Energy Myths and Realities: Bringing Science to the Energy Policy Debate

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AEI Press, 2010 - Political Science - 213 pages
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"Energy is both a technical topic and a political one; all too often, the political claims and assertions get far more play than sober technical reality. In Energy Myths and Realities, Vaclav Smil does a brilliant job of examining the crazy quilt of claims and assertions about energy. With great wit and simple, clear arguments, he shows that most of the wild claims we hear¨in all directions¨have no basis in reality."¨Nathan Myhrvold, CEO, Intellectual Ventures

"Vaclav Smil is a giant among energy scientists and historians. In this book, he explains why fossil fuels remain dominant, why it is so hard to scale up wind and solar technologies, and why nuclear power, despite having been over-hyped in the past, is one of our best hopes for meeting future energy needs and dealing with global warming."-Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, coauthors of Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility and cofounders of the Breakthrough Institute

"Investment opportunities into new energy sources and related conversion techniques are, at times, molded by preconceived ideas that can sometimes lead to excessively positive and unjustifiably enthusiastic expectations. By criticizing the assorted myths and misconceptions surrounding energy innovations, Vaclav Smil provides readers with refreshing insights that are often missing in today's energy policy debates."¨Philippe Rohner, senior investment manager, Pictet Asset Management, Geneva, Switzerland

"Vaclav Smil is a master thinker about the master resource of energy. A multidisciplinarian, Smil combines basic economics, technological understanding, and historical insight to skewer false energy visions. Energy reality, he reminds us, is determined by the free marketplace, not by words or wishes."¨Robert Bradley, founder and CEO, Institute for Energy Research

Myth: New energy sources and technical innovations will eliminate the need for fossil fuels within a few decades.

Reality: Comprehensive energy transitions take several generations.

Myth: Carbon sequestration is the solution to global climate change.

Reality: Because of its costs, technical challenges, and problems with social acceptance, carbon sequestration will not be able to prevent further substantial rise in carbon emissions.

Myth: Electric cars will replace conventional automobiles in the near future.

Reality: Electric cars are expensive, their adoption rate will be slow, and internal combustion engines will dominate the market for decades to come

These are just a few of the misconceptions about the future of global energy often presented as facts by the media, politicians, business leaders, activists, and even scientists¨wasting time and money and hampering the development of progressive energy policies. Energy Myths and Realities: Bringing Science to the Energy Policy Debate debunks the most common fallacies to make way for a constructive, scientific approach to addressing the global energy challenge.

When will the world run out of oil? Should nuclear energy be adopted on a larger scale? Are ethanol and wind power viable sources of energy for the future? Vaclav Smil advises the public to be wary of exaggerated claims and impossible promises. The global energy transition will be prolonged and expensive and hinges on the development of an extensive new infrastructure. Traditional energy sources and established energy conversions are persistent and adaptable enough to see the world through that transition.

Energy Myths and Realities brings a scientific perspective to an issue often dominated by groundless assertions, unfounded claims, and uncritical thinking. Before we can create sound energy policies for the future, we must renounce the popular myths that cloud our judgment and impede true progress.

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About the author (2010)

Vaclav Smil is Distinguished Professor of Environment and Environmental Geography at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. His recent books include Why America Is Nor a New Rome (MIT Press, 2010), Global Catastrophes and Trends: The Next Fifty Years (MIT Press, 2008), and Energy in Nature and Society: General Energetics of Complex Systems (MIT Press, 2008).

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