A “meticulously researched” (The New York Times Book Review) examination of energy transitions over time and an exploration of the current challenges presented by global warming, a surging world population, and renewable energy—from Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning author Richard Rhodes.
People have lived and died, businesses have prospered and failed, and nations have risen to world power and declined, all over energy challenges. Through an unforgettable cast of characters, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes explains how wood gave way to coal and coal made room for oil, as we now turn to natural gas, nuclear power, and renewable energy. “Entertaining and informative…a powerful look at the importance of science” (NPR.org), Rhodes looks back on five centuries of progress, through such influential figures as Queen Elizabeth I, King James I, Benjamin Franklin, Herman Melville, John D. Rockefeller, and Henry Ford.In his “magisterial history…a tour de force of popular science” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), Rhodes shows how breakthroughs in energy production occurred; from animal and waterpower to the steam engine, from internal-combustion to the electric motor. He looks at the current energy landscape, with a focus on how wind energy is competing for dominance with cast supplies of coal and natural gas. He also addresses the specter of global warming, and a population hurtling towards ten billion by 2100.
Human beings have confronted the problem of how to draw energy from raw material since the beginning of time. Each invention, each discovery, each adaptation brought further challenges, and through such transformations, we arrived at where we are today. “A beautifully written, often inspiring saga of ingenuity and progress…Energy brings facts, context, and clarity to a key, often contentious subject” (Booklist, starred review).
Free flowing and highly readable, indeed engrossing with many fascinating vignettes about historical events that shaped energy markets. And I was pleasantly surprised this was not an ideological treatise about fossil fuels and climate change, in fact reading between the lines it seemed to me that because of their inability to be scaled without huge subsidies the author is highly skeptical about renewable sources like wind and solar, waxing instead about the lost promise of nuclear, lost because in a democracy irrational fears (in this case about radioactivity) become accepted in to the public discourse as hard fact. He probably needed to be circumspect about his skepticism of wind and solar for fear of being skewered alive on the altar of political correctness by the “climate scientist” cabal, always fearful of some counterargument to the Faith jeopardizing their research grants…..
Excellent book. I enjoy the way Rhodes brings historical characters to life. I do recommend it. I have two issues, both having to do with the Kindle version. First, the illustrations are hard enough to view when you CAN expand them. I’d say half the illustrations in this book could not be expanded so were essentially worthless little blobs on my screen. Second, I was immersed in reading with about 4 hrs and 45% remaining to read when the narrative suddenly ended. Huh? Turns out that last 45% is acknowledgments, bibliography, notes and index. Kudos to Rhodes for being so thorough but I was pretty let down by my perceived loss of material. I wasn’t really interested in spending 4hrs perusing the extras. I think this Kindle quirk needs to change.
Richard Rhodes is well known for careful research and clear writing in his several non-fiction books. This book is no exception. What makes it particularly interesting is his customary and illuminating use of narratives about individuals to illustrate the larger historical movements that he describes. Happily, the book is well documented so that the reader may follow up on details without excess searching for references. The topic is timely, and the book is valuable.
This is a great walk through the evolution of energy and a view of what is to come. Even if you think you know everything about how we got to where we are and the path forward, you will be surprised at how the author ties it all together. this book is a well balanced view of what we face and offers some thoughts on the path forward. It does a very good job in the discussion of today’s energy picture to bring out the hidden biases that have been shaping the public discussion. There were some surprises in that section for me.
If you ever wondered how it is that you turn on a switch an electricity flows into your home, or how it evolved that we heat our homes, power our factories or drive our cars this is a great read. The author does an excellent job of explaining the evolution of energy and power from pre-industrial revolution England, through the industrial revolution to the industrial revolution in America (eg manufacturing steel and aluminum, generating and transmission of electricity to gasoline as we know it today).
- I enjoyed this book and found it interesting. I believe it should really have been called “Fuel” instead of energy. The difference is subtle but the author really is talking about what and where we derive energy from (sources). I found the book inconsistent at times and this effected its flow. But over all well researched and educational and a worthwhile read.
One MAJOR problem with this book, the Kindle version, and NOT the author’s fault was how Amazon digitized it. Most of the diagrams where improperly digitized and as a result they were tiny. Way too small to be seen on a Kindle. And you were not able to enlarge them as in other Amazon Kindle books where yo have the ability to enlarge pictures. Some were properly coded and could be enlarged. But most were not.