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This is not truly a Beginner's Guide. The book is more like an Executive Summary of the many writings by the prolific author, up to 2005. No references are given. There is no appendix with useful tables of values. However, there are many useful tables, lists and values dispersed throughout the book. The book has a few flubs: confusing ultra-violet radiation with infrared, missing a "per year" in a sentence, and draft animals pulling with kg of force.
Some more serious problems occur on page 152, where the parenthetical definition of "net energy ratio" is actually the the definition of EROI, energy return on investment (of energy). The numbers discussed in the remainder of the paragraph are actually values of 1- 1/EROI . A true beginner would be flummoxed.
Another grievance is that the difference between installed capacity of wind power and the actual production of electrical power is not emphasized forcefully enough. A wind production number is given on page 169 (as a percent of world electrical power), but you are on your own to figure out the important capacity factor, and then to put wind power in a fair comparison with nuclear power and coal power. The summary of wind energy is otherwise excellent, as is the summary of photosynthesis and biofuels. All ethanol fans should read it.
The focus of the book in not renewable energy policy. The scope is much more grand, all done wonderfully in consistent S.I. Units, with respect for the intelligence of the reader. The author gets to the point. Energetics is the most concise way to organize knowledge of your universe. The brilliant author summarizes nearly all of it in 176 pages: your cells, your home economics, your technology, your planet. For larger scale solar and galactic - you may need to shop elsewhere. Presentation of energetics leads to implications in the sociology of jet travel, urban planning, and history of science and technology. For example, on page 93 we learn how the celebrated inventor James Watt delayed progressive development of the steam engine.
The book would be a great investment of time and money if a better book was not available: "Energy in Nature and Society", published by Smil in 2008. That book has more figures, of better quality, appendices and approximately 3 times the amount of text. The overlap in not complete, though. You won't find that tidbit about Watt in the 2008 work, or the fact that swarms of insects soiling the leading edge of wind turbine blades can cause a nearly instant drop in power production by up to 20%.
Vaclav Smil (the author) having already written so many books on subjects related to energy (ex. E. and civilization, or Prime movers, or Making the modern world), one may fear this book is only one more book by the same author on the same subject. However, I feel this book serves a useful purpose because it covers a larger variety of concerns about energy in a smaller volume than previous Smil's books (it almost fits in one's pocket). Covered concerns are the very concept of energy, the climate, its harnessing in history, its role in our modern world, and questions for our future. As usual with this author the book is abundantly documented, and it is laden with numbers, but as the author writes in another book "he will never apologize for that". Altogether, I recommend this book, at least for readers who have not already read Smil on that same subject.
Might be interesting for people looking for a highly scientifc book, but I prefer these books written with a little bit more love and excitement. Read two chapters and got bored by the way it is written. Facts are interesting, but it is just a lot of facts and information - kind of exhausting to read (for me personally)...
Smil is the guru of energy information and has been for some time. I really enjoyed the book - it has broad scope and lots of details on all energy sources, as always, coupled with his usual down-to-earth attitude. The intensity and vast amount of data may, however, overwhelm some readers who would place themselves in the beginner category.
In this relatively short book, the author discusses energy. Starting with basic concepts and units of measurement, he discusses energy in nature, in human history, in the modern world, in everyday life and in the future – each in its own separate chapter.
As is usual for the books that I’ve read by this author, it reads like a textbook – authoritative, factual, focused, and dense with information yet very readable. Each page glows with facts – some which I found less interesting but most which I found quite mesmerizing. Just about all aspects of energy, from its production to its consumption, is covered here is a very concise way. I believe that this book would be of interest principally to serious readers who would like to broaden their knowledge in this most important topic.
Inglese non troppo impegnativo. Il libro espone in maniera basilare le conoscenze fisiche preliminari alle tematiche energetiche; per poi affrontare da vicino ogni tipo di energia cercando di esporre i pro ed i contro di ogni tecnologia. Non mancano comparazioni anche numeriche in grado di far riflettere non poco su quale possa essere il nostro sviluppo nei prossimi anni.