Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us” as Want to Read:
Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us

3.65  ·  Rating Details  ·  168 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
What you need to know now about America's energy future"Hi, I'm the United States and I'm an oil-oholic." We have an energy problem. And everybody knows it, even if we can't all agree on what, specifically, the problem is. Rising costs, changing climate, peaking oil, foreign oil, public safety--if the fears are this complicated, then the solutions are bound to be even more ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published February 21st 2012 by John Wiley & Sons
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Before the Lights Go Out, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Before the Lights Go Out

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 624)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details

I wanted to rate this book higher than two stars, because I like the author's writing style, humor, and intelligence, and because I share many of her assessments and goals, but I can't because it lives up neither to its own aspirations nor to what readers attracted to such a book need. "What you need to know about America's energy future" is its slogan. Well, unless what you need to know is that the future is inherently unknowable and is likely to be a messy mixture of old and new glued together
Jul 31, 2012 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I heard about this book through, of which Maggie Koerth-Baker is a regular contributor. This work is her summation of the structure of the United States' energy production and distribution systems, and also her ideas about how we're going to have to adapt both in a hotter, more expensive, more populated word in the coming years.
I haven't taken a science or math class in 10+ years, but I found this book very easy and enjoyable to read. It's also short - I finished it in a few days
Worth reading for a more nuanced view of how the electrical grid is cobbled together, and the factors that complicate any major effort at improving or replacing it. I was particularly struck by the discussion of how the unpredictable nature of most renewables places a low ceiling (~25%) on the total percentage of power generation they can provide, at least without major changes in both grid decentralization and storage, neither of which are easy or cheap.

The writing works very hard to be broadly
Apr 16, 2012 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: authors-i-know
A must-read for anyone who thinks they understand how energy is used in the US, or is interested in doing something about it.

Maggie presents a clear picture of the situation that we find ourselves in, and explains quite a few things about energy use, creation, distribution, and people's attitudes toward energy that not everyone understands.
DeAnna Knippling
A thin book that contains mind-changing information and a basis for discussion for energy policy in a non-partisan way.

--I generally try to critique books based on whether they achieved what they set out to achieve, and if I solely based it on that, it's be a five-star book. But. It seemed like the goal of this book was to present the complexity of the energy issue, and it did so in an overly simplistic manner. Maybe I just can't explain this properly. But if you want to present how overwhelming
Jul 19, 2013 Harris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book
I first became aware of this book when I saw author Maggie Koerth-Baker speak about the looming issues of our complicated, bloated, and inefficient power grid as part of the hilarious Theater of Public Policy improv at Huge Theater in Minneapolis. Koerth-Baker was an engaging speaker and really raised my awareness about energy issues. Granted, I had been interested in the environmental background of alternative energy, sustainability, “peak oil,” and all of those other green catchwords, but “Bef ...more
Derrick Schneider
While there's good information here, the writing style constantly disrupts the reading flow.

Metaphors that are either weak or stretched too thin for too long.

The author continually telling not showing ("... text ... This is important." Shouldn't the point be clear enough that you don't need to take special pains to point it out?).

Some descriptions that are overly detailed while others skip over probable lacunae in the reader's mind.

And a lot of the author talking about the experts rather tha
Oct 01, 2013 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book because I wanted to become smarter about where energy comes from and what our energy future might look like. I was familiar with and enjoyed Maggie Koerth-Baker's science writing at BoingBoing, so this book seemed like a great place to start. It is a very good primer on understanding the nuanced world of power generation and distribution. As a result of having read it, I am smarter about these things and feel that I can have an intelligent conversation about alternative energy's ...more
Science For The People
Featured on Skeptically Speaking show #160 on April 14, 2012, during an interview with author Maggie Koerth-Baker.

Featured on Skeptically Speaking show #193 on December 21, 2012, on our special Book Review episode. This book was reviewed by Jim Kakalios and the review can be heard starting at timestamp 00:30:19.
Dec 09, 2014 Trisha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you know little about energy and electricity, I would definitely read this book. If you have some experience in the energy field (as I do) you may find this a little basic, but still an informative and enjoyable read.
Andrew Ragland
Nov 26, 2012 Andrew Ragland rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Strongly recommended. Koerth-Baker puts into clear and lucid terms the challenges facing us, and avoids polemic and politics along the way. This is a factual book, not a diatribe. It discusses the situation, gives massive amounts of background and context, and analyzes the possible outcomes in a rational, scientific way. Do not expect this book to support your viewpoint, no matter what it may be. Expect this book to make you think about your views.
Nov 20, 2012 Matt rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

There were some interesting things in this book about the electric grid that I didn't know. Coolest idea: using electric cars's batteries (while the cars are parked and plugged in) to even out fluctuations in the grid caused by intermittent generation from wind and solar. Overall, glad to have read it, but the writing was too chatty for my taste. Apparently what I like in a blog post is not what I want in a full length book.
May 14, 2012 Jeremy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: veggies
Ok...did not have as much actionable info as I had hoped & stresses large scale policy changes instead of what people can do on their own. I agree that if we are going to "fix" the problems we have as a whole we need to address them as a group but that's not going to stop me from taking steps to make sure my family is insulated from the negative effects of too many people wasting too much energy.
Aug 07, 2012 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Koerth-Baker takes the complex, and sometimes confusing, topic of energy and makes it understandable. "Before the Lights Go Out" isn't about quick fixes,magic bullets, and personal piety of Prius drivers, it talks about the need to truly investigate all possible answers, from increasing energy efficiency of current technologies to developing better alternatives, and everything in between.
Tim Corrigan
I might just be the wrong audience here, but I found some of the points a little off technically... some of it I think coming from a mistake in emphasis that stems from not enough in depth knowledge about the problems. Actually, I was definitely the wrong audience. But I agree with the author in most points, I just don't feel like she sold it well.
Sep 18, 2013 Luke rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Squandered its potential a bit. Maggie's smart and the book is passionate and well-researched, but her prose is conversational to a fault. The book spends about 75% of its pages in vague cheerleading and problem-defining mode before it gets to specific examples of people/companies trying to move towards the future with innovative ideas and tech.
Mike Smith
Jun 29, 2013 Mike Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To all my friends who teach or promote conservation, I highly recommend taking time to read this book. It provides context to what we talk about, and a deeper understanding of the energy issues we face. It goes far beyond the binary "fossil fuel bad, renewable good" message and revels in the shades of gray inherent to the issue.
Bastian Greshake
Dec 05, 2012 Bastian Greshake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Yes, it's US centric, but given the fact that the US is amongst the top energy-consumers & a top driver of climate change it's worth a read if you're interested in learning about todays challenges in (clean) energy. Plus most things (centralized production, grid structure etc.) work quite similar in Europe as well.
Aug 13, 2012 Samuel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fact
The author does a pretty good job of going through all of the issues affecting our energy consumption, but it's all written from the perspective of a layperson, which is good or bad depending on how familiar one is with the technologies and issues.

The usage of BTUs in the book was infuriating.
Jan 01, 2013 Jacquelyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book for everyone who cares about the future of energy use. Diligently explains that there is no magic bullet to save us, but rather a combination of current and better technologies and infrastructure changes can revamp our energy use to build a sustainably powered future.
Scott Bischke
Apr 26, 2012 Scott Bischke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
reality check
great writing
fun attitude
holistic look at the situation
marveling at issues engineers deal with daily

reality check
often simplistic
could have used more editing
needed tables and graphs
marveling at issues engineers deal with daily
A lot of research and examples were put into this book. Just felt it was a little too long to just be speaking about the US. Examples and comparisons to continents other than Europe would have been much more interesting.
An overview of the domestic energy production and distribution of the US, and a look at some of the solutions to the problem of climate change that are involving revamps of said energy distribution.
Feb 10, 2015 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: environment
Worth a read. For as much as I love the idea of 100% clean energy, this book was a wake-up call for the size and type of investment that will be required to make that possible.
Dec 06, 2012 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book taught me stuff about energy that took the top of my head clean off. I found my way to Maggie Koerth-Baker from her writing at She's super.
Dec 30, 2014 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, vital-issues
Good information about an important topic, though the organization and presentation could have been a little more effective.
Nick B
May 17, 2012 Nick B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quick, easy read. Maggie provides practical ideas to a seemingly overwhelming issue.
Jun 26, 2012 Patrick is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Overview of the energy crisis in the U.S.
Andres Marin Solis
Andres Marin Solis marked it as to-read
Jul 18, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 20 21 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology
  • Project Orion: The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship
  • An Optimist's Tour of the Future: One Curious Man Sets Out to Answer "What's Next?"
  • Here Is a Human Being: At the Dawn of Personal Genomics
  • The Best Science Writing Online 2012
  • Weird Life: The Search for Life That Is Very, Very Different from Our Own
  • Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America
  • Harvesting the Biosphere: What We Have Taken from Nature
  • Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA
  • Rat Island: Predators in Paradise and the World's Greatest Wildlife Rescue
  • $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better
  • Ignorance: How it drives science
  • Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came To Be
  • Measure for Measure: A Musical History of Science
  • Home from Nowhere: Remaking Our Everyday World for the 21st Century
  • Brain Cuttings: Fifteen Journeys Through the Mind
  • Cruelty: Human Evil and the Human Brain
  • T. Rex and the Crater of Doom

Share This Book