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

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  267 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
There are many misconceptions about the future of global energy often presented as fact 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 c ...more
Hardcover, 213 pages
Published August 16th 2010 by American Enterprise Institute Press
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Fossil fuels reached their extreme prices and totality of use over the last two centuries because of their 'efficiency' of how much energy can be extracted from them per unit weight. However, these methods of power generation present problems because of their eventual exhaustion, but also because of their polluting effects.

Many solutions have been proposed to resolve these problems, and here Dr. Smil uses the most recent scientific data to understand their limitations and problems. For some, th
Dec 09, 2014 Rhys rated it liked it
The book is a clear analysis and critique of types of energy used, including coal, oil, natural gas, wind, and biofuels. There is lot of wisdom in Smil's presentation of the scope of the problem as we transition from fossil fuels. He takes a similar approach as Minoru Kyo in Already Extinct in that he delimits the ability of renewable alternatives to replacing coal, oil and natural gas.

My main complaint of the presentation is that he does not really take seriously the potential threats of climat
Mohammad Jalali
I liked the core idea, presented by Smil, that energy dreams are not properly connected to reality. He presents many cases to prove his beliefs and, I think, he fairly mentions many quantitative results to support his ideas; however, there are some failures in his book that should be discussed. Although he tries to think about problems scientifically, I would never name his book as ‘bringing science to the energy policy debate’ as his disagreements are not fully supported by science. In some par ...more
Doug Glancy
Nov 26, 2013 Doug Glancy rated it really liked it
A good overview of the inherent difficulties in meeting our carbon budget. Unfortunately, the book has little to no insight on how to actually address the climate crisis. Shooting down others ideas is easy, providing solutions is hard.
May 25, 2014 Jekaterina rated it really liked it
Meant to be thought provoking and to challenge ones view on some of the current energy issues. Which is why I was ok with it being intentionally selective
Matthew Dahlhausen
In Energy Myths and Realities, Vaclav Smil brings a pragmatic view to popular ideas for our energy system of the last few decades: electric cars, nuclear, decentralized energy production, peak oil, carbon sequestration, biofuels, and wind power. His key message is that energy technologies are often over-hyped, often ignore environmental consequences or infrastructure requirements, and that transitions are slow. His analysis benefits from an extensive and current reference list, mostly journal ar ...more
Marian Suwono
Feb 27, 2014 Marian Suwono rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book from the library because the author is Bill Gates' favorite author. I admire his vast interdisciplinary knowledge and the fact that he chooses reality over ideologically driven wishful thinking that he tries to debunk in this book. While he may sound pessimistic most of the time in the book by deeming many things as unrealistic, as an engineer I understand where he is coming from as there are always trade-offs in every solution offered. Furthermore, I assume his knowledge a ...more
Robert Thinh
Dec 04, 2012 Robert Thinh rated it it was amazing
- Lots of up-to-date information on the energy market, covering all the main energy sources from non-renewable (oil/nuclear) to renewable sources (bio fuel, photovoltaics ...)
- Common myths regarding the over-promised potential of contemporary energy harvesting technologies as well as storage (lithium battery) are busted efficiently and convincingly

- The only thing i find missing is a suggested solution which is kind-of expected when all available option for future energy security
Kathy Nealen
Jan 14, 2016 Kathy Nealen rated it liked it
This was not an easy read for me for two reasons. One, its scientific and technical language was beyond my understanding at times. Two, it was disappointing to watch the author minimize alternative energy sources that receive such good publicity. His points were convincing to me. We always think we can make a miraculous change in our society very quickly, when in reality, history tells us it takes a long time. The Moore's law phenomenon related to semiconductor efficiency is a notable exception, ...more
May 03, 2015 Raisa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: energy
The title may be a little misleading as "science" is used to refer to historical legacies and statistics, rather than the biological and chemical sciences that come to many minds, but the book is a great read for people new to the energy debate and confused by some energy myths. Smil outlines a brief history of popular, yet unrealized energy dreams- particularly pointing to the difficulty of scaling many projects beyond initial demonstrations as well as putting the size of scalability in perspec ...more
Harald Johansson
Apr 18, 2016 Harald Johansson rated it liked it
A not so optimistic view on green technology (mainly wind power and bio fuels). Personally I believe that any work (inventions --> innovations) in the right direction leads to further development in a field. Niether wind power nor biofuels may play a big role in a making the world more sustainable, but may act as ignition for improved technology.

I agree with that we should not put all our faith in the first quick and dirty solutions brought to market.
Feb 07, 2014 Tomkeese rated it really liked it
Valcav Smil is professor of Environment and Environmental Geography at the University of Manitoba. In this extraordinarily data rich book he discussed a number of myths and realities related to many aspects of energy. Among them are: the future of electric cars, electricity from the sun and wind, nuclear energy, speak our, and carbon sequestration. This is a very academic gook that is full of factual data about where the world is heading in the field of energy generation and consumption.
Oct 11, 2016 Lisa rated it really liked it
A really thorough, level-headed analysis of commonly-discussed phenomena in renewable energy, which honestly, I needed to read. There were some items which Smil chose to gloss over (in this small book) which I would be interested in reading more about in the future.
Filipe Dias
May 31, 2012 Filipe Dias rated it really liked it
An excellent read to anyone interested in Energy policies, production and consumption, and a breakdown of what is possible, what is likely, and what is purely delusional.
Could do with a summary at the end of each chapter for easier understanding though.
Karel Baloun
Apr 17, 2014 Karel Baloun rated it liked it
Pessimistic and rationally conservative, but well considered and scientifically factual.

Usually Smil publishes with MIT Press, and I feel here he got hijacked by pro-fossil fuel energy policy conservatives.

His 2014 book on materials in society is far superior.
Apr 09, 2014 Brian rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
Clear, if somewhat dull look at energy alternatives and the prospect for transition from coal and oil. Apparently the replacement of oil with switchgrass is going to take longer and do less than its champions would have you believe.
Jul 31, 2014 Oana rated it liked it
Although, it is a little too technical, I enjoyed reading it. It is quite an interesting book and a very detailed one. This book gave me a new outlook of what sustainability is and why it is important to be familiar with this subject.
Jun 29, 2013 Trevor rated it liked it
Decent but not particularly in-depth for anyone in the industry. Still worth a read and puts some facts into the discussion.
Kelsey Breseman
Aug 19, 2016 Kelsey Breseman rated it liked it
Shelves: climate-change
A very useful book. Read my analysis of it here:
Jan 24, 2012 Jani-Petri rated it really liked it
A must read for anyone interested in climate change and energy issues. Wonderfully clear eyed, rational, and sceptical of all the hype.
Aniruddh Mohan
Oct 22, 2015 Aniruddh Mohan rated it really liked it
Excellent stuff, clarity of mind is so evident here as is his expertise on all things energy. Highly recommend!
Estiven Gonzalez
Jul 11, 2014 Estiven Gonzalez rated it it was amazing
Interesting, amazing and good summary of the technical myths in discussing energy policy. A very useful book for connoisseurs and non-connoisseurs.
Mar 05, 2016 Allisonperkel rated it really liked it
Mostly solid critique on current energy options. I'm more 3.5 stars since Mr Smil dismisses the impact of climate change colors some of his findings.

Sep 02, 2014 Gerry rated it it was amazing
Important resource for anyone who wants to have an educated opinion on renewables, fossil fuels, nuclear, and global energy politics.
Jan 08, 2014 Aftr rated it it was amazing
A cold shower of rationalism; an antidote for the unfounded assumptions of too many uncritically parroted nostrums about the future profile of the world energy economy.
Greg Fanoe
Mar 02, 2016 Greg Fanoe rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Interesting, but in many ways it lacked depth. I would have preferred something more comprehensive.
Martin Tobias
Martin Tobias rated it really liked it
Dec 01, 2014
Rodger Voorhies
Rodger Voorhies rated it really liked it
Jun 09, 2013
Quinn rated it really liked it
Sep 27, 2015
Jonathan Montesinos
Feb 09, 2015 Jonathan Montesinos rated it really liked it
Pinpoints with accuracy the complexity of energy policies in their real life application.
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Vaclav Smil does interdisciplinary research in the fields of energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment, and public policy.

He has published 35 books and more than 400 papers on these topics. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (Science Academy), and the
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