The most recommended books on energy policy

Who picked these books? Meet our 11 experts.

11 authors created a book list connected to energy policy, and here are their favorite energy policy books.
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Book cover of Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air

Neil Kitching Author Of Carbon Choices: Common-sense Solutions to our Climate and Nature Crises

From my list on climate change and our natural world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Scottish geographer and energy specialist. I love nature and snow and don't want to see it destroyed or lost. I wrote Carbon Choices, on the common-sense solutions to our climate and nature crises, to share my expertise and passion to help people to make a difference. People, businesses, and governments all need to understand the serious consequences of climate change. Education is the first step towards taking action. Carbon Choices focuses on the solutions, many of which are 'common sense', to protect people and nature upon which we all depend.

Neil's book list on climate change and our natural world

Neil Kitching Why did Neil love this book?

David MacKay does something unusual for a university professor. He brings all the talk about energy and climate change to life. A fantastic analysis of energy in all its forms, bringing it down to earth. His book answers the real questions that we need to ask, such as how much land would be needed to power the United Kingdom from renewable energy? His answers are detailed in graphs and pictures making them accessible and easy to understand. This brings a sense of realism and raises the conversation to the next level.

By David JC MacKay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Addressing the sustainable energy crisis in an objective manner, this enlightening book analyzes the relevant numbers and organizes a plan for change on both a personal level and an international scale--for Europe, the United States, and the world. In case study format, this informative reference answers questions surrounding nuclear energy, the potential of sustainable fossil fuels, and the possibilities of sharing renewable power with foreign countries.

While underlining the difficulty of minimizing consumption, the tone remains positive as it debunks misinformation and clearly explains the calculations of expenditure per person to encourage people to make individual changes that will benefit…


Book cover of Market Madness: A Century of Oil Panics, Crises, and Crashes

Amy Myers Jaffe Author Of Oil, Dollars, Debt, and Crises: The Global Curse of Black Gold

From my list on why oil and global banking crises happen at the same time.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began my career as a business journalist writing about Arab finance and oil at a time when few women were in that industry. Rather improbably, perhaps, I became well-known for correctly predicting trends – geopolitical and geo-economical. In my thirties, I shifted to the academy, becoming a director of energy research at Rice University in Houston and subsequently a sought-after advisor to government, corporations, and financial institutions. I wrote my first paper on oil crises while in high school (winning third prize in a state term paper contest) and have never left the subject. Now more than ever, the public needs to understand the real facts behind oil and financial crises. 

Amy's book list on why oil and global banking crises happen at the same time

Amy Myers Jaffe Why did Amy love this book?

For as long as I can remember, the oil industry has been saying oil is a finite resource and we are only a few years away from running dry.

It may be confusing to fathom how an industry can keep repeating that meme and have it continue to be believable. The key is understanding the cyclical nature of oil exploration and development and how the long lead time it takes to drill for new oil can lag behind a sudden burst of economic prosperity that creates more demand for energy virtually overnight. In essence, every oil shortage will eventually be temporary.

Market Madness is one of the few oil books that gets that right and uses history to prove its point. The book takes you back to the time of Andrew Carnegie and doesn’t get sucked into the idea that “easy to find” oil will eventually run out, empowering the…

By Blake C. Clayton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Market Madness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stock market booms are cause for celebration. But when oil prices soar because supplies are failing to keep up with demand, the response is nearly always apocalyptic. Predictions of the end of oil can create anxiety on Wall Street and in Washington, stoking fears that production has hit a ceiling and prices will rise in perpetuity. Yet these dire visions have always proven wrong.

Market Madness is the story of four waves of American anxiety over the last 100 years about a looming end to oil reserves. Their sweeping pattern-as large price increases lead to widespread shortage fears that eventually…


Book cover of Revolutionary Power: An Activist's Guide to the Energy Transition

Clark A. Miller Author Of Cities of Light: A Collection of Solar Futures

From my list on leading the clean energy revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

My motto is: we are techno-humans. Whatever nature or God created, we re-created. We move in cars, chat via the Internet, and eat industrial food. Technologies shape our bodies, identities, even imagination. That’s why the energy transition fascinates me. We propose to rip out and replace the technological foundations of the global economy. No less than the data revolution, energy transitions are about human re-invention. So, what kinds of human futures are we engineering? And can we design energy futures that make human futures better, more inclusive, more just? Figuring that out is my job as Director of the Center for Energy & Society at Arizona State University.

Clark's book list on leading the clean energy revolution

Clark A. Miller Why did Clark love this book?

There’s no better place to start exploring the revolutionary potential of renewable energy than Revolutionary Power. The new justice tsar at the US Department of Energy, Baker takes you inside the struggle of African American communities with the environmental injustices of fossil fuels. No industry has created more inequality, violence, injustice, pollution, and corruption, worldwide, over its history than energy. The great hope of renewable energy is to solve climate change while also restoring justice: creating new energy technologies and also new practices of energy development, new forms of ownership, and new ways to integrate technology generatively into communities and landscapes. In the story of her life and her community, Baker illustrates why the quest for energy justice and democracy is critical to the success of the clean energy revolution.

By Shalanda Baker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Revolutionary Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In September 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, completely upending the energy grid of the small island. The nearly year-long power outage that followed vividly shows how the new climate reality intersects with race and access to energy. The island is home to brown and black US citizens who lack the political power of those living in the continental US. As the world continues to warm and storms like Maria become more commonplace, it is critical that we rethink our current energy system to enable reliable, locally produced, and locally controlled energy without replicating the current structures of power and…


Book cover of The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations

Scott B. Macdonald Author Of The New Cold War, China, and the Caribbean: Economic Statecraft, China and Strategic Realignments

From my list on beach reads in an international relations hurricane.

Why am I passionate about this?

My expertise in Caribbean and Chinese affairs derives from having an interest in the two regions since college, which was then pursued through a MA in Asian Studies from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Connecticut. On the employment front, I worked for 3 regional banks (as an international economist), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Credit Suisse, Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, KWR International, and Aladdin Capital Management (as head of Credit and Economics Research) and Mitsubishi Corporation. Since I left Mitsubishi I returned to my two favorite interests, Asia and the Caribbean. 

Scott's book list on beach reads in an international relations hurricane

Scott B. Macdonald Why did Scott love this book?

Yurgin is the grandmaster of global energy politics, starting with his seminal, The Prize, and most recently The New Map. The latter is an amazing sweep of where global energy markets are heading, which takes into consideration the shift away from oil, gas, and coal to green or alternative sources of energy. His outlook is that the transition to a carbon-lite world is going to be much bumpier and more time-consuming than many people wish for, considering the issues of climate change, economic realities, and geopolitics. An insightful and excellent read.

By Daniel Yergin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The New Map as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Wall Street Journal besteller and a USA Today Best Book of 2020

Named Energy Writer of the Year for The New Map by the American Energy Society

"A master class on how the world works." -NPR

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and global energy expert, Daniel Yergin offers a revelatory new account of how energy revolutions, climate battles, and geopolitics are mapping our future

The world is being shaken by the collision of energy, climate change, and the clashing power of nations in a time of global crisis. Out of this tumult is emerging a new map of energy and geopolitics.…


Book cover of The New Cold War: Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West

Douglas Kellner Author Of American Horror Show: Election 2016 and the Ascent of Donald Trump

From my list on Russia invasion of Ukraine and threats to democracy.

Why am I passionate about this?

My work since the 1970s has focused on the major political struggles of the day as they impact U.S. democracy and provide challenges for understanding and action. As a professional philosopher, I focused on ways that history, philosophy, and theory provide key tools for the interpretation and critique of salient issues. I've written books on U.S. politics and the media, the Gulf War and Iraq War, 9/11 and the War on Terror, and am particularly interested in the interaction between Russia, the U.S., and Europe; hence, the rise of Putin in Russia, the New Cold War, and the 2020s conflict in Ukraine and the response of Western democracies.

Douglas' book list on Russia invasion of Ukraine and threats to democracy

Douglas Kellner Why did Douglas love this book?

Lucas’s book provides a geopolitical context for understanding Putin’s Russia and its relations with the West as a “New Cold War.” Lucas documents how Putin and his KGB cronies seized state power and the dominant institutions of Russian society in the early 2000s to form an autocratic state; how they merged with oligarchs controlling state economic institutions and formed a kleptocracy that used financial institutions and their resources to constitute autocratic state power. Lucas puts Putin, his KGB and military cronies, and the oligarchs in a geopolitical framework and demonstrates how their aggressive military and economic policies constitute a clear threat to the West, which Western leaders have not responded to, seeking instead to do business with Putin and Russia, misperceiving his geopolitical intentions. The conclusion indicates how the Western democratic countries need to band together to counter Putin’s threats and aggression, and need to develop a more aggressive counter-policy,…

By Edward Lucas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The New Cold War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With a preface by Norman Davies, author of Europe: A History. Revised and updated following Russia's attack on Georgia. In the 1990s, Russia was the sick man of Europe, but the rise to power of former KGB officer Vladimir Putin in 1999 coincided with a huge hike in world oil and gas prices, and after Yeltsin's downfall Putin set about re-establishing Russian autocracy. Now with its massive gas and oil reserves Russia has not only paid off its debts but amassed huge cash reserves which it is investing in easily accessible European businesses. Putin's Russia is hostile to open debate.…


Book cover of Energy: A Human History

Jeffrey Bennett Author Of A Global Warming Primer: Pathway to a Post-Global Warming Future

From my list on the science, consequences, and solutions to global warming.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an astronomer and educator (Ph.D. Astrophysics, University of Colorado), and I’ve now been teaching about global warming for more than 40 years (in courses on astronomy, astrobiology, and mathematics). While it’s frustrating to see how little progress we’ve made in combatting the ongoing warming during this time, my background as an astronomer gives me a “cosmic perspective” that reminds me that decades are not really so long, and that we still have time to act and to build a “post-global warming future.” I hope my work can help inspire all of us to act while we still can for the benefit of all.

Jeffrey's book list on the science, consequences, and solutions to global warming

Jeffrey Bennett Why did Jeffrey love this book?

I learned a lot from this book about the development of energy sources over the centuries, and how this history both leads to our current predicament with climate change and offers a path to solutions.

This history also points out that this is not the first time that we’ve needed to transition from one energy economy to another, and our past successes show that we can be successful again. I also enjoyed the descriptions of potential future solutions, including the book’s excellent discussion of nuclear energy.

By Richard Rhodes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Energy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A "meticulously researched" (The New York Times Book Review) examination of energy transitions over time and an exploration of the current challenges presented by global warming, a surging world population, and renewable energy-from Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning author Richard Rhodes.

People have lived and died, businesses have prospered and failed, and nations have risen to world power and declined, all over energy challenges. Through an unforgettable cast of characters, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes explains how wood gave way to coal and coal made room for oil, as we now turn to natural gas, nuclear power, and renewable…


Book cover of Electrify: An Optimist's Playbook for Our Clean Energy Future

Joseph P. O'Connor Author Of Off Grid Solar: A handbook for Photovoltaics with Lead-Acid or Lithium-Ion batteries

From my list on understand future potential of renewable energy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve dedicated my career to renewable energy, because I think it really will save us from climate change disaster. Solar, wind, and advanced energy storage will usher us into the 21st century. I’ve seen many innovative people and companies use technology to create a better future. We still have a long uphill battle to reverse climate change, but we now have the technology that can help save our planet. It is time to implement it. These five books (in very different ways) give us the tools and understanding of how renewable energy will shape the future.

Joseph's book list on understand future potential of renewable energy

Joseph P. O'Connor Why did Joseph love this book?

I’ve been working in the solar and battery industry for over 15 years and I can say firsthand that it is totally feasible to electrify everything in your home and live comfortably. Griffith recommends that you should never buy a new fossil fuel appliance ever again. Switching to an electric vehicle, all-electric kitchen appliances, and heat pumps primes us to have a carbon-free home in the future, even if our electrical usage currently relies on fossil fuels. Appliances with a life of 10 to 30 years will eventually be powered by renewables as they get installed on the grid.

Although this transition won't be easy. Appliance manufacturers need some time to improve the reliability of these new electric appliances. Imagine the frustration after installing an expensive, new heat pump water heater and it breaks after two weeks! In addition, some industries will have a very hard time going fully electric,…

By Saul Griffith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Electrify as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An optimistic--but realistic and feasible--action plan for fighting climate change while creating new jobs and a healthier environment: electrify everything.

Climate change is a planetary emergency. We have to do something now—but what? Saul Griffith has a plan. In Electrify, Griffith lays out a detailed blueprint—optimistic but feasible—for fighting climate change while creating millions of new jobs and a healthier environment. Griffith’s plan can be summed up simply: electrify everything. He explains exactly what it would take to transform our infrastructure, update our grid, and adapt our households to make this possible. Billionaires may contemplate escaping our worn-out planet on…


Book cover of The Energy of Slaves

Richard Heinberg Author Of Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival

From my list on understanding power.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a systems thinker (Senior Fellow at an environmental think tank, author of 14 books and hundreds of essays) who’s addicted to trying to understand the world. After a few decades, the following is my state of understanding. Power is everywhere and determines everything in our lives. Whether due to the physical power of energy channeled through technology, or the social power of organizations and money, we’re enabled or disabled daily. During the last century, fossil-fueled humanity has overpowered planetary systems, as evidenced by climate change, species extinctions, and resource depletion. Few think critically about power. Unless we start doing so, we may be inviting the ultimate disempowerment—extinction.

Richard's book list on understanding power

Richard Heinberg Why did Richard love this book?

If the goods and services that we enjoy in America today all had to be provided by human muscle power, we would each, on average, need roughly 150 people working full-time for us. Instead, fossil fuels do the work. The good news: coal helped end the horrors of slavery. The bad news: we’re all now utterly dependent on an energy system that’s destroying the world and the survival prospects of future generations. In many ways, we have become slaves to the fossil fuel regime, and Nikiforuk explains how. This book deserved far more attention than it received when published in 2012.

By Andrew Nikiforuk,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Energy of Slaves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ancient civilizations routinely relied on shackled human muscle. It took the energy of slaves to plant crops, clothe emperors, and build cities. In the early 19th century, the slave trade became one of the most profitable enterprises on the planet. Economists described the system as necessary for progress. Slaveholders viewed religious critics as hostilely as oil companies now regard environmentalists. Yet the abolition movement that triumphed in the 1850s had an invisible ally: coal and oil. As the world's most portable and versatile workers, fossil fuels replenished slavery's ranks with combustion engines and other labor-saving tools. Since then, oil has…


Book cover of The Birth of Energy: Fossil Fuels, Thermodynamics, and the Politics of Work

Jeremy Bendik-Keymer Author Of Involving Anthroponomy in the Anthropocene: On Decoloniality

From my list on how we got to climate change and mass extinction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the grandson of a coal miner from a multi-generational, Ohio family. What matters most to me is having some integrity and being morally okay with folks. I never thought of myself as an environmentalist, just as someone trying to figure out what we should be learning to be decent people in this sometimes messed-up world. From there, I was taken into our environmental situation, its planetary injustice, and then onto studying the history of colonialism. This adventure cracked open my midwestern common sense and made me rethink things. Happily, it has only reinforced my commitment to, and faith in, moral relations, giving our word, being accountable, and caring.

Jeremy's book list on how we got to climate change and mass extinction

Jeremy Bendik-Keymer Why did Jeremy love this book?

Daggett’s award-winning book is a good example of a turn in political studies to understand the roots of our environmental problems by grasping how the way we organize society was shaped during early capitalism, colonialism, and the industrial revolution. Her book is also an example of the turn to energy politics which will define this century for some time. Check out the way this book uses history and old steampunk-esque documents to show us the bizarre dreams of the industrial revolution as these were tied to exploiting laborers for the sake of the wealth generation of the few!

By Cara New Daggett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Birth of Energy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Birth of Energy Cara New Daggett traces the genealogy of contemporary notions of energy back to the nineteenth-century science of thermodynamics to challenge the underlying logic that informs today's uses of energy. These early resource-based concepts of power first emerged during the Industrial Revolution and were tightly bound to Western capitalist domination and the politics of industrialized work. As Daggett shows, thermodynamics was deployed as an imperial science to govern fossil fuel use, labor, and colonial expansion, in part through a hierarchical ordering of humans and nonhumans. By systematically excavating the historical connection between energy and work, Daggett…


Book cover of Energy and Equity

Mikael Colville-Andersen Author Of Copenhagenize: The Definitive Guide to Global Bicycle Urbanism

From my list on unexpected books about cities & urbanism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an urban designer, author, and host of The Life-Sized City urbanism series - as well as its podcast and YouTube channel. I’ve worked in over 100 cities, trying to improve urban life and bring back bikes as transport. I came at this career out of left field and am happily unburdened by the baggage of academia. I've famously refrained from reading most of the (probably excellent) books venerated by the urbanism tribe, in order to keep my own urban thinking clear and pure. My expertise stems instead from human observation and I find far more inspiration in photography, literature, cinema, science, and especially talking to and working with the true experts: the citizens.

Mikael's book list on unexpected books about cities & urbanism

Mikael Colville-Andersen Why did Mikael love this book?

"Participatory democracy demands low-energy technology, and free people must travel the road to productive social relations at the speed of a bicycle."

Illich’s book - more of a long essay, really - remains astonishingly relevant almost fifty years on. It confirmed countless things that I sensed and suspected on the cusp of my career in urbanism many years ago. His rationality about transport, energy, and democracy is carved out of the finest literary granite. Criticism of this text merely runs off the rock like raindrops. It is my ultimate inspiration for working in urbanism and yet a constant source of dismay that our societies continue to neglect the wisdom within the words. The essay “The Social Ideology of the Motorcar” by André Gorz is a must-read companion to Illich’s visionary words.

By Ivan Illich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Energy and Equity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A junkie without access to his stash is in a state of crisis. The 'energy crisis' that exists intermittently when the flow of fuel from unstable countries is cut off or threatened, is a crisis in the same sense. In this essay, Illich examines the question of whether or not humans need any more energy than is their natural birthright. Along the way he gives a startling analysis of the marginal disutility of tools. After a certain point, that is, more energy gives negative returns. For example, moving around causes loss of time proportional to the amount of energy which…