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The Conundrum Original Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Much of the book is about the "rebound" of energy efficiency: if you use energy more efficiently --- if you get more productivity from it per unit --- then you tend to use more units. So energy efficiency improvements lead to less energy reduction than a naive calculation would suggest. This is a real effect, and in some highly energy-intensive industries it can be large. Also, if you save money on energy then you will spend it on something else, and that something else will also consume energy. These effects are real but not all that big on average: at the scale of the entire economy, averaged over all industries, rebound is around 8%. So if you improve productivity per unit energy by 20%, you don't cut energy use by 20%, you cut it by about 18.5%. Energy efficiency experts and economists have looked at it a lot of ways and they all get rebound of somewhere in that neighborhood. David Owen "knows" the experts are wrong, and he gives some examples to prove it...and they're utter nonsense. In one especially risible instance, Owen suggests that driving less energy-efficient cars would save energy: "If the only motor vehicles available today were 1920 Model Ts, how many miles do you think you'd drive each year, and how far do you think you'd live from where you work"? Owen is right that people would drive a lot less in these circumstances...but he's entirely wrong about the reason.Read more ›
Rating: Three-star (Recommended)
Each of the chapters presents a different approach to the same fundamental problem: energy efficiency is not a means to reduce overall energy use. He takes a scientific approach using data and examples from the real world, and adds in his unique humor and anecdotes to make the painful truth easier to digest.
It's definitely worth a read and serious consideration, but if you choose to pick it up, be willing to be objective because it challenges some of the basic assumptions and beliefs of average Americans.
Owen promotes the idea that residents of densely populated cities use less energy. This was the subject of another book he wrote, Green Metropolis (which I have not read). While there is certainly some truth to this argument it conveniently ignores how cities shift their demands for food production, waste disposal and other things elsewhere. This also highlights the weak point of this book -- it largely consists of the author asserting his opinions without engaging in detailed research. References and endnotes are conspicuously absent from the book.
Despite this weakness the book does challenge many of the key tenets of environmentalism. It is useful for encouraging much needed debate and discussion. There is still a large amount of truth in its arguments even if it lacks references.
(Originally published at David reads books.)
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It took me too long to get around to reading this book not unlike the way it takes me too long to getting around to changing the things in my life that do not line up with my... Read morePublished 8 months ago by topo|graphis press (Consignment)
The books presents its argument with much bias, but provides interesting examples of how our behaviour affects the environment. Overall, worth reading.Published 8 months ago by WILBERTH NARVAEZ
A good quick read to get you think about how things are not always as clear as you think or might be told.Published 9 months ago by David Gonsalves
Owen's Conundrum makes several eye-opening observations. It's neither very long nor dense read. His main 3-4 points are very astute. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Bilal Rana
For those of us who think we're fighting climate change, The Conundrum is chock full of examples of how we're actually making things worse. Read morePublished 13 months ago by David W. Stookey
Another Red/Green movement hacktivist spewing his Ideology..... David Owen offers no real solutions. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Book lover
I read and reviewed this book for an economics course on Price Theory. There is no way to upload my charts within the text, so I offer my apologies in advance. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Al Dente
Just because it looks green, doesn't mean it is. The environmental movement is full of good intentions, but much of what it has done either provides no benefit or actually harms... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Jesse Rorabaugh