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Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  487 ratings  ·  72 reviews
The near-meltdown of Fukushima, the upheavals in the Middle East, the BP oil rig explosion, and the looming reality of global warming have reminded the president and all U.S. citizens that nothing has more impact on our lives than the supply of and demand for energy. Its procurement dominates our economy and foreign policy more than any other factor. But the “energy questi ...more
Hardcover, 350 pages
Published August 6th 2012 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2012)
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Karina van Schaardenburg
This book is good if you want a comprehensive overview and justification of current energy policies. It's also good for a detailed description of the mechanics of fossil fuel technologies and nuclear. I learned a lot from this book.

That said, I hated this book. Muller acknowledges that there's an inherent tension between short term economics and long term climate change. Without going through climate change models, or mentioning the number of degrees of warming that scientists think we can susta
Oct 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm thinking everyone should read this—not just future presidents! This is the book to read to understand the issues of today in regard to energy. It’s got it all—oil, nuclear, climate change, alternative energy, natural gas, everything. Though there are several science-y things in here that I don’t really understand, it is mostly intelligible to me. It is the most reasonable and transparent view of these issues that I have ever read. It really tries to teach rather than pontificate. So refreshi ...more
Jan 10, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is already somewhat dated. Some predictions and assumptions have proven untrue (i.e. the cost of a Kw/hr of batteries). The implication of predictions based on assumptions that are no longer true detracts from the conclusions. I am glad that the reality significantly outperformed the predictions.

There were many valid and solid points. With an updated version it would get four stars.
Aug 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines by Richard A. Muller

"Energy for Future Presidents" is the educational, informative and accessible book on energy. The book covers popular topics on energy: energy disasters, energy landscape (modes of transportation), and "new" technologies. Professor of physics and author, Richard A. Muller, succeeds in providing the public a wonderful topical book that covers the most important topics on energy. The author uses a cleaver approach i
Ira Brodsky
Sep 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting and relatively non-technical survey of energy solutions. Though Muller famously changed his mind about global warming, I'm not sure he chnaged his mind all that much. The book's greatest asset is that it provides a fair and realistic assessment of different solutions, revealing what's real, what's hype, and what's exaggerated.
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
My full review is here:

It's well written. Many will disagree with his thoughts on EV's and natural gas though. He is very pro-nuclear, but his arguments are very convincing, I have to admit.
Jul 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Richard M. Muller, a physics professor at University of California Berkeley, has written another book on science and national policy, this one focused on energy use. His previous book Physics for Future Presidents, had a broader scope. Topics covered include the 2011 nuclear accidents at Fukushima, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill of 2010, climate change, the recent group in natural gas and shale oil reserves from a combination of fracking and horizontal drizzling, energy productivity (aka efficienc ...more
Anders Rasmussen
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I will start by admitting that I am a fan of Richard Muller. Before I even went to university I watched every lecture in his "Physics for future presidents" course at UC Berkeley, which was one of the first courses to become available online as a free webcast. I would describe Muller as an honest and rigorous scientist who is not afraid to speak his mind even when his views are controversial. He is also very critical of the way that different energy issues are portrayed in the media, something w ...more
Gregory Gallavin
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book kind of fell off the shelf into my hands, so I took it home and read it. Only later did I realize it is a 2012 book and already a bit dated. My 4-star rating is based on what I would have given it in 2012; if I were to take time into account, it would be a 3-star book.

Author Richard Muller takes a novel approach with his book on energy, taking the position that he is briefing you on the basics of energy in order to prepare you for your presidential run and all the decisions you'll need
Ralph Hermansen
Feb 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The name of the book is, "Energy for Future Presidents" written by Richard A Muller. I became aware of this important book while watching the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC. Richard Muller was Rachel's guest and he was discussing his new book with her. This author had become a news item worth reporting on the show because he had changed from being a skeptic about global warming into a convinced scientist. He stated that global warming is real and that 99% of it is due to human causes. Moreover, the ...more
Alec Sevins
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is quite informative on topics like nuclear fusion, but sidesteps many aesthetic and pollution concerns with wind power and oil & gas development. Utilitarianism is the main theme, and there's more to quality of life than obtaining energy.

The author is also somewhat of a global warming denier, insisting that he isn't. Despite his "Berkeley Earth" findings, he oddly claims that polar ice-melt isn't conclusively due to temperature. I also think he's far too optimistic about gas fracking
Matt Chester
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I had come across Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines by Richard A. Muller in a bookstore about a year and a half ago and immediately put it on my to-read list. Assuming I would be able to pick it up the next time I was in the store, I did not buy it that day and ended up not finding it in any bookstore I went to for the next year. However the concept of the book, giving an overview of every type of energy technology and policy that might be relevant in the coming year ...more
Ben Hughes
Jun 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent primer on the physics of energy, energy policy, and sustainability, written by a physicist. Energy is a sensitive issue, and contains a lot of public discussion, fear, and hype. This book presents a rational and scientific approach to analyzing these issues, navigating the trade-offs, and ultimately helping to solve energy-related issues like climate change. It is information-dense and contains and plenty of charts and data, but is written in an approachable way.

A few negati
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Informative, non-partisan and a quick read. A lot of basic facts of economics and physics that help clarify the directions we should take. The author is successful in being impartial and just discussing the facts. The biggest drawback to the book is that it is a few years out of date and I wonder if recent developments would have altered some of his conclusions. One of the biggest developments over the last few years has been the growth of Tesla, and I wonder if the greater production of batteri ...more
Aug 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: notable-reads
So great if you want an overview of all things energy! One of the greatest benefits of the book is that it encourages you to cast a critical eye to what the media portrays and what you learn from school and society about energy and the environment. There was so much I didn’t know, including the things I thought I did! I also liked that he talked about sustainability in a way that also recognizes economics and politics as pieces that must be considered to find real solutions. Would have liked a b ...more
Gable Roth
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2-non-fiction
The author explains global warming in such a clear and non-alarmist manner. He recognizes that it is a problem and that it is human caused but he doesn't say "We're all going to die!!!" Better yet, he provides clear and reasonable solutions including nuclear! I used to think that nuclear was the only solution. However, and partly with the help of this book, I now recognize that wind and solar do have the potential to play a key role. Surprisingly enough he explains how natural gas will also help ...more
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you can get past the title, this is a helpful and quantitative overview of the U.S. energy landscape with regards to CO2 emissions and energy security. The simple-to-understand analysis of Fukushima provides a concrete basis for the layman to discuss pros and cons of nuclear power. As the founder of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project, Muller’s skeptical perspective, regarding human-caused climate change, sets the stage for a fairly convincing argument that human activities are cau ...more
Erik Champenois
A nice intro to the energy sectors, covering the main traditional and alternative energy sources (both how they work and their costs and future possibilities), discussing the (lower than you'd think) impact of more recent energy catastrophes like Fukushima, and nicely reviewing energy policy options through the contrasting perspectives of energy security and environmental/global warming concerns.

The main two downsides are (1) that the book was published seven years ago and is already in some re
Yates Buckley
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: technical, essential
Imperfect and sometimes irritating, now bit out of date but an important book to understand energy policies in the US. The author does a good job to focus the key decisions ahead and their complexity. The opportunities and costs of different technologies and what to expect from them going ahead.

The incredible aspect of this is how unlikely any future president might read and actually understand the claculations here.

I would love to read a critique of this text by another as brilliant physicist.
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Despite the fact that Muller doesn't seem to prioritize environmental impact *minimization* as a primary goal of energy policy, and seems to prefer the energy sources that would win in a free-market/unsubsidized system (he's very pro natural gas), I still found this book to be incredibly useful in distilling and understanding a wide variety of energy and alternative energy topics. Accessible and well-written.
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informative, an easy read for a heavy topic. Strongly recommend for anyone interested in future energy sources.

Very informative and an easy read for such a heavy topic. Recommend to anyone interested in the future of energy. Also reviews global warming and what everyone should know about it.
Nov 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
Absolute dog shit.
I get the whole jovial expository shit is meant to make the subject of global energy policy along with its historical corollaries more accessible/relevant to a quotidian readership but it comes across so fucking infuriatingly: making histrionic baby talk out of it, it’s insulting.
Minh Long
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
A brilliant book about energy that everyone should read.
Although written in 2012, some of the views are still valued until today:
- Why Solar, Wind are not effective
- Why energy disasters are overreacted
- Why nuclear is not as serious as it is
- Why biodegradable products are bad (yes they are)
- Why electric and hybrid cars are expensive and ineffective
And more
brendan virnig
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Love this book and Author. This book really gives you a good breakdown of energy current and future. The author does a great job breaking things down so that you don't need a PhD to read. I would love to see an updated version of the book.
Ravindra Airlangga
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Was looking for a book which gives an appropriate background to be able to tackle the issue of energy with a nuanced perspective. The book did not disappoint.
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Author provides an impartial outlook on energy-related topics - nukes, oil, alternative energy, batteries, etc. I personally learned a lot and recommend it to everyone interested in science
Marek S
Jul 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great objective overview of energy production that goes beyond media hype and public opinion. I just wish an updated version would be published.
Christian Dibblee
Jul 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: miscellaneous
A book well worth reading, if only for the purpose of learning about the overriding energy considerations currently at play. The science is certainly interesting, even if it's tough to remember going forward. If there's a complaint I have, it's almost that the fire hose of information may be totally undigestible...I find it hard to believe a lay reader could remember lots of the key numbers/scientific theories in here.

Muller harps consistently on natural gas as the obvious outlet for future ener
Neil R. Coulter
Jun 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction

This is just the book I was looking for after reading Michael E. Mann's The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars (reviewed here). Mann helped me understand the climate change issue more clearly than I ever had before, and at the end of his book I wanted to know: what do I do? Do I buy carbon credits? only use electric cars? buy compact fluorescent light bulbs for all my friends? I wanted to do something, but I didn't really know what to do.

Then I saw a review of Richard A. Muller's Energy for Futur

Lucas Jim
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The tittle suggests a very basic book, with superficial things about the types of energies that we have. But actually the book has a lot of details and technical background. It is a very good reading to anyone who likes international matters, politics and strategy. The author shows authority and gives good arguments to explain his points. If the presidents had this kind of info in the past we would be in a better world by now.
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Richard A. Muller is professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a past winner of the MacArthur Fellowship. His popular science book Physics for Future Presidents and academic textbook Physics and Technology for Future Presidents are based on his renowned course for non-science students. He lives in Berkeley, California.

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