Books and Resources

Do not read this book if you are feeling a bit “down” – this will push you into deep depression.

The only comfort I got was that O&G is not the root of all evil.  Smart (and negative-ethics) lawyers, accountants, politicians and middle-men clearly are.

This deep dive on how extreme wealth has created a new country (called Moneyland) that is outside the jurisdiction of any/all sovereign states.  Not only is this bad in the traditional way of greed and penalizing all citizens who do pay taxes, but the outcome is much worse.  The scale of the system undermines democracies…

and the book has an unexpected sting in the tail.  

All books in this list are highly recommended – so no surprise that I love this one.  Whilst I always see the world through the lens of oil and gas (as sources of primary energy) Robert Bryce sees the world through the lens of electricity – which is really just a vector for the transmission of primary energy.

The strength of this book is it has made me shift my thinking to better appreciate the importance of how energy gets used. 

It is very well written and thus readable, the author is a technical journalist (my term), having the writing style of a good journalist, but combined with a very good understanding of the tech and a curiosity that gets way beyond the click-bait news articles we are buried in…

A very personal story of how an (accidental) environmentalist (Tisha Schuller) became CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (industry representation group).  Personal trials and tribulations mingle with the brutal role as CEO of COGA in the peak anti-fracing public movement. 

A book about values, leadership, empathy and about the value of energy, specifically O&G in our modern societies.  The book is often quite parochial to the microcosm of its local politics, but the conclusions are of global significance.  Superb book a bit marred by a ton of typos and poor editing, but that’s trivial compared to the story and the message.

My new, all-time, favourite. A genuinely original and smart framework for understanding the world.

This is by Hans Rolsing, the guy you may know from the somewhat annoying TED talks using animated bubble-plots to show how various things have changed over time (life expectancy by country for example).

The thesis of this book is (a) the world is getting better by all measures for humans and (b) everyone thinks it is getting worse.

He then lays out 10 “instincts” that help understand why we all get it so fundamentally wrong.

Not strictly related to my ideas on Energy and the Economy, but a through provoking series of essays challenging conventional wisdom on capitalism.  This is not an ideological attack, indeed the author is pro-capitalism, but it addresses fundamental questions about the sustainability of the system, who benefits and who loses.  Highly recommended.

The first of several books by Vaclav Smil (Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada).

Energy is a primer on what energy is and what it does.  Sounds simple, but even just defining energy is more complex than one might imagine

The “go-to” text on how energy has created society. 

“To speak about energy and the economy is tautology”

Looks like it may be out of print, so I am hanging onto my copy with glee.

A physicist/ecologist’s view on the challanges ahead.

David MacKay sadly passed away in 2016, but has left this immensely useful summary of his research and thoughts on energy.  

This is available for free online here

also as freely downloadable pdf (here)

Well summarized on Amazon

“In Our Renewable Future, energy expert Richard Heinberg and scientist David Fridley explore the challenges and opportunities presented by the shift to renewable energy.

The transition to clean energy will not be a simple matter of replacing coal with wind power or oil with solar; it will require society to adapt our energy usage as dramatically as we adapt our energy sources. Our Renewable Future is a clear-eyed and urgent guide to this transformation that will be a crucial resource for policymakers and energy activists.”

This dates form 2006, but is still a very useful source

Again, well summarized on Amazon

“The sheer volume of talk about energy, energy prices, and energy policy on both sides of the political aisle suggests that we must know something about these subjects. But according to Peter W. Huber and Mark P. Mills, the things we think we know are mostly myths. A better understanding of energy will radically change our views and policies on a number of very controversial issues.”

You are probably wondering what this is doing here…

“a wonderfully vivid memoir of childhood in a remote Cotswold village, a village before electricity or cars, a timeless place on the verge of change.”

Published in 1959, it depicts life in the period just after the first world war.   Whilst this is now “beyond living memory”, it is a useful reminder of just what has changed in 100 years, and what a low-energy future could look like.

A product of the “Peak Oil” era, but still applies in a world post Peak Cheap-Oil.

The description of a world in which we travel less, have less imported goods etc is linked to the reason for having Cider With Rosie in this list (above).  

James K Galbraith is an established academic, and is also the son of John Kenneth Galbraith

This is a bit of a slog – it is very academic.  Thesis is that post-war to 2008 GFC was one system, and that since then neither austerity or stimulus has been unable to prevent slow/stagnant growth.  His argument is that the previous period was not really normal.

Chapter six covers how resources are a key driver to the economy, but still falls short (or I missed it) of making the link that modern stagnation may be due to increasing real energy prices

So from hard-core economics to… mainstream fiction.   

Not my cup-of-tea at all, but was recommended as the final section describes a dystopian future (2043).  Pleasingly, this isn’t just sea-level rise and AGW , but a quite realistic vision of a world post the “Endarkening” in which society has broken down and energy is a missing commodity (roving bands of militia steal the few remaining solar panels etc).

Most of the book is a dubious mish-mash of paranormal and esoterica… but it was a best-seller so who am I to argue?

People and their works

Vaclav Smill:  Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada  (see books above)
Richard Heinberg: Our Renewable Future (and others, also on youtube)
David MacKay FRS:  was the Regius Professor of Engineering at the University of Cambridge.  website, pdf and book
Nate Hagens: Professor of Ecological Economics at the University of Minnesota (example video)  Neil A C Hirst: Imperial College London, UK): The Energy Conundrum
Mark P. Mills:  extensive writing and research, one example: The “New Energy Economy” : An Exercise In Magical Thinking (pdf)
Roger Pielke JrUniversity of Colorado – usually writes in Forbes
Simon Michaux:Geol Survey of Finland.  Oil from a Critical Raw Material Perspective (pdf here)

Gail Tverberg: Our Finite World website.  Highly recommended.

Michael Shellenberger: is a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment” and surprisingly an advocate of nuclear power.  Equally unsurprisingly he is not loved by the environmental activists who oppose all things nuclear

WattLogic (author’s name does not appear on site).  A very robust guide to all things electricity.  Catchy articles like “Debunking energy myths: renewable electricity is not cheap

Steve Keen: is an Australian economist and author, professor and Head of the School of Economics, History and Politics at Kingston University in London. (example video here)

Greg Epsein: The moral case for Fossil Fuels (book, youtube) – yes I know, including this will mean I am an “Oil Industry Lobbyist” with my head in the sand and my blinkers on…  but it is an interesting position (that the focus is 100% on the negatives, but that there are many positives… not the least of which are massive improvements in human well-being)