26 internautes sur 27 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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Back in 2008 I read and reviewed another of Robert Bryce's books, Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of "Energy Independence". While I thought that book was well researched and well written, I also thought he went too far with his language. "Gusher of lies" and "dangerous delusions" are strong words, and I did not think Robert Bryce made his case for using them. Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future too seemed a little too much hyperbole and a little too little balance.
This new book is better. More balanced, more measured, but still with Robert Bryce's journalist eye for the issues, and his research and writing skills. This time around, he makes the argument that people are innovative, and that while we face some stiff challenges as humans, we also have proven in the past that we have the capability to solve problems just as thorny as those we face now. So he gives more of a nod to the arguments made by those who predict catastrophe, while still not accepting their forebodings of darkest doom.
Take energy, for example, which is the main topic Robert Bryce discusses in this book. In the previous books I read, Robert Bryce was quite dismissive of solar power. He told about how he had solar panels on his own roof, but they did not live up to their promise. In this book, by contrast, he is a little bullish on solar power, saying that its costs have dropped so dramatically that what did not make sense before now has a future. (He remains skeptical of wind power, since it takes up so much space, and points out that we are stuck with hydrocarbons for decades if not a century. But his preferred path is N2N, or natural gas to nuclear.)
To make his case that innovation can help us solve problems (note that he just says "help" -- he warns that technology is not going to solve every problem, giving a nod to Evgeny Morozov and his book To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism), Robert Bryce looks back at the history of technology as well as traveling the world to report on what he sees. He looks at how so much of technology has changed the way we live our lives. Hunger was a real problem, and people like Paul Ehrlich predicted a hunger catastrophe that never happened. Hunger still remains a stubborn problem in parts of the world, but no mass starvation has occurred. The Green Revolution proved the catastrophists wrong.
The topics Robert Bryce covers, the stories he tells, and the lessons from history he draws, are all so rich and varied that a summary will not do them justice. Suffice it to say, as a summary, that he feels that Bill McKibben and others who want to "degrowth" and retreat from the technological frontiers -- what Robert Bryce calls the "40 acres and a mule Green Acres plan" -- are advocating a path that would lead to problems, not to solutions. Instead, Robert Bryce thinks we need a pro-business, pro-innovation, and pro-human outlook, generating the wealth to help scientists, tinkerers, and entrepreneurs to develop the technologies we need. We need to find more energy, not less. More growth, not less. Everything needs to get smaller, faster, lighter, denser, and cheaper. But to do that, we need to move ahead, not back.
Myself, I'm already singing in the choir Robert Bryce is preaching to. So I'm not sure that those who are not, those who think differently than Robert Bryce, will find as much to like in this book as I did. But I think everyone interested in these topics and worried about the way the world is changing should read this book. Whether you agree with him or not, you will (I think) come away from this book with a changed perspective and with more information. And that's good for anyone.
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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Robert Bryce has an important message that is lost on many commentators in the media today—that the world has gotten much better.
Instead of accepting this “collapse anxiety,” he provides a full-throated defense of human ingenuity and innovation. Getting back to nature à la Rousseau, Thoreau, and Carson by embracing renewable energy and decreased standards of living is not the way of the future. To continue the advancement of the developed and non-developed world, policymakers need to stop inhibiting progress and embrace the world’s master resource—energy.
Natural gas and nuclear power offer low-carbon solutions to the world’s increasing appetite for growth. Natural gas emits about half as much CO2 as coal does during electricity generation. The growth in U.S. natural gas production has done more to decrease CO2 emissions than every green energy government-mandated program in Europe.
Nuclear power plants have 2,100 times as much power density as wind energy. As Bryce repeatedly points out, density is green. Nuclear energy remains expensive and there are important safety risks to mitigate, but it is still in its infancy. Nuclear is the future, not renewable energy. As Bryce says, “We humans have been relying on renewable energy for thousands of years. And what did we learn in all that time? We found that renewable energy stinks.”
Bryce writes that if someone is anti-carbon and anti-nuclear, they are anti-growth and pro-blackout. Being against these two forms of energy is far from humanitarian since “degrowth” will return a large portion of the world to short lives of mere substance.
The right question to ask is not why we have poverty—it is why we have wealth. Until the recent growth that was enabled by access to cheap, efficient energy, humans lived very difficult lives. The past age that extreme environmentalists romanticize lacked social, intellectual, and economic mobility and was marked by lives of deprivation.
Just 200 years ago, 85 percent of the world lived on under $1 a day. Today, that number is only 16 percent, and falling. Those who want to return humanity to the time when the average life span was under 50 years (the United States before 1900 and the least-developed countries until the last quarter century) are advocating complete rejection of progress and the prosperity that accompanies it.
Most people in developing countries want to increase their life spans and embrace progress. They want to join Bryce’s future—one where human ingenuity is set free to build everything “Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper.”
13 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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For doomsayers who thrive on never-ending public pronouncements of impending ecological and societal collapse ... stop. Read this book. Robert Bryce clearly, carefully, and comprehensively explains how and why things have improved so much, thanks to technological advances. The book discusses key concepts, such as energy density, that are ignored by the green/organic/local crowd, and why, for those who believe increasing carbon emissions are altering the earth's climate for the worse, a natural gas to nuclear energy strategy is the only reasonable strategy. The author is no Polyanna, and he recognizes that some of these advances have caused problems. That's to be expected, but the overall tradeoffs have led to improvements in our lives that would astound individuals living just a century ago.
The clarity of Bryce's writing makes short work of even the most technical concepts, and there's even some humor thrown in. All in all, SFLDC is a welcome and overdue antidote to fearmongering and pessimism.
12 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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To start, this book is very practical and easy to read. Bryce addresses some of the world's most daunting issues and clearly discusses what is being done to address these challenges. The book gives a great overview of some of the most impactful innovations that have happened over the past few centuries and highlights some innovations/technologies that have enormous potential going forward. Bryce has a natural talent at explaining complex subjects in a way that is easy for the reader to understand. Power density is extremely important and this book clearly explains why. Regarding technological breakthroughs, I am blown away by how far we have come in a short amount of time. Throughout the book, Bryce entertainingly shows many different ways that humans are doing more with less.
I have read too many books that pinpoint all of the problems the world faces, but offer unrealistic solutions. This is not one of those books. All arguments made by Bryce are supported by facts and data. I recommend this book to anyone interested in innovation, technology, human ingenuity, or energy policy. Because the drive for smaller, faster, lighter, denser, and cheaper is applicable to nearly every industry today, this book applies to all businesses looking to be successful/competitive in the future.
22 internautes sur 28 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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I had a "parking lot moment" the other day after finishing Robert Bryce's "Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper" (PublicAffairs Books, 400 pages, appendixes, notes, index, bibliography, many photographs, illustrations, $27.99, also available as an ebook for the same price).
It's a variation on NPR's "driveway moment" -- which occurs when you're listening to an interesting story on your NPR station and you stay in the car with the radio on to listen to the complete story.
My "parking lot moment" occurred when I pulled into a vacant space next to a brand new shiny black Lincoln MKZ and noticed the "2.0 Liter" plaque on the back of the Lincoln. This luxury car has the same size engine as my Dodge Caliber -- a 2.0 liter four-cylinder power plant! Of course the MKZ is a turbo engine, compared to the normally aspirated twin-cam four-banger in my Dodge, but the cars weren't that much different in size.
The Caliber, Dodge's smallest car, was discontinued in 2012, replaced by the new Dart, which also has relatively small four-cylinder engines. This phenomenon illustrates the Smaller and Cheaper aspects Bryce explores in Chapter Eight, "The Engines of the Economy." Beginning on Page 85, he discusses Ford's Eco-Boost engine -- the kind used in the Lincoln MKZ, Ford Fusion and many other Ford products.
The engines in today's cars produce far more horsepower than much larger engines, which also makes them Denser. In this context I was thinking of the 1951 Chrysler New Yorker that I drove for a few years when I was in college in the late 1950s. It had Chrysler's first Hemi engine, a V-8 with 331 cubic inches (5.4 liters) and 180 horsepower. (Boy, did I love that maroon four-door sedan!)
The little four-cylinder engine in my 2010 Caliber produces 160 horsepower and gets 23 city and 31 highway -- far more than the New Yorker, which is good because gas cost about 31 cents a gallon back then! And the Chrysler was a gas hog. And the Caliber is about half the weight of the '51 New Yorker, definitely Lighter.
Bryce calls himself an "agnostic" about climate change. As I was preparing this review, the government released (on May 6) a new report on climate change which presents a doomsday view of the subject. In the USA Today story about the report.
Here's an excerpt from the USA Today story, based on the 800-page report:
"Devastating droughts in the Southwest, ruinous floods in New York City, killer wildfires in Colorado, intense heat waves in the Plains: These are the some of the disasters today that are being exacerbated by global warming, and will continue to worsen in the decades to come, according to a massive federal climate report released today at the White House in Washington.
"Climate change is affecting where and how Americans live and work and their health, and evidence is mounting that burning fossil fuels has made extreme weather such as heat waves and heavy precipitation much more likely in the USA, according to the National Climate Assessment (NCA), the largest, most comprehensive U.S.-focused climate change report ever produced.
"If people took the time to read the report, they would see that it is not necessarily about polar bears, whales or butterflies," said meteorologist Marshall Shepherd of the University of Georgia. "I care about all of those, but the NCA is about our kids, dinner table issues, and our well being."
"Climate change is here and now, and not in some distant time or place," agreed Texas Tech University climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, one of the authors of the 800-page report.
"The choices we're making today will have a significant impact on our future," Hayhoe said.
The assessment was prepared by hundreds of the USA's top scientists. It agreed with a recent report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the planet is warming, mostly because of human activity.
The assessment provides "the loudest and clearest alarm bell to date" for immediate and aggressive climate action, said John P. Holdren, President Obama's science adviser, at a press conference in Washington on Tuesday.
"All Americans will find things that matter to them in this report," added Jerry Melillo, chair of the National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee.
"Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington state and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience," the U.S. report stated. "So, too, are coastal planners in Florida, water managers in the arid Southwest, city dwellers from Phoenix to New York and native peoples on tribal lands from Louisiana to Alaska."
Early in the book (in the introduction, Page XX) Bryce provides a definition for this narrative: "collapse anxiety":
"The avalanche of bad news has led led many people to experience, or even embrace, what author Gregg Easterbrook calls 'collapse anxiety'. Easterbrook describes the condition as a 'widespread feeling that the prosperity of the United States and the European Union cannot really be enjoyed because the Western lifestyle may crash owning to economic breakdown, environmental damage, resource exhaustion...or some other imposed calamity.'"
Bryce says that as we confront today's environmental and economic challenges, doomsayers preach that the only way to stave off disaster is for humans to reverse course: to de-industrialize, re-localize, ban the use of modern energy sources, and forswear prosperity. The doomsayers are against just about all of modern life (which doesn't mean "Inconvenient Truth" Al Gore is giving up his jet or his lavish 10,000 square foot home with its high energy bills).
Bryce's rejoinder to the neo-Luddites and neo-Malthusians: Innovation and the unstoppable human desire to make things Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper is providing consumers with Cheaper and more abundant energy, Faster computing, Lighter vehicles, and myriad other goods. That same desire is fostering unprecedented prosperity, greater liberty, and yes, better environmental protection.
On Pages 270-271, Bryce presents some startling numbers about the cost of electricity per kilowatt hour (KH) in 2012:
Denmark, a world leader in wind power, had the highest cost in the developed world at 41 cents per KW. The European Union's average was 26 cents. Germany was 35 cents; the UK was 20 cents and the US was 12 cents.
Bryce says electricity is "only part of the story. You name it -- sun, coal, oil, uranium, natural gas, wind -- the United States has loads of each."
With in-the-field reporting from Ottawa to Panama City and Pittsburgh to Bakersfield, Bryce shows how we have, for centuries, been pushing for Smaller Faster solutions to our problems. From the vacuum tube, mass-produced fertilizer, and the printing press to mobile phones, nanotech, and advanced oil drill rigs, Bryce demonstrates how cutting-edge companies and breakthrough technologies have created a world in which people are living longer, freer, healthier, lives than at any time in human history.
The push toward Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper is happening across multiple sectors. Bryce profiles innovative individuals and companies, from long-established ones like Ford and Intel to upstarts like Aquion Energy and Khan Academy. And he zeroes in on the energy industry, proving that the future belongs to the high power density sources that can provide the enormous quantities of energy the world demands.
The tools we need to save the planet aren't to be found in the technologies or lifestyles of the past. Nor must we sacrifice prosperity and human progress to ensure our survival. The catastrophists have been wrong since the days of Thomas Malthus. This is the time to embrace the innovators and businesses all over the world who are making things Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper.
Essentially, he says that so-called renewable energy like ethanol gobbles up land in the U.S.'s Midwest and in places like Brazil best used for food production and uses huge amounts of water. Wind power gobbles up birds and bats and solar power -- like wind power -- is far too inefficient. It's not Dense enough. We need more natural gas for generating electricity and for vehicle power and he says we need more nuclear power, the kind his hometown of Austin, TX uses to produce much of its electricity. This aspect of Austin, the most liberal city in the state, is explored at length in Bryce's 2008 book, "Gusher of Lies". I quote from my review:
"In Chapter 14, Bryce tells the story of the city-owned Austin Energy's investment in the South Texas Project, a 16 percent investment in the two-nuclear reactor project. Liberal opponents -- and Austin is the most liberal city in Texas -- derided the investment in the 1970s and 1980s with jokes like: "Q: What do you have when you have Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, and the South Texas Project? A: Two moneymakers and a dog."
Despite cost overruns and delays, the joke has been turned topsy-turvy, Bryce writes: "...over the past few years, the South Texas Project has emerged as one of the best deals the city of Austin has ever done. For three years in a row, from 2004 to 2006, the plant produced more energy than any other two-nuclear reactor nuclear plant in the country. Austin now gets about 29 percent of its electricity from the nuclear plant and that juice is likely the cheapest power in its portfolio."
* * *
I found the contrarian views expressed in Bryce's new book to be a refreshing antidote to the gloom and doom that pervades the TV screens and print media today. He shows us there is hope, as long as the human power to innovate and make changes is present.