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 Coop. 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…

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2 Responses to Citizen Powered Energy Handbook

  1. rebekah says:

    But “Heat,” by George Monbiot, did set me on fire. It is his plan for reducing carbon emissions by 90% by 2030. While he wastes some time delving into a bit of technofantasy territory (every house with its own fuel cell, hydrogen storage, etc) and too easily gives up on energy efficient renovations, his repeated observations on personal responsibility are refreshing. And everyone needs to read his chapter 2 on the disinformation campaigns being perpetrated by exxon/philip morris (or visit I was shocked that I had inadvertently absorbed some of their disinformation (which I thought I must be immune to). Now it’s personal.

  2. hamid says:

    Dear Sir

    i m seeking internship courses in California on biofuel technology which would last for 4.5 -5 mounts for my first internship and 4.5-5 mounts for second internship

    so might you advice me, which company or institute are very helpful for international student who is interest in developing his career in biofuel technology.namely could you help me how can find the list of considerable institute ,company and university for renewable technology , biofuel technology in usa overall in California

    i appreciate if you do favor and answer me completly

    thanks in advance
    from holland

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