Urban North Americans consume a lot of energy each day—per capita, 100 times that of preagricultural humans. We don’t think much about it because our advanced infrastructure delivers services such as heat, cold, electricity, and transportation on demand. Yet with air pollution and global warming making Earth less habitable, it’s a critical time for energy decisions.
Library customers often seek information about energy to write course papers or as background to employment in the industry. Some just want to understand energy production and use, perhaps to discover a basis to take personal action. Libraries should stay up-to-date, as the energy situation is evolving. For example, the North American petroleum industry is shifting from conventional to unconventional fossil fuel reserves. Widespread use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has created a shale oil and gas boom, which has helped to lower prices. The new supply of natural gas has led to the replacement of many aging coal-fired power plants with gas plants. Still, there is no telling how long this latest period of abundant fossil fuels will last.
The titles explored here have a global or North American emphasis and are intended for a general readership. Included are materials on important energy resources and techniques as well as energy supply, business, and government policies. There are several texts about nations converting to renewable energy, a challenge that will transform our lives.
Starred () titles are essential acquisitions for most collections.
Couch, Julianne. Traveling the Power Line: From the Mojave Desert to the Bay of Fundy. Univ. of Nebraska. (Our Sustainable Future). 2013. 240p. ISBN 9780803245068. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9780803248861.
A thoughtful journalist tours nine different American power sources: a wind farm, a coal-fired plant, a nuclear reactor, gas fields, a biomass station, a geothermal plant, a hydroelectric dam, a solar thermal array, and a tidal project.
Ferguson, Charles D. Nuclear Energy: What Everyone Needs To Know. Oxford Univ. (What Everyone Needs To Know). 2011. 240p. ISBN 9780199759460. pap. $16.95.
Ferguson, a physicist and naval nuclear engineer, provides an informative overview of this contentious topic, structured around a series of general and specific questions. Will a new generation of nuclear power plants be constructed now?
Goldemberg, José. Energy: What Everyone Needs To Know. Oxford Univ. (What Everyone Needs To Know ). 2012. 192p. ISBN 9780199812929. pap. $16.95.
This eminent Brazilian scientist offers an enlightening global perspective. The book raises general and specific questions, including many about new technologies.
Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. S. & S. 2015. 576p. ISBN 9781451697384. $30; pap. ISBN 9781451697391. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781451697407.
This eloquent look at how and why climate change is accelerating includes a scathing review of the destructive activities of coal and petroleum corporations. Klein doesn’t spare the enablers of this situation and believes radical global resistance to “business as usual” could mitigate climate disaster.
Sinclair, Peter R. Energy in Canada. Oxford Univ. 2010. 136p. illus. ISBN 9780195433869. $32.95.
Sinclair illustrates how different the Canadian energy scene is from that of the United States, discussing how, in Canada, most electrical power comes from hydro dams and billing rates are generally kept low. A busy energy export trade includes electricity and natural gas going south, with tar sands bitumen from Alberta transported down to the Gulf states for refining.
Wing, Charlie. The Visual Handbook of Energy Conservation: A Comprehensive Guide to Reducing Energy Use at Home. Taunton. 2013. 384p. illus. ISBN 9781621139560. pap. $29.95.
Construction expert Wing has produced this clear and detailed guide to more energy-efficient buildings. It’s fully illustrated with color diagrams, charts, graphs, and tables and loaded with information that, while complex, is well explained.
Hyne, Norman J. Nontechnical Guide to Petroleum Geology, Exploration, Drilling and Production. 3d ed. Pennwell. 2012. 724p. illus. ISBN 9781593702694. $119.
This comprehensive text explains the process of finding, assessing, drilling for, and extracting oil and gas. Many illustrations and a glossary help readers comprehend how the petroleum industry functions. Hyne’s book could be helpful to those seeking employment in this sector.
Martin, Richard. Coal Wars: The Future of Energy and the Fate of the Planet. St. Martin’s. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9781137279347. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781466879249.
The author, a science writer, journeys through five coal mining states, plus China and Germany. He investigates the domestic decline of this cheap but destructive energy source and its increased use in other parts of the world.
Nikiforuk, Andrew. The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude. Greystone. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9781553659785. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781553659785.
This passionate Canadian journalist examines the moral aspects of our dependence on fossil fuels. Nikiforuk calculates that every North American employs the equivalent of 89 “virtual slaves” through petroleum use and points out the perils of “petrostates,” where fees and royalties from corporations replace tax revenues.
Prud’homme, Alex. Hydrofracking: What Everyone Needs To Know. Oxford Univ. (What Everyone Needs To Know). 2013. 192p. ISBN 9780199311262. $78; pap. ISBN 9780199311255. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9780199311286.
Journalist Prud’homme offers a balanced view of extracting petroleum with hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, a controversial technique that has helped create a bonanza but consumes huge amounts of water. The author predicts that improved techniques and stricter federal environmental regulation will make the process more publicly acceptable. (LJ 11/15/13)
Fialka, John J. Car Wars: The Rise, the Fall and the Resurgence of the Electric Car.
St. Martin’s. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9781250048707. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466849600.
In this quick, inspiring read, Fialka profiles a variety of brilliant characters overcoming obstacles to develop electric vehicles during the modern era. His beat includes university campuses, garage workshops, racetracks, and robotic factories.
Gilbert, Richard & Anthony Perl. Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight Without Oil. 2d ed. New Society. 2010. 432p. illus. ISBN 9780865716605. pap. $41.95; ebk. ISBN 9781550924534.
Transportation is a major petroleum-dependent part of our infrastructure. These analysts predict drastic changes as fossil fuel use becomes costlier and more regulated. They advocate grid-connected electric trains, buses, and trucks; high-speed rail to replace short air flights; and high-tech sails to help propel vessels.
Lloyd, Donal Blaise. The Smart Guide to Geothermal: How To Harvest Earth’s Free Energy for Heating and Cooling. PixyJack. 2012. 192p. illus. ISBN 9780977372485. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 2940014864268.
Running pipes through the ground and installing heat exchangers can regulate building temperature. Lloyd, an engineer, explains and illustrates geothermal systems that replace furnaces and air conditioners, reducing or eliminating utility bills. (LJ 4/1/11)
Pahl, Greg. Power from the People: How To Organize, Finance and Launch Local Energy Projects. Chelsea Green. (Community Resilience Guide). 2012. 288p. illus. ISBN 9781603584098. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781603584104.
True alternative energy is a renewable-powered network owned and operated by a community, providing employment and reducing energy costs for residents. Featuring case studies encompassing all of North America, this book explains how a determined local group might go about organizing and financing such a project.
Rand, Tom. Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit: 10 Clean Technologies To Save Our World. Eco Ten. 2010. 240p. illus. ISBN 9780981295206. $34.95.
This Canadian book outlines sustainable energy sources that can replace fossil fuels worldwide. Color illustrations and plain language make the message accessible. Rand, a scientist and venture capitalist, advocates using government bonds and pension funds to invest rapidly in a clean energy infrastructure.
Warburg, Philip. Harness the Sun: America’s Quest for a Solar-Powered Future. Beacon. 2015. 256p. illus. ISBN 9780807033760. $27.95; pap. ISBN 9780807054321. $20; ebk. ISBN 9780807033777.
With the aid of government incentives, utility feed-ins, and creative financing, the solar energy industry is getting many panels onto American rooftops. Warburg, an environmental lawyer, tours the nation to see how businesses, universities, military bases, and homeowners have gone solar and cut their energy bills.
Warburg, Philip. Harness the Wind: America’s Journey to Jobs, Energy Independence, and Climate Stability. Beacon. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9780807001073. $27.95; pap. ISBN 9780807000496. $19; ebk. ISBN 9780807001080.
Warburg takes a thorough look at the wind power industry in the United States and its growth prospects. There are issues, but many rural landowners are pleased to host wind turbines on long-term contracts. (LJ 2/1/12)
Edwards, Davis W. Energy Trading & Investing: Trading, Risk Management and Structuring Deals in Energy Markets. 2d ed. McGraw-Hill Education. Feb. 2017. 512p. ISBN 9781259835384. $80; ebk. ISBN 9781259835391.
This advanced, complex book is aimed at individual investors seeking to understand the volatile energy markets.
Lovins, Amory B. & Rocky Mountain Inst. Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era. Chelsea Green. 2013. 352p. illus. ISBN 9781603585385. pap. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781603583725.
Energy expert Lovins presents a detailed plan to get the nation off coal and oil by 2050. His key concepts are great efficiency and a shift to renewable sources, both led by American business. Lovins claims that it now makes economic sense to ditch fossil fuels with their hidden costs. Reinventing Fire lays out processes for transportation, buildings, industry, and electricity.
Troy, Austin. The Very Hungry City: Urban Energy Efficiency and the Economic Fate of Cities. Yale Univ. 2012. 374p. illus. ISBN 9780300162318. $28; pap. ISBN 9780300198355. $23; ebk. ISBN 9780300165807.
Cities have always consumed a lot more than folks in the hinterlands, but sprawl and freeways have tied many U.S. burgs to inefficient operation. Troy believes changes need to be made before fuel and electricity costs rise and highlights places that are leading the way.
Yergin, Daniel. The Quest: Energy Security and the Remaking of the Modern World. Penguin. 2012. 832p. illus. ISBN 9780143121947. pap. $21; ebk. ISBN 9781101563700.
Yergin, known for his best-selling energy history The Prize, follows up by recounting the geopolitics of energy in detail since the OPEC oil shocks of the 1970s. In this magisterial work, he assesses major sources and speculates on the future of energy.
After the Spill. (Louisiana Water Stories, Pt. 2). 62 min. John Bowermaster, dist. by Bullfrog Films, www.bullfrogfilms.com. 2015. DVD ISBN 9781941545676. $295 (Rental: $95). SDH subtitles.
The effects of the 2010 BP oil disaster linger for Louisiana residents. According to these interviews, the corporation’s remediation and compensation efforts have been inadequate. The Pelican State is looking like a sacrifice zone, its shoreline vanishing from petroleum exploration activity, while offshore drilling has increased.
The Burden: Fossil Fuel, the Military and National Security. color & b/w. 40 min. Roger Sorkin, dist. by Video Project. 2015. DVD $89; acad. libs. $250. Public performance; closed-captioned.
The U.S. military, the world’s largest institutional oil consumer, is making a concerted effort to get off fossil fuels. Procuring and transporting vast amounts of petroleum while guarding its trade routes has proven needlessly risky and expensive. This fast-paced production makes the case. (LJ 5/15/16)
Deep Time. 89 min. Noah Sutton, dist. by Cinema Guild. 2015. DVD ISBN 9780781515276. $99.95; acad. libs. $350. Public performance.
Like Crude Independence, Sutton’s previous documentary, this film deals with the effects of the shale oil and gas boom in North Dakota. Sutton and his crew visit towns, farms, and drilling camps, as well as the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation. Viewers will get a sense of the landscape, the inhabitants, and their reactions to boom times. (LJ 8/16)
The New Great Game: The Decline of the West and the Struggle for Middle Eastern Oil. 54 min. Alexandre Trudeau, dist. by Media Education Fdn. 2013. DVD ISBN 9781932869651. $34.95; acad. libs. $250. Public performance; SDH subtitles.
Well-traveled filmmaker Trudeau boards a supertanker to point out the hazards oil and gas shippers face after departing Persian Gulf ports. He then interviews high-profile thinkers to get a new geopolitical perspective on Middle Eastern petroleum—up for grabs in a multipolar world. (LJ 10/1/13)
Energy Accidents; www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/energy_accidents
One legacy of our large-scale extraction, transportation, and use of energy is a history of major accidents. Wikipedia has compiled a partial list covering 1942–2014. Coal mining is the most hazardous sector.
International Energy Agency; www.iea.org
The IEA promotes energy security, economic development, and environmental awareness for its 29 member countries, including the United States and Canada. The website is a source for global energy news, statistics, and reports.
Plug in America; www.pluginamerica.org
This nonprofit advocates for electric-powered vehicles, also providing news and information for plug-in vehicle owners.
Rocky Mountain Institute; www.rmi.org
This independent nonprofit aims to “transform global energy use to create a low-carbon future.” The institute is affiliated with the Carbon War Room, which works on large-scale business solutions to reduce carbon emissions.
U.S. Energy Information Administration; www.eia.gov
A comprehensive federal government site for U.S. and global energy data.
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To submit titles (new and/or backlist), contact Barbara Genco four to six months before issue dates listed above (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)