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Alternative Energy. Sources: The Quest for. Sustainable Energy by Paul Kruger, Wiley 2006. In this book the author has present- ed a large amount of data ...

book review

energy sources how conventional and alternate energies are used


A BOOK ABOUT ALTERNATIVE energy sources is the subject of this book review. This data-driven book looks at conventional and alternative sources and how they are used. More than one-half of the book discusses the energy from fossil fuels and their impact on the environment.

Alternative Energy Sources: The Quest for Sustainable Energy by Paul Kruger, Wiley 2006 In this book the author has presented a large amount of data dealing with the conventional and alternate energy sources and how they are used. But without the proper context it is sometimes difficult to understand the meaning of such data, especially for young and untrained college freshman and sophomore students at whom the text seems to be directed. A case in point, Table 2-6 (on p. 24) shows the contributions of renewables in the U.S. energy sector increased from 3% to 8% between 1975 and 2000. Without an explanation, it is hard for someone to appreciate how the renewables contribution changed so drastically, if this is indeed the case. Chapter 3 starts with a good discussion about fossil fuels, and a significant number of pages are devoted to the discussion on coal-fired power plants. However, contributions from coal are seen to be different for a given year when the data in Figure 32 and Table 3-1 on p. 42 are compared. The impact of economic


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development on the ever-increasing demand for energy is discussed in detail in Chapter 4 where the issue of sustainable development is raised. The role of natural gas is discussed in this regard including its supply and reserve and its sustainability as an energy source. In this regard demand and supply of natural gas is extrapolated to 2050 by a fixed annual growth rate. Among nonfossil energy sources, nuclear and renewables are mentioned along with their historical developments for the last 25 years and predictions for the short-term future. In summarizing the demand for energy in the future the author has probably overstated the case when he writes, “The demand for energy will be accelerated by the recognition that civilization is vulnerable to terrorism and much additional energy will be needed to provide an heightened degree of security for national populations and engineered structures.” The need to reduce the impact on the environment from energy use will put a damper on the use of energy (specially fossil-fuel based) to a much higher degree than what is needed to harden energy supply targets and the built environment. Chapter 5 provides a good historical perspective of the environmental impacts of energy consumption. In this context both the acid rain and the greenhouse gases—with climate change impacts—are discussed. Here the author discusses how we can arrive at an uncontested optimum energy

plan such that there would be sufficient energy to satisfy some preconceived standard with minimum environmental impact. But he also points out that there is much disagreement on the exact meaning of the words optimum, sufficient, preconceived, and minimum with respect to environmental impact. Chapter 6 focuses on nuclear energy including basic elements of nuclear science, the fuel cycle, safety, and waste disposal issues. Thermonuclear fusion is briefly mentioned. Radioactive decay is mentioned along with the properties of radionuclides which leads into a discussion on nuclear fission and power reactors. Both pressurized water reactors (PWRs) and boiling water reactors (BWRs) are mentioned along with examples of gas cooled reactors. Reference is also made to generation IV reactors which are being investigated for commercial applications in the next 20 years. The discussion on renewable energy starts in Chapter 7 where the contributions of solar, wind, hydro, tidal, wave, biomass, and geothermal sources to the U.S. energy mix are listed. It appears that in 2002 under 6% of the U.S. energy usage was supplied from the renewable sources mentioned above, primarily hydro and biomass. In the case of solar, both the thermal and photovoltaic conversion processes are discussed. For wind energy, the discussion centers around large scale land-based wind power plants. Two different march/april 2007

platforms, sugar and wood and municipal green waste, are listed as possible economical way to generate energy from these sources. This is followed by a brief mention of environmental aspects of bioenergy fuels. Hydrogen as an energy carrier is presented in Chapter 8 where the energetics of hydrogen are discussed. A comparison is made of hydrogen and electricity as two parallel energy carriers. Then steam reformation and electrolysis methods of hydrogen production are discussed. Sample technologies for hydrogen storage through compressed hydrogen gas, liquid hydrogen, and chemical bonding are presented. End uses of hydrogen for domestic electricity and transportation applications using fuel cells are listed with a few examples. Chapter 9 is dedicated to hydrogen as a transportation fuel. Here concepts of hydrogen fuel in aviation, marine

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technology, and automobile transportation are discussed. Then the use of hydrogen-driven fuel cells and their applications, primarily in automobiles, are discussed in detail. This includes some mention of methanol and ethanol and natural gas as transportation fuels. The final chapter of the book deals with the future of hydrogen as a fuel for transportation and energy in the future. This includes the potential for air quality improvement from hydrogen usage by limiting carbon dioxide and other gaseous emissions like sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen. Impacts on vehicle-related pollution in Mexico City (a closed air basin), Los Angeles (a semi-closed air basin), and Tokyo

(an open air basin) are discussed in the context of each city’s unique geographical situation. The growth of worldwide demand for hydrogen fuel and electric energy between 2010–2050 is then discussed. Even though the book’s title is Alternative Energy Sources, the author has used half the number of pages in discussing energy from fossil fuels and their impact on the environment. In summary, the book gives a lot of data but not in an organized way. Also, the selection of fuels and energy supply alternatives seem to be arbitrary, and the book lacks a coherent presentation of the topics selected. Saifur Rahman

In summary, the book gives a lot of data but not in an organized way.


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