Since Environmental Defense, whom I’ve referenced in my political action Weblog entries many times, seems to be one of the 4 readers of my blog (yes, I’m counting myself in that total & hello, Jon & Paul), they sent me an advance reader’s copy of Earth: The Sequel, the new book by EDF President Fred Krupp that’s been released today, March 10, 2008.
While the title smacks of a sci-fi Hollywood B-movie, I think this is an important book. It highlights renewable/clean energy projects gaining momentum around the U.S. & across the globe, highlighting key features of the technologies, as well as the economics of launching them. Not surprisingly given EDF’s long political history on the issue, the book trumpets cap & trade greenhouse gas pollution legislation as the key lever in getting these clean energy sources into production and spurring technological innovation to create new ones in order to stave off the worst effects of global-warming climate chaos. Interestingly, the book eschews command & control energy policy such as the Renewable Energy Standard (RES), which mandates that utilities purchase a particular percentage of electrical energy production from certain renewable sources. This appears to be something of a reversal for EDF, as I seem to recall receiving action alerts from them urging me to support RES in national legislation, which I have declined to do because, as I’ve argued before & Earth: The Sequel rightly points out, this approach focuses on process, not performance. A cybernetic analysis of government vs. market decision-making capabilitiy clearly shows that the government does not possess the requisite variety to make fine-grained process decisions & should instead concentrate on the setting the goal, letting individual actors (the market) determine the means.
I’ve only slogged a few chapters into the book in the week I’ve had it & I wish I had more enthusiasm for it than I do, because it focuses on an important topic that interests me & comes from an organization I support. However good I find the content, however, the presentation leaves my flat. While I found Natural Capitalism, a book close in theme with its emphasis on market-based approaches to solving environmental problems, both brimming with interesting content and well-written, I find Earth: The Sequel to fall short on the latter point. The descriptions of solar & wind projects would be well served by an illustration or two (simple line drawings would go far to explain the projects the book tries to describe), and the vignettes of the entrepreneurs trying to launch these projects need more personal detail to support the hyperbolic adjectives too often used in a rushed attempt to bring to life the stories of these worthy energy projects.
Those stylistic criticisms aside, I think the book should be on the reading list for anyone interested in energy policy, global warming, and clean-energy investing. Here’s hoping it lights a (CO2 emissions-offset) fire under Congress to actually pass cap & trade greenhouse gas pollution legislation & sets us on the path to Thomas Friedman’s vision of U.S. energy independence through massive innovation in clean, renewable energy.