Energy at the Crossroads: Global Perspectives and Uncertainties
An objective, comprehensive, and accessible examination of today's most crucial problem: preserving the environment in the face of society's insatiable demand for energy.
In Energy at the Crossroads, Vaclav Smil considers the twenty-first century's crucial question: how to reconcile the modern world's unceasing demand for energy with the absolute necessity to preserve the integrity of the biosphere. With this book he offers a comprehensive, accessible guide to today's complex energy issues -- how to think clearly and logically about what is possible and what is desirable in our energy future.
After a century of unprecedented production growth, technical innovation, and expanded consumption, the world faces a number of critical energy challenges arising from unequal resource distribution, changing demand patterns, and environmental limitations. The fundamental message of Energy at the Crossroads is that our dependence on fossil fuels must be reduced not because of any imminent resource shortages but because the widespread burning of oil, coal, and natural gas damages the biosphere and presents increasing economic and security problems as the world relies on more expensive supplies and Middle Eastern crude oil.
Smil begins with an overview of the twentieth century's long-term trends and achievements in energy production. He then discusses energy prices, the real cost of energy, and "energy linkages" -- the effect energy issues have on the economy, on quality of life, on the environment, and in wartime. He discusses the pitfalls of forecasting, giving many examples of failed predictions and showing that unexpected events can disprove complex models. And he examines the pros and cons not only of fossil fuels but also of alternative fuels such as hydroenergy, biomass energy, wind power, and solar power. Finally, he considers the future, focusing on what really matters, what works, what is realistic, and which outcomes are most desirable.
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Longterm Trends and Achievements
A Unique Century
Changing Resource Base
The Rising Importance of Electricity
Looking Back and Looking Ahead
Fossil Fuel Futures
Is the Decline of Global Crude Oil Production Imminent?
Different Perspectives on the Oil Era
How Far Can Natural Gas Go?
What Will Be Coals Role?
Hydroenergys Potential and Limits
Energy and the Economy
Deconstructing Energy Intensities
Real Costs of Energy
Energy and the Quality of Life
Energy and the Environment
Energy and War
Primary Energy Requirements
Demand for Electricity
Energy Prices and Intensities
Substitutions of Energy Resources
Complex Models and Realities
In Favor of Normative Scenarios
Electricity from Wind
Direct Solar Conversions
How Promising Are Other Renewables?
Infrastructural Changes and the Future Hydrogen Economy
Is There a Future for Nuclear Energy?
Efficient Use of Energy
Beyond Higher Efficiency
Energy and the Future of the Biosphere
What Really Matters
What Does and Does Not Help
Realities and a Wish List
Units and Abbreviations