Fossil Fuels Versus Renewables: What is to be done?
By Felicia Graham
LA JOLLA, Calif., May 13 –The near-miss crisis with Iran earlier this year has made the debate about oil, and energy in general, a much more popular issue: a 1973 oil crisis for the 21st century, if you will. As Robert Rapier notes in his new book, Power Plays: Energy Options in the Age of Peak Oil, there is a sea of misconceptions out there about energy that need to be addressed. And, as he emphasizes at the end of the book, a well-informed public could very well set the US and other oil dependent countries on the right track in protecting against energy emergencies in the future. At present this is lacking and Rapier has designed Power Plays to address this issue directly.
The book may seem dry at first, going through the various energy resources and delving into their chemical compounds, and other minute details. As Power Plays progresses, however, it becomes clear that the book is structured to bring readers from all walks of life into the debate, and fill in gaps of knowledge as needed. The result is a thorough mapping of the energy industry.
Rapier begins the book with an inventory of the world’s current energy sources (oil, coal, nuclear, renewables, etc.) and provides a succinct portrait of each one. He outlines their processes of production, distribution, common misconceptions associated with them, and fun facts that elucidate the truth behind these sources that power society.
The second portion of Power Plays touches upon the political debates surrounding hot-button issues like nuclear power, climate change, and peak oil. Rapier breezes through the arguments well, and in doing so provides a window of clarification into the often perplexing political realm.
To conclude, Rapier delves into the US energy policy, and introduces his three energy policy proposals that could potentially help secure the future of energy.
Overall, Power Plays provides readers with a solid introduction to energy, and any person seeking to gain a better understanding of the power behind our society should certainly take a peek at this book.
But more than merely providing readers with a basic understanding of energy, Power Plays offers a valuable perspective that should be seriously considered. Rapier has identified a niche of missing information in the current energy debate: what are the trade-offs of moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewables?
In effect, the larger point of Power Plays addresses this question precisely. Will we trade our dependence on Middle Eastern oil for dependence on other countries for other commodities? To illustrate this, Rapier uses China as an example, which controls the vast majority of the world’s rare earth elements necessary to produce solar technologies. Furthermore, Rapier explains how “certain types of renewable energies are dependent on fossil fuels” for production, making it unclear whether or not they would be “viable sources of energy without fossil fuels.”
Rapier notes that renewables, with some certainty, will play an important role in the future of energy. But will renewables replace oil altogether? Rapier’s arguments point towards the importance of the diversification of energy sources, which is reflected in his policy proposals.
Thus, Power Plays not only provides a solid introduction to the energy industry, it also provides readers with an important and overlooked point regarding the viability of renewable energy sources as a replacement for fossil fuels. In this regard, Power Plays is a good resource, and does well to inform those less familiar with the most pressing issue of our time: energy, and its availability.
Felicia Graham is Managing Editor of Oil Diplomacy
Power Plays: Energy Options in the Age of Peak Oil, By Robert Rapier
© Glamma Productions Inc 2012