concerns.   

There's also a book that I'd like to recommend that gives a very good overview about sustainable energy.  It's called Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air, by David MacKay.  I really like this, because it's got a lot of good information.  I'd recommend starting with the 10 page (pdf download) summary  and then go on to the main book, found here.

Don't be thrown off by the website. It's useful, because it helps the online reader navigate sections of the book, which doesn't have to be read sequentially. I'd recommend starting at Chapter 23, "Sustainable Fossil Fuels" because it talks about coal, which is the next consideration after oil.  Also, a Gt is a gigaton (2 billion pounds, or the curb weight of about 400,000 Hummers.)

Windmill, courtesy of Storm Crypt

1 comment:

  1. It's true that the website for "Sustainable Energy: Without the Hot Air" comes off as being too busy and difficult to approach. This is a shame, because it's a remarkably clear and useful book. It's also ironic, because the print version is gorgeous.

    A few hints might help for approaching the website version of the book. First, it's hard to get a sense for what the book really offers from the website's main page. It could really use an executive summary, maybe building on this quote from the book:

    "I’m going to assume we are motivated to get off fossil fuels. Whatever your motivation, the aim of this book is to help you figure out the numbers and do the arithmetic so that you can evaluate policies [for balancing energy demand with energy supply]; and to lay a factual foundation so that you can see which proposals add up." (Page 16)

    Also, the colors in the table of contents don't make sense until you've actually red the book, so it would be useful to have a brief legend. Chapters highlighted in red look at how much energy something uses. Chapters highlighted in green look at how much energy something provides. Chapters highlighted in blue provide discussion.

    One of the great things about this book is that Professor MacKay has published the book under a Creative Commons license that allows sharing, which means that if we were sufficiently motivated, we could republish the work online with a more elegant and useful presentation.