This bold and controversial argument shows why energy transitions are inherently complex and prolonged affairs, and how ignoring this fact raises unrealistic expectations that the United States and other global economies can be weaned quickly from a primary dependency on fossil fuels.
According to author Vaclav Smil, President Barack Obama's energy policy has raised unrealistic expectations for rapid energy transitions. "The degree of disappointment will be phenomenal," Smil warned in an interview with the New York Times in November 2008. "There will be precious little rapid change, as energy systems are inherently inertial and energy transitions take decades to accomplish."
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.
• Includes case studies of energy transitions in eight nations
• Presents graphs of energy transitions on global and national scales, showing both common features and idiosyncratic patterns
• Features photographs of the containment vessel of America's first nuclear reactor and of a stationary gas turbine
• Provides a thorough bibliography
• Offers a controversial, interdisciplinary thesis that challenges the expectation that significant progress in the energy transitions favored by President Obama's energy policy can be effected during his term in office
• Shows specifically why hopes for a rapid transition to a world dominated by renewable energy conversions rest more on a wishful thinking than on technical, economic, and social realities
• Tackles this important subject in light of long-term historical perspectives, providing both global and national coverage in a no-nonsense analysis of the constraints on the tempo of U.S. and global energy transitions
• Provides a foundation for more rational energy policies