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The Conundrum Original Edition
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Electronics, sensors & robots
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"After Green Metropolis, a revelatory exposition of why urban life is 'green,' Owen---brisk, funny, elucidating, and blunt---illuminates a wide spectrum of environmental misperceptions in this even more paradox-laden inquiry." ---Booklist Starred Review --This text refers to the Audio CD 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. People would drive a lot less because the Model T is loud, has uncomfortable seats, no air conditioning, no stereo system, has a lousy suspension, has poor acceleration and low top speed, etc. In fact, the Model T got about 20 mpg, which is not that bad compared to a lot of cars for sale today. Ridiculously, Owen blames all of the extra driving solely on an increase in fuel efficiency. Unfortunately the book is riddled with such nonsense.
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.