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The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook: Community Solutions to a Global Crisis Paperback – March 7, 2007

4.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Solar roof panels, backyard wind turbines and biofuel stills: in this how-to vision of a future without hydrocarbon fuels, small really is beautiful. Faced with the paired (and frightfully imminent) dangers of global warming and the point at which half the total recoverable oil on Earth has been extracted and production begins to decline, Pahl champions a spectrum of alternative energy sources. Separate chapters on water, geothermal and biomass (firewood and plant matter) energies in addition to solar, wind and biofuel (the distillate of corn, soy and other crops) sources are both practical and inspirational. First comes technical information; then Pahl reports on community and cooperative alternative-energy successes. In Asheville, N.C., 24 clustered townhouses use solar panels for heat and hot water. Toronto powers 250 homes with a cooperative-owned lakeshore wind turbine. Micro-hydro projects (100 kilowatts or less) power small businesses and homes in Nepal, Pakistan and off-the-grid American communities. A short-run train in Sweden—a nation committed to achieving an oil-free economy by 2020—runs on biogas generated by fermenting cow guts; it gets about two-and-a-half miles per cow—proof, as this readable book illustrates, that ingenuity and small-bore efforts are one way to deal with an energy crisis. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Short of building an ark or two, this sensible, readable handbook offers the best prospects for collective investment in an uncertain future."
by Carol Van Strum, Department of the Planet Earth

Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook

I've just set down The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook: Community Solutions to a Global Crisis by Greg Pahl.
He's the guy who wrote Biodiesel: Growing a New Energy Economy, which we sell at the Co-op. We also sell his Natural Home Heating book. Neither one hold a candle to his latest. This book is fantastic.

When a copy arrived in a cardboard box in the control room, I set it next to my phone for about a month. It's a long title, with a boring cover, and I was afraid it was going to be an exercise in "listing."

I remember doing an interview with Greg a long time ago. Back when he was working on this book. And he ran some of the biofuels section past me--as sort of a fact checking thing. And when that was done, I forgot all about it.

Having recently reviewed Small is Possible--which is an object lesson in how to turn a list into a book--and having a vague memory of Pahl's Biodiesel book, which lists some B20 trials, I was worried that I had another "list" book on my desk.

I should note that my review of Greg's Biodiesel book was the first book review on Energy Blog, and that it was seventeen reviews ago…

But I figured that if I was to dig into a list, I'd like to revisit Homer's catalogue of ships in the Iliad. On first blush, that seemed more appealing than delving into this book.

But I was wrong about that. The foreword by Richard Heinberg is "Heinberg as Usual," only with a more positive spin.

And Pahl's introduction, followed by a chapter on "Energy Choices" should be required reading for everyone in the country. In thirty some odd pages he lays down a primer on energy that is clear, concise, and accurate.

And he then embarks on a crawl through of solar, and wind, and water, and biofuels, etc.

What I especially like about this book is that Pahl is part of the story. Gone is the cold objectivity of his biodiesel book. He puts in photos of the solar hot water system on his own house in Vermont. And of the pellet stove in his basement. He talks about taking the train to a Peak Oil Conference, and how when he arrives he and one other attendee has taken public transportation. Everyone else showed up in cars.

His move into first person journalism makes the book much more compelling. Dr. Hunter S. Thompson would be proud. This is a book about successful renewable energy projects written by a guy who has clearly thought deeply about his own energy consumption, and invested heavily in the game.

His own experiences give him credibility on the subject and make his reporting of other people's projects seem much more powerful. The other day the Abundance Foundation did some tabling out in Research Triangle Park. They were beset upon by a chiropractor from Cary who was pro nuclear, and anti biofuels, and when they returned from the experience they came to me for some guidance.

I lent them this book.

They are so jazzed by what they have read, they are buying a dozen copies, to give to every County Commissioner and Town Councilor they can find. Which is genius.

When Rebecca encountered the book, she yawned. But she has read all of Heinberg, and most of the energy canon, and she's a solar installer. Same was true of Matt's response. Matt also panned Biodiesel America, which I found to be a great book. It's a good thing Pahl isn't writing for energy snobs.

People who have read every book they can find about biodiesel, and peak oil, and climate change, are not going to find the Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook full of radical new ideas that set them on fire.

Which means the renewable energy hardcore fringe is not the target for this book. This book is a survey. It surveys energy paradigms, and it surveys successful projects. It also stays positive. It is masterfully written. The fact that Johnny Weis, the founder of SEI wants Carbondale Colorado to adopt micro-hydro, makes micro-hydro a real possibility. The fact that Carbondale is powered by coal is not the point.

This book is about what is possible. It should be embraced by the folks at Yes! magazine.

And every politician in the land should be reading it tonight.

I learned a lot from reading this book. And I tried to read it from the perspective of a newcomer to the energy scene. It inspired me. And I am glad to have it on the shelf.

Which is not quite true. The copy in our library is checked out right now. My advice would be to buy a copy for your own collection. It's the kind of book you will want to have on hand…

Piedmont Biofuels, Energy Blog

"As the world passes through Peak Oil and society begins to Powerdown and Relocalize, this book will be of tremendous assistance to citizens and communities. Greg Pahl succinctly outlines why we need to use much less energy and then gives options and examples of how renewable energy can be produced locally. This handbook should be on the work-desk of anyone planning for a Post Carbon world."
--Julian Darley, founder and director Post Carbon Institute

"The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook should be in the hands of every community activist across North America. It promises to be the catalyst that finally moves community ownership to the forefront of renewable energy development.
--Paul Gipe, author of Wind Power: Renewable Energy for Home, Farm, and Business

"Greg Pahl's Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook is a lucid, easy-to-read guide to what citizens of the planet can do about our energy dilemmas."
--Dan Berman, author of Who Owns the Sun?

"If you have read enough already about our problems and are motivated to get to work, this book is for you. It goes far beyond being a primer on renewable energy technologies. By placing renewable energy into a broad social context, it will help citizens work cooperatively with governments and businesses to create community-scaled solutions. I wish I'd had this book years ago."
--Dr. Jason Bradford, Willits Economic LocaLization

"As oil reserves dwindle and global warming accelerates, a rapid switch to renewable energy is imperative. The question is whether it will lead us into a solar-powered corporate dictatorship, or a decentralized mix of autonomous and geographically appropriate energy sources. Greg Pahl's Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook provides an inspiring vision and a wonderfully specific blueprint for beginning to save both the planet and our other greatest natural resource--our own shredded sense of community."
--Ross Gelbspan, author of Boiling Point and The Heat Is On
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (March 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933392126
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933392127
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,926,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rather than being a pie in the sky, the book shows what communities around the world are already doing to produce energy locally, rather than just getting it from the big utilities. Rather than coal, nuclear or other environmentally damaging methods, the books covers the how, whys, problems and opportunities of communities producing their own power. With global warming and peak oil looming, this book couldnot have been published at a better time.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Kept my attention. Some ideas are a little far left but other than that it is all good. Please keep making books like this so people keep on thinking about getting less dependent on fuels that are not sustainable.
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Most of the factual information is correct but it definitively shows some of the biases of the author. Nuclear power is not treated in the same vein as the other clean alternatives to fossil-fuel power. It propagates some incorrect facts and assessments of the risks and benefits of nuclear versus minimizing the risks and economic impacts of the wind/hydro/solar/biomass options.
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great bookgreat book great book, great book, great book, great book great book great book, great book, great book, great book great book great book, great book, great book, great bookgreat book great book, great book, great book, great book great book great book, great book, great book, great book great book great book, great book, great book, great book
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This quote from Pat Murphy, Executive Director of Community Service Inc. and found on page 260 of "The Citizen-Powered Energy Guide: Community Solutions To A Global Crisis" seems to neatly sum up the overall theme of author Greg Pahl's terrific new book. It seems that the more I read about the problem of peak oil and the upcoming energy crunch the more convinced I become that these matters will need to be addressed and solved at the local level. The bad news is that our illustrious leaders in Washington D.C. in both the Executive and Legislative branches of government just don't seem to get it and are content to stay the course with the same failed energy policies that have cost this nation dearly over the past quarter century. The good news is that civic-minded individuals, community groups and enlightened entreprenuers all over this land have decided to take matters into their own hands and are going about the business of tackling these extremely difficult issues at the grass-roots level. It is at once a very scary and an extremely exciting time!

In "The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook" author Greg Pahl explains why the energy challenges facing the United States in the coming decades are not likely to be solved by the big multi-national energy companies. It seems that there is no one technology out there capable of acting as the "magic wand" to solve all of our energy problems. Of course conservation is clearly a major part of the solution. Did you know that about 6% of the electricity generated in this country is used to dry clothes? If only we had leadership that would encourage us to conserve. That would be a great start! It is clear that our future lies in the development of alternative fuels like solar, wind, water, geothermal, biomass and liquid biofuels.
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