Power Trip: The Story of Energy by Michael E. Webber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
My mechanical engineering masters degree (2000) focused on energy management and I maintain a more than passing interest in the subject, both professionally and personally. I requested an advance review copy of this book last year and was approved, but a glitch linked the wrong book and the publisher wasn’t able to resolve it, so the offering site removed, well, the offer. I finally cleared some room and got a chance to read it. Quite glad I did. Dr. Webber is an academic, but he doesn’t write like an academic can tend write. This is an engaging narrative, filled with history, data, details, trivia, problems…and solutions. BLUF (bottom line up front)…an excellent read.
Webber says in his prologue that
For thousands of years the story of energy was slow-moving and incremental, but in the last few hundred years in the developed world, the energy story has become more interesting.
This is true for most technologies, but as he observes, “energy is unique: no other physical factor in society has such a wide-ranging impact on public health, ecosystems, the global economy, and personal liberties.” Webber talks about what energy has done and can do, and what the impacts of lack of sufficient energy are. Webber lists Nobel laureate Richard Smalley’s top ten problems for humanity: 1) energy, 2) water, 3) food, 4) environment, 5) poverty, 6) terrorism and war, 7) disease, 8) education, 9) democracy, and 10) population. Energy comes out on top because it is integral to cracking the other nine. Webber addresses those challenges from his perspective of energy availability and impact, and breaks them out into six chapters of Water, Food, Transportation, Wealth, Cities, and Security. Details, data, and more details, but written in such an engaging way that even the detail averse should like this. Some highlights… Continue reading