“Sustainable Energy — Without Hot Air” by MacKay


The book under consideration is entitled “Sustainable Energy — Without Hot Air.” The author of the book is David MacKay. The book was published in England in 2009. The book was published by an independent publishers group — UIT Cambridge Ltd.

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I have obtained the book via the search in the search engines. The author has written a book that is free of charge nowadays. I found the information about the book when I was looking for the best books on energy and sustainability. This book received numerous positive reviews, and I found it useful to take it for the current review.

David J. C. MacKay is a well-known personality in the modern scientific world. He is the Regius Professor at the University of Cambridge in Engineering. He was a student of Cambridge, who studied Natural Sciences. David MacKay has PhD. in Neural Systems and Computation, which was received at the California Institute of Technology. His career in Cambridge started when he became one of the participants of the research at Darwin College. MacKay is a reputable scientist who is famous for his achievements in information theory, machine learning, and communication systems. Besides, he is the creator of the software for efficient communication — Dasher (“About the Author” par. 1). Currently, he works at the Department of Energy and Climate Change as Chief Scientific Advisor.

The book under consideration provides readers with significant and useful information about the usage of energy. The author describes practical ways of becoming environmentally friendly.

Structure of the book

The book under review consists of four parts. The first half of the book (Part 1 and Part 2) is devoted to the investigation of the sources of renewable energy in Great Britain and possible ways of saving energy. The second half of the book (Parts 2 and 3) includes technical information about the way energy is consumed in different types of transport or machinery.

Part 1 of the book is running under the title “Numbers, not adjectives.” In this part, the author dwells on the following issues:

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  • Reasons for addressing energy-related issues. MacKay starts by providing an explanation of the significance of speaking about energy sources. He takes the United Kingdom for referring to exact numbers. The author emphasizes the fact that fossil fuels comprise the primary source of energy in the world and that they belong to finite sources. Consequently, the second reason to think about energy supply is that fossil fuels will not last forever. Finally, fossil fuels are considered to have an adverse climate change. The last factor is especially important when thinking about future generations;
  • Energy consumption and production. Part 1 of the book is also devoted to the examination of the current level of energy consumption of the United Kingdom and the assessment of the available renewable sources of energy. Thus, the author dethrones myths about doing something useful for the environment by proving that not leaving phone charges plugged in makes no difference for saving energy. MacKay calculates the amounts of energy consumed during everyday activities. Finally, the author comes to the conclusion that the existing renewable energy sources of the UK are not enough for meeting the level of production.

The title of Part 2 is “Making a difference.” The author introduces information about:

  • Ways of saving energy. In chapters 19-26, MacKay shares his opinion about possible ways to reduce the consumption of energy and move to the usage of more environmentally-friendly energy sources. He discusses efficient methods to use fossil fuels, electricity, heat, and other sources of energy. MacKay also writes that big changes can be achieved if people are ready to change their ways of life;
  • Energy plans. The author does not only describe possible changes that can be done to save energy. He realizes that humanity needs an exact plan because the current sources of energy are finite. Thus, he suggests five plans for Britain to move towards renewable energy sources. All plans include electrification and the smart use of other sources.

Part 3, “Technical Chapters,” contains a description of physical laws that work when it comes to energy consumption:

  • Important calculations. MacKay explains how the car can work on energy and become energy-efficient. With the help of basic laws and calculations, he also clarifies why planes cannot work on electricity. The author familiarizes readers with ways of finding out the amount of saved energy from windmills or other sources.

Part 4 is “Useful Data.” It is the part where the author includes references for further readings. Besides, this part contains information relevant to other countries as well as the energy history of the United Kingdom.

Point of the book

David MacKay has written this book for several purposes. First, as a scientist, he is interested in the investigation of the concerns of modern society. As Yee writes, “Sustainable Energy is a constructive presentation of some basic energy science and engineering, not a polemical debunking…” (par. 2). I believe that the author tries to convey the significance of the problem by providing people with exact numbers and calculations. Also, everybody can understand the calculations from the book.

The second reason for writing the book is to pay attention to the problem. As the author writes, many people believe that they do something valuable to energy saving when they do little things. MacKay proves that little efforts cannot be awarded great results. Again, calculations and exact numbers are employed to prove that what people already do is not enough for the efficient saving of energy. MacKay mentions this reason in the first pages of the book: “Everyone says getting off fossil fuels is important, and we’re all encouraged to “make a difference,” but many of the things that allegedly make a difference don’t add up” (9).

The author’s primary opinion that is rendered in the book is that many current energy-saving strategies are no more than mere twaddle. Consequently, there is a need to demonstrate the significance of the issue and provide a scientific basis for such assumptions.

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Connection with the myths of nature

“Sustainable Energy — Without the Hot Air” is a book that contains useful information about possible methods to save energy and make current lives and lives of future generations safe and secure. The author demonstrates the particular perspective of thinking about nature and its role for humanity. This perspective can be described using one of John Adams’ four myths about nature. These myths reveal four possible types of thinking about nature and the environment.

The “nature tolerant” perspective best describes MacKay’s book. This myth of nature means that nature is tolerant of insignificant adverse changes. Nature can regulate itself in case harm is not significant. Equilibrium may be achieved if disturbances are not too dangerous. Otherwise, nature may not be able to control the process, and the proper functioning can be under threat (Enzler par. 6). These myths are used for the division of people’s perception of nature and activities that should be done to eliminate the issue. Thus, people who believe in the “nature tolerant” myth are called hierarchies. Such individuals aim to find solutions to the problem by thinking about setting limits for gas emissions or the usage of pollutants.

MacKay is a vivid example of hierarchies as far as he devotes the whole book to the presentation of particular ideas for saving energy and, consequently, nature. For example, he writes about the sustainable use of nuclear power. The author provides fast breeding reactors that work on nuclear power as the possible variant (MacKay 163). MacKay’s reasons for paying attention to the energy policies best fit the “nature tolerant” myth too.

Thus, he writes that the extensive use of fossil fuels has led to climate change issues. This statement proves that the author believes that climate change is a significant disturbance that already impedes nature from natural recovery. No equilibrium can be achieved with the current usage of energy from fossil fuels. In addition, “nature tolerant” myth supporters are expected to employ the control management style (Enzler par. 20). This style presupposes the suggestion of regulative measures for institutions or government. MacKay introduces plans for energy savings that can be used by governments. Besides, the author writes about the basic laws of regulation of energy consumption for all people.

Works Cited

About the Author n.d. Web.

Enzler, S. Perspectives on the greenhouse effect and global warming. n.d. Web.

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MacKay, D. Sustainable Energy: Without the Hot Air. Cambridge, United Kingdom: UIT Cambridge Ltd, 2009. Print.

Yee, D. Sustainable Energy: Without the Hot Air. 2009. Web.

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