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Crossing the Energy Divide: Moving from Fossil Fuel Dependence to a Clean-Energy Future 1st Edition

30 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0137015443
ISBN-10: 0137015445
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Praise forCrossing the Energy Divide


“This book makes coherent and rigorous arguments that increasing energy efficiency is the primary driver of economic growth today and is key to managing climate change.”

Kandeh Yumkella, Director-General, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)


“It's exciting to see some of the riddles of economic history solved. Energy efficiency may become the master key to future wealth!”

Ernst von Weizsacker, Dean, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management (ret), University of California, Santa Barbara


“This important new book compels a significantly greater attention to the critical role of energy productivity in maintaining a robust economy.”

John A. “Skip” Laitner, Director, Economic and Social Analysis, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)


“Even if renewable energy sources can eventually sustain present living standards in industrialized countries, it will require decades for them to grow into that role. This book is by far the most realistic and helpful proposal I have seen for what can be done to cross the enormous energy gap between what we have and what we want.”

Dennis Meadows, Coauthor, Limits to Growth


“This book is ‘mythbusters' applied to the conventional wisdom that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will also reduce income. It should switch the debate from what it will cost to mitigate climate change to a search for policy changes to spur profitable efficiency investments in generation and use of energy services.”

Thomas R. Casten, Chair, Recycled Energy Development, LLC


“Crossing the Energy Divide has appeared right when those of us in the energy sector need it most. Robert and Edward Ayres do an excellent job of explaining that every product and service has an energy component, and the cost of that component will determine our future quality of life.”

John K. Cool, P.E., C.P.E, President, PowerPlus Engineering, Inc.


The Environmentally and Economically Smart Strategy for Solving the Global Energy Crisis--Starting Now


If we continue our highly inefficient, dangerous energy usage, we're headed for both economic and environmental catastrophe. However, the hard truth is that alternative fuels can't fully replace fossil fuels for decades. What's more, new research indicates that energy inefficiencies are retarding economic growth even more than most experts ever realized.


Crossing the Energy Divide is about solving all these problems at once. The authors, two leading experts in energy and environmental economics, show how massive improvements in energy efficiency can bridge the global economy until clean renewables can fully replace fossil fuels.


Robert and Edward Ayres demonstrate how we can radically reform the way we manage our existing energy systems to double the amount of “energy service” we get from every drop of fossil fuel we use.


These techniques require no scientific breakthroughs: Many companies and institutions are applying them right now, but tens of thousands more could. This book offers a strategic guide for using them to solve the energy crisis once and for all—reducing carbon emissions, achieving true energy security, and reigniting economic growth for decades to come.


More energy, without more emissions

Recapturing lost energy from today's fossil fuels


There is such a thing as a free lunch

Mitigating climate disaster and improving prosperity at the same time


The future of electricity

Reforming tomorrow's electrical system: smarter, more productive, and more reliable


The implications for cities, transportation, business, and government

Making the decisions that prepare you for a high-cost energy future



About the Author

Robert U. Ayres is a physicist and economist noted for his work on the role of thermodynamics in the economic process, and more recently for his investigation of the role of energy in economic growth. He is Emeritus Professor of Economics and Technology at the international business school INSEAD, in France, where he has continued his lifelong, pioneering studies of materials/energy flows in the global economy. He originated the concept of industrial metabolism, which has since become a field of study explored by the Journal of Industrial Ecology.


Ayres was trained as a physicist at the University of Chicago, University of Maryland, and Kings College London (Ph.D. in Mathematical Physics). He was Professor of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh from 1979 until 1992, when he was appointed Professor of Environment and Management at INSEAD. He is also an Institute Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria.


Ayres is author or coauthor of 18 books and more than 200 journal articles and book chapters. His books range from Alternatives to the Internal Combustion Engine, with Richard A. McKenna (Johns Hopkins Press, 1972), to Turning Point: The End of the Growth Paradigm (Earthscan, 1998) to The Economic Growth Engine: How Energy and Work Drive Material Prosperity, with Benjamin Warr (Edward Elgar, 2009). He and his wife reside in Paris.


Edward (Ed) H. Ayres was Editorial Director at the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, D.C. (publisher of the annual State of the World and bi-annual Vital Signs) from 1994 through 2005. He also served as editor of the bimonthly World Watch magazine during this period. World Watch articles and essays by Ayres were distributed to the global media by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. His writing has also appeared in Time magazine in its series “Beyond 2000: Your Health, Our Planet”; Utne Reader; The Ecologist; and other publications.


Ayres has pursued a lifelong interest in the relationships between individual human health and endurance and the sustainability of human societies. He was the third-place finisher in the first New York Marathon in 1970, and today continues to write and run long distances in the mountains of California, where he and his wife have built an eco-friendly house.



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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wharton School Publishing; 1st edition (December 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0137015445
  • ISBN-13: 978-0137015443
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,178,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Carey VINE VOICE on February 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Energy is critical to the functioning of any economy, but it is particularly important to an economy as large as that of the United States. For decades, Americans have relied on imported energy to satisfy our needs and many leaders have come forward, advocating a move toward cleaner energy and greater self- sufficiency. Crossing the Energy Divide is here to help make this transition as smooth as possible, covering topics such as renewable power, energy recycling, alternative modes of transportation, and more.

Crossing the Energy Divide takes a decidedly pro- efficiency, pro- change stand that encourages businesses and governments to work together, embrace technology, make sacrifices where necessary, and solve the energy crisis. The book places blame on both sides: Businesses are criticized for not recognizing the importance of energy in the formation of official policy and government is criticized for not eliminating some of the mindless regulations that stifle energy competition and prop up prices. Regulation of utilities is well known, but few people are aware of the extent of these regulations and how they are often detrimental in the long run- both to businesses and to individuals. This book talks at length about these needless regulations and how they hinder the move toward energy independence. The authors do not recommend eliminating all regulation of utilities. Rather, they recommend a reexamination of the regulations, the phasing out of those that are harmful to business and households, and the establishment of new regulations if they have efficiency and independence as their bottom- line goal.

One fact about this book that may surprise some readers is that it doesn't devote time or space to individual energy conservation.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jason Stokes VINE VOICE on April 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've read a lot of books on energy, sustainable energy, urban planning, and so on. Somehow, this was the first book that ever even mentioned energy efficiency in terms of how much output we get per unit of input. I chalk it up to the writer being an economist and a physicist, and the interesting way he has melded the two topics together to discover the true needs for our energy future.

I applaud this books level headed, data driven decisions, and especially the framework of "girders" they've built to describe the methodology of moving into a clean energy future. Rather than relying on a magic bullet or massive investment, this book proscribes a theory of delivering small scale, affordable (even cost reducing) changes to business, utilities, and policy, in order to promote a path to the future. Rather than assuming we can move directly to the clean energy future, it discusses the gap between where we are now, and where we want to be in the future.

Overall, it's well written, easy to understand, and kept me engaged all the way through. At around 200 pages, it was pretty straightforward and quick to read, but contained some very powerful topics. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By RenaissanceMan TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm not a fan of reading many books like this because it's difficult to discern the audience for many of these works: some of these works are aimed at the mass market and intend to be primers while others are written strictly for energy professionals.

This book fits somewhere in the middle. It's not written by investigative journalists but rather by Physicist/Economist PhDs so their approach to the subject matter is forthright and very well organized.

I would not be surprised if this book winds up being a supplementary text to 400 or 500 level Energy Policy Seminars at major universities.

In short, this work is about "efficiency" and about counting the energy that is used in everything that we produce and consume, from products to transportation. The authors content that efficiency in using energy will play a key role in transitioning to new forms of energy. They include some sober thinking on the end of oil, but they're not alarmists about it (just hard truths).

Overall, it was an enjoyable, well thought out read. If there's one energy book you read (on crossing the divide from fossil hydrocarbons to post-hydrocarbons) would be this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ben13 on February 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I’ve read many books about our economic/energy future, including some relative optimists (e.g. Naam, Ridley, Diamandis, Kurzweil), and many pessimists (e.g. Heinberg, Greer, Kunstler, Ruppert, etc.). Out of all of these, I found this book to be the most clear, pragmatic, and scientifically rigorous.

If one reads about the subject, it has long been obvious that we are extremely wasteful of energy and are staring down an economic “crunch” associated with the decline of cheap fossil fuel resources. What is striking is how few people truly understand the causes of our continuing economic and job problems.

Ayers rewrites economic theory, introducing a third factor - energy and increasing energy efficiency - that accounts for the failure of traditional economics (which use the factors of capital and labor only) to explain the current American economic predicament. Ayres presents many clear, specific, and immediately actionable strategies for making our energy use more efficient, including cogeneration of electricity from waste heat at industrial plants, radically improved vehicle MPG, new efficient building design, law changes to allow anyone to freely generate electricity and supply the grid, and so on.

He illustrates clearly how these actions can give us time and create a metaphorical "bridge" to support the economy until renewables can massively scale up. In the absence of these actions, he bluntly and correctly describes how massive economic and social catastrophe may be the result.

I like this book so much that I am buying extra copies for my friends and family, to try to get more people to understand that Republicans and Democrats do not understand the real causes of our economic and jobs problems, and/or are not taking them seriously.
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