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Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  252 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
The promise of “green jobs” and a “clean energy future” has roused the masses. But as Robert Bryce makes clear in this provocative book, that vision needs a major re-vision. We cannot—and will not—quit using carbon-based fuels at any time in the near future for a simple reason: they provide the horsepower that we crave. The hard reality is that oil, coal, and natural gas a ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published April 27th 2010 by PublicAffairs (first published March 30th 2010)
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Shadowbosses by Mallory FactorLeave Us Alone by Grover G. NorquistThe Baseball Economist by J.C. BradburyPower Hungry by Robert BryceThe Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjørn Lomborg
John Stossel Show Reads
4th out of 63 books — 6 voters
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The Contrarian Bookshelf
6th out of 29 books — 7 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 638)
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Mar 14, 2012 Vanessa marked it as to-read
Shelves: research
"I'm not opposed to environmental protection. Far from it: I'm a bird watcher and a beekeeper. But now that I've reached middle age, I've finally learned how to use a calculator. Using that device -- as well as a bunch of Excel spreadsheets and basic textbooks on physics -- has forced me to become a realist on energy issues. And therein lies my frustration: As I've become more pragmatic, our public discourse about energy and energy policy has gone the other way. Discussion about energy matters - ...more
Nov 03, 2010 E rated it really liked it
Few subjects carry as much doomsday weight as the battle over the future of global energy. Climate-change Cassandras and deniers, offshore-oil advocates and their opponents, all jostle for position amid a general consensus that the nations of the world need to move sooner rather than later to renewable sources of energy. But energy expert Robert Bryce, in more than 400 heavily footnoted, graphics-packed pages, simply whips out his calculator and does the math, with devastating results for that b ...more
May 26, 2011 Steve rated it really liked it
Shelves: renewables
An excellent book that gives the facts on our dependency on coal and oil. Bryce recommends natural gas as an interim solution that leads to nuclear.

In the light of Fukashima, I doubt that any democratically-elected government is brave enough to launch nuclear power plant construction, and in most countries, the population will be highly sceptical of shale gas extraction, which involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into the area where there might be aquifers.

I did not agree with him on two p
Dec 15, 2015 Zachariah rated it really liked it
Inconsistent feeling writing and tone and rhetoric. It often felt like he was making one point, and then later he would say something else that seemed to go against or strongly qualify the implications of what he was saying. Also there was a significant lack of discussions about solar.

But the fundamentals of his thesis ring true and the details were thought provoking and informative. I had already started to suspect the idea that wind/solar just can't be enough through graphs/charts/maps I've s
Sep 01, 2014 Carolyn rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Solid defense of the oil and gas industry with a well-argued pitch for nuclear power. Good use of calculations and graphs to explain the comparative energy density of each fuel source. Strong use of end notes make it easy to find and refer to source material.

What I like about "Power Hungry" is that it is firmly rooted in practicality - we need energy. Too often I think the "green" movements hurt their cause by not acknowledging the real-world strictures on their visions for ending the primacy of
Nathaniel James
Apr 23, 2014 Nathaniel James rated it liked it
What this book makes clear, and in no uncertain terms, is that there is no green alternative to the current rate of consumption of fossil fuels. And the argument appears sound. There must be at least as many numbers in this book as there are letters, and they are staggering. There simply is no way to make up the coming shortfall through wind, solar and geothermal energy. The argument is laid out in impressive detail and in a way that is both illuminating and pleasantly educational. There is also ...more
Jan 29, 2013 Chris rated it it was amazing
Fantastic, funny, realistic view of the well-intended but hopelessly unscientific energy ideas put up by politicians, energy people, hucksters and environmentalists. Dense high energy sources are coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear. Period. Solar, wind, ethanol, saw grass, etc. will never handle much more that niche power. Nothing is a free lunch either. From the huge land mass footprint for wind turbines to the carving up of food growing resources for the god awful ethanol lobby (an incredibly ...more
Bojan Tunguz
Feb 08, 2013 Bojan Tunguz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Green energy," "climate change," "environment," "sustainability" are some of the very prominent buzzwords that that pup up with some frequency in the media these days. The planet is in grave peril, and unless we do something drastic about it we are all going to die. Or something to that effect. And the drastic measure almost always means abandoning fossil fuels, and replacing them with "sustainable" sources of energy, such as biomass, wind, solar, etc. Putting aside the validity of the danger t ...more
Luca Bertagnolio
Power Hungry is an excellent primer on energy, specifically for all those who have been led to believe that there is a future by only using the "green" renewables that modern day propaganda seem to like so much.

First and foremost, it clarifies the difference between energy and power, and why we should not really care about energy per se, but rather focusing on power.

The introduction of the "Four Imperatives" then becomes a measuring scale to understand why we must have a mixed balance in our ene
Tso William
Apr 20, 2015 Tso William rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, policy
I felt less guilt (or even guiltless) when I turn on the air conditioner at the maximum low temperature, or to switch on the TV while I am not watching it (disregarding the issue of electricity bills), because, despite the claims of the doomsaying environmentalists, coals and oils are abundant enough for consumption in the next few decades at least. In the future, natural gas and nuclear energy, rather than wind or solar energy, will continue to provide cheap and abundant energy for humanity.

Skylar Burris
Mar 13, 2015 Skylar Burris marked it as unfinished
I sampled the Introduction and the first two chapters on Kindle. The introduction reads like a high school creative writing exercise, or like most of the mediocre writing of modern journalists, with lines such as “Shortly before Eric Anderson, the tall, boyish-looking manager of Cardinal Mine…” It gets better after that, however. It looks like the book will contain lots of clear, logical arguments and statistical support. But I doubt I will buy it or even check it out. I got the main point in th ...more
Nick Lo
Apr 28, 2013 Nick Lo rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Energy issue neophytes
A lack of solid knowledge about energy issues, together with my suspicion that there was a level of naivety in local debates about coal seam gas, prompted me to pick up this book in our local library. I'm glad I did and I'm also glad that the book was a lot more pragmatic than the cover and title suggests.

Having read as many negative reviews as I could find I was on the look out for sections that seemed misleading. There were some such as the energy efficiency chapter using relative rather than
Ryan Rommann
Ultimately, I found myself in agreement with many of Bryce's remarks. Alternative energy is definitely hyped and when compared on a cost-density basis, can't compete against typical hydrocarbons. He brings some of the bitter truths of our energy landscape to light and should be required reading for those thinking wind, sun and water will be next year's power supply. And I think he's spot on about the N2N future.

However, Bryce's flippant consideration of the competing opinions of green activists
Jamie Belanger
May 09, 2012 Jamie Belanger rated it really liked it
Power Hungry debunks many myths about so-called "green" technologies using simple math and easily verifiable statistics. While the text is sometimes dry, the numbers and the conclusions they indicate kept me turning pages. My only problem with the book is that there are a lot of repetitive phrases used -- mostly "In other words," and "To put it another way." The author uses these phrases several times per chapter and, in my opinion, it filled the book with a lot of unnecessary duplicate explanat ...more
David R.
Oct 02, 2015 David R. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, economics
Bryce has established himself as a passionate educator on energy and in this book breaks down the strengths and weaknesses of a number of energy sources. Bryce delivers a surprising lucid read and one that is desperately needed when so many nonsensical contentions are being made.
Jan 25, 2016 Prctaxman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
Wow, does this book systematically open one's eyes and destroy a whole bunch of myths, simultaneously! This is an essential read! I'm plodding through it, slowly but will read it all! LL 11 July 2010 GZ
Dennis Maley
Jul 11, 2012 Dennis Maley rated it liked it
The first five chapters sound like my brother wrote them. He's a pertoleum ingineer. This was a selection of my book club, ordinarily I wouldn't read it. I probably agree with most of what's said, but the style of saying it is almost oppressive.

Update: after the first five chapters, the book becomes more enjoyable to read. Not so dense with facts and statistics. Saw my brother over the weekend, he's actual met and dined with the author. I think it was some kind of rubber chicken meal at a confer
Feb 24, 2014 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want to know more about the "Green" energy movement read this book. Explains the numbers and facts of how many resources are used by green energy. Coal is not the best fuel but good for the moment. Natural gas and nuclear are the fuels of the future.
Jan 06, 2015 Andy rated it really liked it
Very well written and readable. Bryce gives a great perspective on the truly enormous amount of energy we use and why that is a good thing. He applies critical thinking to all the green energy schemes out there and then provides a solution to our future energy needs. You'll learn about the four imperatives of energy and the difference between energy and power, and why green energy will never be more than an oddity. There are some historical gems in his book that really help you understand energy ...more
Aug 26, 2010 Jrobertus rated it really liked it
Bryce dissects America's power needs, production, and politics. He shows that "green" energy like wind and solar can never meet our power needs and can only augment traditional, high density power sources. He champions natural gas as the lowest carbon fossil fuel and nuclear as the future. He has an axe to grind but I think what he says is basically on tract. This book makes an important contribution to the debate our nation is having about power and shows how we are wasting time and resources o ...more
Aug 28, 2010 Stephen rated it it was amazing
Robert Bryce has here a book of facts that are very useful to the debate on energy in the United States which has too much political pandering, pork, and incorrect impressions about energy. Half of the book is about debunking green energy myths, and Bryce does a good job doing that. I didn't think of such a thing as "energy sprawl," and that every source of energy has a cost to the environment. There are too many things to list in a paragraph that I learned form this book. A very worthwhile book ...more
Dec 21, 2011 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: engineering
As with this author's other volume (Gusher of Lies), I didn't agree with all of his opinions/conclusions. He is a bit inconsistent in that regard, in that he first says we should get government out of the energy business, but then goes on to recommend that government incentivize gas and nuclear. Those are great energy sources, but government shouldn't be incentivizing or otherwise meddling with energy choices at all. Otherwise, the book is well researched and I enjoyed the facts and statistics.
Jul 27, 2011 Brandur rated it it was amazing
Excellent book detailing the current state of power in the world, specifically the United States. It showcases nuclear energy prominently as the future of power, and explains why gas and coal will likely always play an important role in the grid (proponent of N2N, "natural gas to nuclear"). Green energy is covered in detail and shown to mostly be good meaning, but ultimately not practical for the real world. Conjectures are supported by hard facts and numbers throughout.
May 09, 2012 Zohair rated it really liked it
Robert Bryce makes very convincing arguments for hydrocarbons and against "green" energy. Personally I am opposed to anything that requires a subsidy to make it economically feasible and I would imagine it to be a bubble waiting to burst. But Bryce sheds light on the technological flaws of green energy and explains that hydrocarbons and nuclear are the right way to go.

Even if you are green this is recommended reading, if just to get the opposing viewpoint.
Sep 10, 2012 Jani-Petri rated it it was ok
Some interesting stuff, but lots of idiotic statements about climate change suggesting controversy among scientists when there is none...beyond isolated contrarians and crackpots. Favors natural gas and nuclear power and the only way he can square the support for gas is by downplaying climate change risks.
Aug 25, 2013 Brian rated it really liked it
Shelves: environmental
Great book on the state of energy in our world and the possibilities of future energy sources. Bryce definitely has a view on energy that many "environmentalists" might disagree with (especially regarding nuclear energy) but I found his arguments well thought out.
Nov 21, 2012 steven rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Power Hungry is a thoroughly researched and cited, well reasoned, non-partisan overview of our energy present and future. The book provides a great overview of global energy use for any reader without a deep background in the industry.
Garret Seinen
Feb 27, 2011 Garret Seinen rated it really liked it
This is a very good book on what power means to our modern world. He is an unabashed advocate of using carbon based energy and has a clearly thought out sense of why 'green' energy is far from replacing oil.
Yingzhang(Edward)  Dong
What should I do with those books that I don't want to finish?
I don't want to finish this book because I think it doesn't worth my time finishing the rest of it.
Brendan  McAuliffe
Jan 27, 2012 Brendan McAuliffe rated it it was ok
Didn't read all of this , just enuogh to get the general argument. The picture of the Wastsila diesel engine was the best part.
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Robert Bryce has written three books, his newest being Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence. He was hailed as a 'visionary' by the New York Times, a fact he often repeats to his children and his dog, Biscuit.
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