walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_Earth: The Sequel_, Fred Krupp and Miriam Horn

Subtitled: The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming

This survey of already-existing and potential technologies to change the way we power our economy is variable. It's got a lot in it: solar, wind, biofuels (and not just corn based crap, either, and a better discussion of the problems and strategies for switchgrass than I had previously seen), nuclear, wind, ocean, coal (including underground coal gasification, which maybe everyone else knew about but I sure didn't), smart grids, electric cars, power plants to harvest stratospheric wind [ETA: kites as power plants!], geothermal -- I'm sure I missed something Krupp covered and I'm sure Krupp missed something he could have covered altho I'm not sure what it would be. Oh, wait, actually I am sure, but I'll get to that in a minute.

The usual suspects make appearances: Amory Levins, Paul Hawken, and _Natural Capitalism_ all get mentioned, as does the Tesla Motor [ETA: that's a weird typo. I meant Roadster], Google and WalMart's efforts to reduce carbon and energy use. The Volt gets mentioned. Interface shows up. Best of all, the wacky guy in Chena, Bernie K. and I've forgotten his last name _again_, gets much more detailed coverage than I've seen before. That section, in fact, is wonderful in several ways. Bernie's earlier life running K&K Recycling makes a lot of sense. His brothers with muscular dystrophy, his early lawn mowing empire, his gently skeptical wife, all the work other people, other companies and the US government put into making his geothermal cooling system work and keep the ice palace from thawing. Most of all, he's such an impresario, that the whole ice palace obsession itself clearly functions as a way to get people to come see him and all his exciting and wonderful ideas.

Cars are handled separately, towards the end of the book, and conservation/efficiency barely gets a handful of paragraphs (and some of those veer off the topic). Krupp does note the importance of compact land use policies (yay), but can the lowly bicycle or, heavens! walking! get some respect? Apparently not.

The timing on the writing and publication of this book (predates the '08 oil spike and financial collapse) make a mockery of some of the predictions, and also throws into sharp relief that we could do a whole lot more in terms of conservation than was thinkable at the time (well, thinkable by him and his co-author, or expected to be thinkable by the book's audience). OTOH, because this is essentially a book-length argument in support of cap-and-trade (did I mention that?), reading it now is quite timely.

Krupp and Horn do a better than average job of not-buying-the-hype associated with new technologies. Yes, they reproduce the claims and press releases -- but they do follow that up with some independent/alternative assessments, and they do insert some commentary of their own. Krupp and Horn are not arguing for one particular technology, after all. They're arguing that if you do cap-and-trade, the market will figure out how to price this stuff, and the best tech will win. Of course, in the wake of the spike and crash, it's easy to see what's really winning that battle in the short run: using less, any damn way you can.

Worth your time? Well, if you're genuinely interested in whether there's merit to cap-and-trade, this seems like a serviceable entry for the "pro" side. I can't bring myself to read anything on the "anti" side, so you're on your own there. If you find something you find particularly compelling on the "anti" side, I might be interested in hearing about it.
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