Occasionally I feel the need to shill for decent books, so here are a few I have read lately
Sustainable Materials With Both Eyes Open, by Allwood and Cullen
A really good look at how to reduce the environmental impact of materials, focusing largely on steel and aluminium. These are much under discussed issues when it comes to climate change, consider that we have no viable way to make steel on a big scale without coal. The title is, I’m guessing, inspired by David MacKay’s excellent Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air. Even the shape of the books are similar:
They also both share the trait of being clearly written, and being available as free eBooks, here and here. (I’ll declare that if you buy it from Amazon after clicking the above links I get a small part of the pie.) And in many respects the quickest way to cut through the bullshit in discussions about the future of UK energy supply is to read MacKay’s book. It quickly dispels many of the illusions people have.
The Burning Question, by Mike Berners Lee and Duncan Clark
A clearly written book on the current state of progress (or lack of) on climate change mitigation, with a very welcome level of nuance. I don’t fully buy what it says about “carbon bubbles” and while I mostly agree with what it says about energy it could have been fleshed out a bit to be more persuasive. But as a quick primer on many important questions it is worth reading.
Creating the Twentieth Century
We live in a period of remarkable innovation. However, reading Vaclav Smil will make you reassess just how innovative we are when it comes to energy. Consider this, the vast majority of machines (steam turbines, internal combustion engines etc) that we use to convert fuels (coal, oil etc) into usable energy were invented over a century ago. We live, as Smil convincingly argues, in a world essentially invented before the first world war.
Eaarth by Bill McKibben
And I’ll finish with a book I didn’t agree with too much, but is worth reading nonetheless. The vision of the future McKibben offers up – everyone living in some version of small town Vermont – is as appealing to me as a mixture of single malt Scotch and Coca Cola. And I recoiled in horror at his suggestion that the human impulse to move from small towns to cities should become a thing of the past. Yet, McKibben argues passionately, and the book is worth reading to see just where this increasingly influential figure stands.