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Category — Encyclopedia of Energy (Cleveland)

Remembering a Biased Energy Encyclopedia (2004 Review of the "Hummer" 6 Volume Set)

[Editor note: Some analyses are worth revisiting, including this book review in the  Energy Journal of Cutler Cleveland, ed., Encyclopedia of Energy (6 volumes, Elsevier). Bradley shared his review with Professor Cleveland, who stated his surprise that it passed peer review. The reader can the judge the quality of the review in six years' hindsight.]

This is the Hummer of energy books. The Elsevier Encyclopedia of Energy is almost twice as large as two predecessor energy encyclopedias combined. The price tag is commensurate. This set is only for the wealthy, the addicted, large libraries, and paid-in-kind reviewers.

Encyclopedia editor Cutler Cleveland, an ecological economist, introduces the compilation (p. xxxi) as “the first comprehensive, organized body of [energy] knowledge for what is certain to continue as a major area of scientific study in the 21st century.” The nearly 500 authors are advertised as leaders in their respective fields—and from forty countries. However, the diversity stops where it is most needed. While many entries are exemplary and the scope of the effort laudable, this encyclopedia showcases the alarmist wing of the energy sustainability debate and excludes contrary views.

Alarmism & Mandates

The politicization begins right up front. The foreword paints a dire picture of the carbon-based energy economy and opines, “Major changes are required in energy system development worldwide” (xxvii). Business-as-usual is the foe because the “desired energy futures will not happen” given “present policies and conditions in the marketplaces that determine energy generation and use” (xxviii).

The solution—“combinations of technologies that meet all sustainable development challenges at the same time”—is advertised as ready to go. Policy reforms include “cost-based prices” that incorporate “external environmental and health costs and benefits (now sometimes larger than the private costs).” For maximum effect, this opening is reprinted in all six volumes.

The encyclopedia’s bias and righteous tone appears in other entries. Eric Heitz of the Energy Foundation states in “Philanthropy and Energy” (5:1), “Smart philanthropy … can help spur markets for the next generation of clean energy technologies that address the energy/environmental nexus, especially global warming pollution.” In “Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) and Energy,” the authors describe the role of Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the thousands of smaller sisters as “design[ing] improved energy policies…to [meet] the needs of citizens and marginalized stakeholders” (4:313). [Read more →]

June 5, 2010   4 Comments