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Energy transitions are fundamental processes behind the evolution of human societies: they both drive and are driven by technical, economic, and social changes. In a bold and provocative argument, Energy Transitions: History, Requirements, Prospects describes the history of modern society's dependence on fossil fuels and the prospects for the transition to a nonfossil worl Energy transitions are fundamental processes behind the evolution of human societies: they both drive and are driven by technical, economic, and social changes. In a bold and provocative argument, Energy Transitions: History, Requirements, Prospects describes the history of modern society's dependence on fossil fuels and the prospects for the transition to a nonfossil world. Vaclav Smil, who has published more on various aspects of energy than any working scientist, makes it clear that this transition will not be accomplished easily, and that it cannot be accomplished within the timetables established by the Obama administration. The book begins with a survey of the basic properties of modern energy systems. It then offers detailed explanations of universal patterns of energy transitions, the peculiarities of changing energy use in the world's leading economies, and the coming shifts from fossil fuels to renewable conversions. Specific cases of these transitions are analyzed for eight of the world's leading energy consumers. The author closes with perspectives on the nature and pace of the coming energy transition to renewable conversions.


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Energy transitions are fundamental processes behind the evolution of human societies: they both drive and are driven by technical, economic, and social changes. In a bold and provocative argument, Energy Transitions: History, Requirements, Prospects describes the history of modern society's dependence on fossil fuels and the prospects for the transition to a nonfossil worl Energy transitions are fundamental processes behind the evolution of human societies: they both drive and are driven by technical, economic, and social changes. In a bold and provocative argument, Energy Transitions: History, Requirements, Prospects describes the history of modern society's dependence on fossil fuels and the prospects for the transition to a nonfossil world. Vaclav Smil, who has published more on various aspects of energy than any working scientist, makes it clear that this transition will not be accomplished easily, and that it cannot be accomplished within the timetables established by the Obama administration. The book begins with a survey of the basic properties of modern energy systems. It then offers detailed explanations of universal patterns of energy transitions, the peculiarities of changing energy use in the world's leading economies, and the coming shifts from fossil fuels to renewable conversions. Specific cases of these transitions are analyzed for eight of the world's leading energy consumers. The author closes with perspectives on the nature and pace of the coming energy transition to renewable conversions.

30 review for Energy Transitions: History, Requirements, Prospects

  1. 5 out of 5

    John

    I found this book hard to get into for about the first twenty pages or so. I think it was the sentences: they were long and had maybe one too many twist to them, which when combined with the font size made it difficult to follow. This kept this book on my shelf for far too long. Recently, I'm not sure exactly why, I decided to plow ahead. I'm not sure what happened, whether I got the rhythm of reading this book or Vaclav Smil got the rhythm of writing it, because once the pace of "Energy Transiti I found this book hard to get into for about the first twenty pages or so. I think it was the sentences: they were long and had maybe one too many twist to them, which when combined with the font size made it difficult to follow. This kept this book on my shelf for far too long. Recently, I'm not sure exactly why, I decided to plow ahead. I'm not sure what happened, whether I got the rhythm of reading this book or Vaclav Smil got the rhythm of writing it, because once the pace of "Energy Transitions" gets going, it's as nearly unstoppable as the networks of dependencies between the infrastructures of production, transportation, and consumption that hold energy systems in place long past even when it is in their commercial favor to be displaced. What makes it hum along is a kind of density of facts where you're constantly impressed with the thoroughness, as you're given a new appreciation for facts that you had rough comparisons between but had no idea of the exact magnitude. The comparable utility of the fact density of this book resembles the utility of the energy density of fossil and nuclear fuels: you could try to go elsewhere but given the unprecedented level of effort it would take you to make up the difference, one should prepare for a more modest quality of life. Don't judge anything by how long it said it took me to read this, that's just how long it was in the queue for me to review it. This book is tight! It's only 153 pages of main text and you will understand the history of energy like never before and understand it in very little time. Here's an example that just shows the density of facts and intensity of research on display: "...In parts of forest-rich Germany annual use was on the order of 50-60 GJ/capita by the eighteenth century (Sieferle, 2001) and fairly reliable U.S. data indicate that by 1850 the country consumed annually as much as 97 GJ/capita for all uses. Surveys of traditional rural energy use done in China of the late 1970s found that in a family of four or five people 12-15 GJ/capita were needed for cooking and water heating and that at least 3.3 MJ/m^3 were needed daily for minimum heating during four to five winter months in Northern China (Smil, 1993). Consequently, minimum annual wood and crop residues use in Chinese villages added up to 16-20 GJ/capita." Will this attention to detail, you will develop a sliver of the author's informed view that contingency matters in how energy usage trends manifest and how entrenched certain trends are. This level of attention to the facts helps develop a profound skepticism about how knowledge about how energy transitions will develop and how easy such transitions will be. Given this background, you will then be able to appreciate the tremendous patience with which he debunks two kinds of astonishing naivete: projections of energy share per source based on simple deterministic mathematical models of temporary regularities and policy proposals for unprecedentedly rapid energy transitions. It's clear that these projections and proposals have none of the rigor would allow one to have an accurate picture of the development of energy resources pages in just over 150 fact-filled pages. Often, they don't even get the present right. All of this isn't to say that Smil thinks that nothing should be done to bring about energy transitions to lower-impact energy societies. On the contrary: though intense scholarship he knows better than most of us how necessary it is and how hard it will be.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Aftr

    As always with Smil, a dose of strong smelling salts for those who prefer nonsense to analytic rigor.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    I thoroughly enjoyed this well-researched book which gives expert analysis and opinions of renowned scientific author Vaclav Smil. While sections of the book have a 'text-book' feel, and are dominated by numerical comparisons and statistical analysis, I found the dedication to facts and informed conclusions vital to presenting a compelling and exciting narrative for the coming energy transition, and made sure to read every word. While offering extensive quantitative analysis, Smil also offers a I thoroughly enjoyed this well-researched book which gives expert analysis and opinions of renowned scientific author Vaclav Smil. While sections of the book have a 'text-book' feel, and are dominated by numerical comparisons and statistical analysis, I found the dedication to facts and informed conclusions vital to presenting a compelling and exciting narrative for the coming energy transition, and made sure to read every word. While offering extensive quantitative analysis, Smil also offers a qualitative review of the state of the current energy situation and our hopes of decarbonization, and occasionally uses satire to illustrate the delusions of political and industrial players. I was grateful that he provided a practical, candid closing statement and offered critical and constructive steps for the future. Smil takes the reader through a detailed history of energy transitions and offers an in depth understanding to even the most dilettante of readers. The comprehensive chronicle reveals how humankind began to harness and manipulate energy flows, how new discoveries and innovations elevated humans to a carbon intense energy system, and how we can begin to decarbonize in the future. Smil's in-depth research and quantification of energy usage looks carefully at the rates of diffusion of energy technologies to allow intelligent comparisons of previous energy transitions with our eventual decarbonization. He emphasizes the importance of understanding energy conversion factors and power densities and looks critically at the challenges and realities of having a 100% renewable grid and the realities of our dependence on coal for the synthesis of currently indispensable materials... and so much more. This book will enable you to engage in intelligent conversations about energy, climate change, and decarbonization and I highly recommend it to anyone with hopes of participating in the next energy transition. "A world without fossil fuel combustion is desirable, it will be eventually inevitable, and we should work to accelerate its arrival, but the process will be costly and it will take time as well as extraordinary commitment."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ɓukasz

    How is this book not in primary schools?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Prash

    An important book to understand energy transitions as accurately as possible

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kdaly37

    Book of year

  7. 5 out of 5

    Wildwoila

    A cautionary history of the slowness and unpredictability of energy system transformation. Unnecessarily data heavy. Thankfully, for now looks overly pessimistic.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gerry

    Starts off with a laundry list of statistics that gets a little dull, but second half gets a lot more interesting.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Claude

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gianluca

  11. 4 out of 5

    KEITH

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cameron

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cipicip

  15. 5 out of 5

    Steve

  16. 4 out of 5

    Omkar

  17. 4 out of 5

    AJ

  18. 4 out of 5

    Will Kruger

  19. 4 out of 5

    John

  20. 4 out of 5

    R.Willems

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tony Pan

  22. 5 out of 5

    Liam Fisher

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dom DeVetta

  24. 5 out of 5

    Timothy J. Haines

  25. 5 out of 5

    Georgina

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tomy Riando

  27. 5 out of 5

    Robert Delanghe

  28. 5 out of 5

    Eric Connerly

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey Matson

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael J. Sikora

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