Energy is the only universal currency; it is necessary for getting anything done. The conversion of energy on Earth ranges from terra-forming forces of plate tectonics to cumulative erosive effects of raindrops. Life on Earth depends on the photosynthetic conversion of solar energy into plant biomass. Humans have come to rely on many more energy flows—ranging from fossil fuels to photovoltaic generation of electricity—for their civilized existence. In this monumental history, Vaclav Smil provides a comprehensive account of how energy has shaped society, from pre-agricultural foraging societies through today’s fossil fuel–driven civilization.
Humans are the only species that can systematically harness energies outside their bodies, using the power of their intellect and an enormous variety of artifacts—from the simplest tools to internal combustion engines and nuclear reactors. The epochal transition to fossil fuels affected everything: agriculture, industry, transportation, weapons, communication, economics, urbanization, quality of life, politics, and the environment. Smil describes humanity’s energy eras in panoramic and interdisciplinary fashion, offering readers a magisterial overview. This book is an extensively updated and expanded version of Smil’s Energy in World History (1994). Smil has incorporated an enormous amount of new material, reflecting the dramatic developments in energy studies over the last two decades and his own research over that time.
‘Benjamin Sovacool and Christopher Jon Cooper have produced an astonishing and well-written book, based on extensive original research in twelve countries. They explore the technical, social, political and economic dimensions of four energy megaprojects. The large scale of megaprojects always appears to complicate the decision-making process and often causes failures. Megaprojects may even reinforce corruption and erode democracy. It highlights that today’s experiences can be explained by statements by Aristotle and Einstein who argue, both in their own way, that is always wise to take the limits of size into account and to reduce the size of projects, wherever this is possible. For everybody involved in megaprojects, this book must be read!’
– Hugo Priemus, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands
Based on extensive original research, this book explores the technical, social, political, and economic dimensions of four Asian energy megaprojects: a regional natural gas pipeline network in Southeast Asia, a series of hydroelectric dams on the island of Borneo, an oil pipeline linking Europe with the Caspian Sea, and a very large solar energy array in the Gobi desert.
This book investigates why energy megaprojects fail to deliver their promised benefits. It offers the first comprehensive assessment of the complicated dynamics driving – and constraining – megaprojects initiated in the rapid scramble for energy resources and efforts to improve energy security. The authors approach the assessment of megaprojects from a socio-technical angle, emphasizing broad issues of political leadership, regulation, financing, interest group opposition and environmental impact, as well as conventional technological factors such as engineering design and project management.
The Governance of Energy Megaprojects will prove insightful for academics concerned about energy policy, energy security, environmental impact and technology assessment. But the book should prove equally compelling to those engaged in the practical management and implementation of large-scale energy projects anywhere in the world.