Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us, by Maggie Koerth-Baker is about energy management and the future in the US.
Koerth-Baker’s book is about the energy crisis that is coming, and what the US should do about it. In her view, there are two big issues that will hit the world (or the US, the distinction is rarely clear) in the coming decades:
- peak oil, where the world will start running out of oil, sometime in the next 30 years or so, and it will quickly become more expensive; and
- climate change, where we will (hopefully) realise that our current ways of generating energy are unsustainable, and will be forced to move to carbon neutral ways of generating energy.
- Individual actions don’t do all that much – you or me choosing to turn our lights off more often, or turn all our appliances off at the wall will not change the fact that pretty much everyone in developed countries uses unsustainable amounts of energy.
- Systems need to change to save electricity/energy – the difference in energy usage between the US and Europe is not because Europeans have voluntarily chosen to use less energy per GDP produced. It is because their infrastructure is set up so that they need less energy to have enjoyable fulfilling lives. That’s not just about public transport, it is also about the way in which their buildings are built, the economic incentives given to their populations and many other factors, large and small (such as the way in which most European hotels have timed light switches, so the light in the hall goes on for long enough for you to get to your hotel room and goes off again)
- Making better buildings is a huge part of saving energy – much of the energy used goes on heat and light in buildings, and the people who live and work in those buildings have little control over how much energy is used once the building is built
- Distributed smaller scale power is a bit part of the future of electricity and power generation, and will help us make the most of a wide variety of sources of power. Once you start using solar and wind power in a serious way, it makes a lot of sense to feed power into the grid from medium sized sources – making it a two way rather than one way system.