Emily (whatisbiscuits) wrote in bookish,

Sustainable energy - without the hot air by David McKay

'Sustainable energy - without the hot air' is a recently published non-fiction book I've speed read/flicked through for work. David MacKay is a Cambridge physics professor, and he was aiming to cut through a lot of the crap journalistic reporting of energy related figures and provide some accurate ones which everyday people can understand. He has generously made the entire 366 pages book free to download from www.withouthotair.com.

My favourite part was his mention of the BBC's kind advice to British people to save energy by unplugging our phone chargers. MacKay says "Modern phone chargers, when left plugged in with no phone attached, use about half a watt... Obsessively switching off the phone-charger is like bailing the Titanic with a teaspoon. Do switch it off, but please be aware how tiny a gesture it is. Let me put it this way:

-All the energy saved in switching off your charger for one day is used up in one second of car-driving.

-The energy saved in switching off the charger for one year is equal to the energy in a single hot bath."

His point is that when it comes to saving energy, every little bit doesn't help. Don't imagine that switching your TV off standby is much of a gesture if you drive to work every day. If we are really serious about saving energy, people and governments need to make a much bigger effort, and the lifestyle changes which would really make a difference are slightly more inconvenient things like using public transport, avoiding plane flights and turning our thermostats down.

The book isn't as gloomy as it could be. I was quite cheered up to read that a 600km by 600km square in an area of North American desert, completely filled with concentrating solar power, would provide enough power to give 500 million people the average American's daily consumption of 250kWh/d. The roundabout in the Netherlands that had a separate cycle lane for cyclists was a good idea too, roundabouts scare me.

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