Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit: a Future of Clean, Green Energy (Book Review)


Tom Rand is one of the smartest guys in the room, having been a software entrepreneur, a venture capitalist and a philosopher. Now he is an author and proselytizer of clean, green energy with his new book Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit. . It is three pounds, five ounces of unbridled optimism, starting off with "When humankind really wants to do something, our ingenuity, resources and determination are breathtaking!" and then gets positive.

Rand performs a valuable service with this book; He takes ten technologies that are sometimes hard to explain and makes them comprehensible and almost obvious, with gorgeous photography and graphics.

The "ten clean technologies that will save their (our children's) world" include:

Solar- with good coverage of both large centralized systems and smaller rooftop installations.

Wind- Macro and micro;

Geothermal- Tom is a big fan of Geo-exchange, or GSHP (ground source heat pumps) and has built a demonstration project in Toronto, a hotel heated and cooled by geo-exchange. He is careful with his language, knowing that everyone uses geothermal interchangeably now, and comes up with the term :"hot geothermal" for the high temperature heat that he calls "the only meaningful source of renewable energy that is not directly reliant on the sun." This is a useful distinction.

Biofuels, where he is appropriately dismissive of first generation fuels from corn, and looking to third generation fuels from algae and halophytes.
Hydro Power What's not to like about hydro? How about relocating millions of people in China and drowning natural wonders. But in the end Rand says "these projects are so massive, and displace so much fossil fuel, that its hard to argue, given intelligent management, that there's no net benefit." Some would disagree.

Oceans: tidal and wave power get good explanations.

Smart Buildings: From the small scale residential (earth ships and passivhaus) to reskinning. His thoughts on building codes are simplistic; he calls it a "no-brainer" and it isn't. What is the point of making "Passivhaus the standard model of suburban development" when the problem is suburban planning, not the house?

Transportation: Rand covers everything from airships to bicycles, but also gets the key point that "smart urban design is the bedrock of clean transportation."

Efficiency and Conservation- Now that's a no-brainer.

And finally, the Energy Internet, redesigning our electrical distribution system to create a really smart grid.

Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit is an important book; it puts together a lot of knowledge in one easy to read package, a great gift for your neighbourhood sceptic who doesn't believe we have any alternative to more tar sands, more offshore drilling, more coal plants. Tom Rand almost convinces even a pessimist like me that we really can have a clean, shiny future.

But I do have problems with his very last image, the fantasy of a world in 2050 with sixteen lanes of highway and parking lots everywhere;

It looks awfully familiar.

KICK the Fossil Fuel Habit- Available from Eco Ten Publishing printed in Canada on FSC paper with vegetable based inks on hydro-electric powered presses.

Tags: Alternative Energy | Canada

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