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Sustainable Fossil Fuels: The Unusual Suspect in the Quest for Clean and Enduring Energy [Bargain Price] [Paperback]

Mark Jaccard
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 16 2006 0521679796 1
More and more people believe we must quickly wean ourselves from fossil fuels - oil, natural gas and coal - to save the planet from environmental catastrophe, wars and economic collapse. In this 2006 book, Professor Jaccard argues that this view is misguided. We have the technological capability to use fossil fuels without emitting climate-threatening greenhouse gases or other pollutants. The transition from conventional oil and gas to their unconventional sources including coal for producing electricity, hydrogen and cleaner-burning fuels will decrease energy dependence on politically unstable regions. In addition, our vast fossil fuel resources will be the cheapest source of clean energy for the next century and perhaps longer, which is critical for the economic and social development of the world's poorer countries. By buying time for increasing energy efficiency, developing renewable energy technologies and making nuclear power more attractive, fossil fuels will play a key role in humanity's quest for a sustainable energy system.

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"Jaccard's book is perhaps the most comprehensive analysis of the sources of energy that has been produced, here or elsewhere. Policy makers in Ontario should be forced to read it, and also the host of misguided environmentalists who think there is a soft fix to a hard problem." Robert M. MacIntosh, Globe and Mail

"Even less-optimistic readers or those unconvinced by the arguments will find Jaccard's case worth careful consideration" -Science Magazine

"Mark Jaccard's book does not have a catchy title and will not make the best-seller lists, but it stands to influence what kind of car you drive and how you heat your home" - Judy Stoffman, Toronto Star

Book Description

More and more people believe we must quickly wean ourselves from oil, natural gas and coal to save the planet from wars, environmental catastrophe and economic collapse. In this 2006 book, Jaccard controversially argues that fossil fuels will play a key role in our quest for a sustainable energy system.

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18 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unsustainable sustainability Feb. 17 2006
Format:Paperback
Jaccard's book is a good survey of many of the issues and problems surrounding energy use. But he pays lip service to some critically important issues.
Despite a few brief glimpses outside, Jaccard takes the usual economist's "closed system" approach and couples it with the usual technotopian idea that humans have the ingenuity to find technological fixes for virtually any problem. In talking about the future impact of human activity on the natural world, Jaccard comments that "any individual unavoidable hazards can be ones from which the system could recover within a reasonable time, either from natural processes alone or in concert with human remediation efforts" (p. 355)
A BBC News report that states that, due to human activity, "organisms are disappearing at something like 100 to 1,000 times the background levels' seen in the fossil record." ( [...] ) This loss of biodiversity has a direct impact on human health and wealth. To date, "natural processes" and "human remediation efforts" have not managed to bring back any extinct species.
Jaccard promotes the idea of "zero emission" fossil fuels at the point of use, but neglects the fact that large quantities of fossil fuels and resources are required by the operation of, and even production of, the machinery and infrastructure required to produce those fuels. He talks about the expansion of "clean" nuclear energy, but again neglects the emissions from mining, processing, and transporting fuel, storing and safeguarding spent fuel, and the construction of power plants and machinery. More importantly, Jaccard fails to mention the social irresponsibility of leaving behind toxic mine tailings and wastewater, spent fuel, and power plants that are decommissioned after their relatively short life span.
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Format:Paperback
Despite the title, Jaccard's book is much more than a paean to the use of fossil fuels. Regardless of whether you are persuaded by his overall argument, it is hard to find as good a survey of the history and outlook of human exploitation of primary energy sources. The economic and environmental costs and consequences of all the major energy sources are reviewed in turn at a technical level which should be accessible to any generally interested reader.

What I appreciate from this book is the realism, pragmatism and clear thinking that is evident throughout. The facts of the matter are that our energy system is going to grow, that human populations are not going to willingly accept a lesser degree of energy services, and that the only sources of energy that will be able to satisfy these demands over the medium term (10 to 50 years, say) are fossil fuels. If (and this is a big "if") fossil fuels can be used while mitigating their costs, then the fossil fuel era will be invaluable in bootstrapping us to the mix of energy sources that will define our energy system for the next century.

Jaccard spends a considerable amount of time specifying what would be involved in mitigating the costs of using fossil fuels. The largest, most intractable problem involves carbon emissions. Carbon capture and storage at the scale of a major power plant remains an unrealized prospect, though demonstration projects are multiplying. In what is necessarily the most uncertain and speculative part of this book, Jaccard attempts to lay out the policy options that would accelerate the decarbonization of our use of fossil fuels. Not surprisingly, considering his "professional deformation", Jaccard argues for economic incentives: most prominently using policy to effectively price carbon emissions.
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Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary tour of our imminent choices March 7 2006
By APM - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Complete. Here and now. Solid. It takes the reader on a 360 degree loop, at least for the next 100 years. Professor Jaccard evidently knows how to deliver a class. Good economic analysis, just three things I wanted to mention:

1. The book needs a relative sense of the urgency for policy that fosters carbon capture -with its corresponding research of possible CO2 leaks- a starting point, if not the cornerstone of his proposal.
2. Idem 1 but for legislation that promotes the adaptation of new technologies (ingenuity) to replace the vanishing fossil fuels. These technologies are intrinsically linked to the success of the proposal as a whole.
3. I wasn't very convinced on the transportation front. If combustion from "Status Enhancement Vehicles" represents almost half of the total anthropogenic-related pollution, shouldn't we be focusing more on them? The current technologies are mentioned and explained, but transportation is key in our urban societies and needs a push from governments if a transition is to take place in the short run. Taxing private vehicle owners (Yes, like smokers!)could be a means to promote and build alternative clean transportation and at the same time curb driving.

I understand that the book cannot cover all the issues at hand. In 361 pages, it addresses and explains with surprising clarity our current situation and possible solutions. Worth every page.
24 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unsustainable sustainability Feb. 17 2006
By R. N. Shea - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Jaccard's book is a good survey of many of the issues and problems surrounding energy use. But he pays lip service to some critically important issues.

Despite a few brief glimpses outside, Jaccard takes the usual economist's "closed system" approach and couples it with the usual technotopian idea that humans have the ingenuity to find technological fixes for virtually any problem. In talking about the future impact of human activity on the natural world, Jaccard comments that "any individual unavoidable hazards can be ones from which the system could recover within a reasonable time, either from natural processes alone or in concert with human remediation efforts" (p. 355)

A BBC News report that states that, due to human activity, "organisms are disappearing at something like 100 to 1,000 times the background levels' seen in the fossil record." ( [...] ) This loss of biodiversity has a direct impact on human health and wealth. To date, "natural processes" and "human remediation efforts" have not managed to bring back any extinct species.

Jaccard promotes the idea of "zero emission" fossil fuels at the point of use, but neglects the fact that large quantities of fossil fuels and resources are required by the operation of, and even production of, the machinery and infrastructure required to produce those fuels. He talks about the expansion of "clean" nuclear energy, but again neglects the emissions from mining, processing, and transporting fuel, storing and safeguarding spent fuel, and the construction of power plants and machinery. More importantly, Jaccard fails to mention the social irresponsibility of leaving behind toxic mine tailings and wastewater, spent fuel, and power plants that are decommissioned after their relatively short life span. Despite protocols and regulations, these will pose a hazard to future generations for thousands of years.

As a further example of "closed system" thinking, Jaccard talks about the expansion of "renewables," including solar and wind power, again without mentioning how dependent upon fossil fuels these energy sources are t present, for materials, production, and maintenance.

Finally, Jaccard neglects to mention that the growth he predicts depends heavily upon so many other resources, many of which are becoming increasingly scarce, and which rely on the current relatively cheap and abundant fossil fuels for extraction, processing, and production.

Despite the title of his book, Jaccard does briefly acknowledge that fossil fuel use, even in the manner he promotes, is not indefinitely sustainable, and would require enormous efforts and will to reduce GHG emissions, let alone solve all the other waste stream and resource issues. Indeed, almost appearing as repentance at the last minute, Jaccard's very last sentence acknowledges that a "sustainable fossil fuel future does not guarantee a sustainable human presence on this shrinking planet." (p. 361)

So much for sustainability.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clean fossil fuel - an oxymoron? May 18 2006
By Calgary Conservator - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Given all the talk of "peak oil" in the media, it appears that the public has accepted the message that we are running out of all manner of fossil fuels. Regardless, high pump prices aren't viewed as signs of increasing scarcity, but rather of increased collusion among big oil companies.

This book provides a very useful compendium of energy industry information, and argues convincingly that fossil fuels will not run out for quite some time. The information the book contains would go far to dispelling a lot of fossil fuel "urban myths" if energy consumers took the time to read it.

Other recently released books on energy and climate change encourage readers to "stick it" to big oil and big coal by going "off-grid", etc., and don't sufficiently explore how these same companies can play a role in a more sustainable energy future.

While fossil fuels may never be viewed as "clean" by the public, they will certainly endure for centuries as Jaccard attests. This book is a useful read for those interested in learning how to make fossil fuel-based economies more sustainable, using more facts and less media hyperbole.
2.0 out of 5 stars Good Research But Lack of Economic Theory Oct. 4 2010
By James.1 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Jaccard makes some strong arguments throughout the book. Clearly a lot of research has gone into the data.
However, Jaccard makes a lot of assumptive statements, not backed up by enough economic theory. The book swings between being from an ecologist's point of view and an economic stance, but Jaccard makes his thoughts know when he jokes that economists "don't know they are lying", and that economics' "abstract models get in the way of seeing reality".
Further more, there is no mention of the Hotelling Principle that is key to this area of energy and natural resource economics.
A good read if you are wanting to know more about fossil fuels, but a bit disappointing if you are wanting to learn more than the scaremongering propaganda that you read in a newspaper.
5.0 out of 5 stars Why the solution to energy consumption is not limited to finding an alternative to fossil fuels Aug. 8 2006
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Sustainable Fossil Fuels: The Unusual Suspect in the Quest for Clean and Enduring Energy" tackles the task of explaining why the solution to energy consumption is not limited to finding an alternative to fossil fuels. The author argues that there is evidence that the world has untapped resources and an energy reserve supply of fossil fuels to last perhaps 800 years (for gas and coal), and that rising prices of precious fuel resources should not be assumed to mean the end of stored fossil fuel energy is imminent. Considering the options of renewable energy, nuclear power, and energy efficiency, the author states:" The end (goal) is a low impact and low risk energy system that can meet expanded human energy needs indefinitely and do this as inexpensively as possible, without succumbing to cataclysmic forces at some future time...it is unjustifiable to rule out fossil fuels in advance of a holistic comparison that considers critical decision factors. These factors include cost... the human desire to minimize the risk of extreme events...to ensure adequate and reliable energy supplies free from geopolitical turmoil, and to sustain values, institutions and lifestyles (p. 355)." Jaccard believes that fossil fuels are likely to continue to provide a significant resource to the global energy system during a gradual transition to a sustainable global energy system, perhaps over a period of more than a century. "Sustainable Fossil Fuels" makes a convincing argument for thorough review of the cost of energy sustainability, leading to an unprejudiced reconsideration of continuing the mixed use of fossil fuels. A handy chapter reading guide suggests the best way to read the book, considering the following key questions: What is energy sustainability (Chapter 1)? Is our current energy path sustainable (chapter 2)? Chapter 3: The prospects for clean, secondary energy, Chapter 4: The usual suspects: efficiency, nuclear and renewables, Chapter 5: The unusual suspect: how long can fossil fuels last - and does it mater? Chapter 6: Can we use fossil fuels cleanly - and what might it cost? and last, Chapter 7: Sustainable energy choices: comparing the options. "Sustainable Fossil Fuels" is a convincing argument for the continued judicious planned use of fossil fuels while seeking alternative sustainable energy choices. It is enhanced by a bibliography of 22 pages and many graphs and charts and footnotes. References are made to pertinent web sites for further information as well.
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