Series Editors Preface

Concerns about the potential environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change have led to a major international debate over what could and should be done to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. There is still a scientific debate over the likely scale of climate change, and the complex interactions between human activities and climate systems, but global average temperatures have risen and the cause is almost certainly the observed build up of atmospheric greenhouse gases. In the words of no less than the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 'I say the debate is over. We know the science, we see the threat, and the time for action is now'.

Whatever we now do, there will have to be a lot of social and economic adaptation to climate change - preparing for increased flooding and other climate related problems. However, the more fundamental response is to try to reduce or avoid the human activities that are causing climate change. That means, primarily, trying to reduce or eliminate emission of greenhouse gases from the combustion of fossil fuels. Given that around 80 per cent of the energy used in the world at present comes from these sources, this will be a major technological, economic and political undertaking. It will involve reducing demand for energy (via lifestyle choice changes - and policies enabling such choices to be made), producing and using whatever energy we still need more efficiently (getting more from less) and supplying the reduced amount of energy from non-fossil sources (basically switching over to renewables and/or nuclear power).

Each of these options opens up a range of social, economic and environmental issues. Industrial society and modern consumer cultures have been based on the ever-expanding use of fossil fuels, so the changes required will inevitably be challenging. Perhaps equally inevitable are disagreements and conflicts over the merits and demerits of the various options and in relation to strategies and policies for pursuing them. These conflicts and associated debates sometimes concern technical issues, but there are usually also underlying political and ideological commitments and agendas which shape, or at least colour, the ostensibly technical debates. In particular, at times, technical assertions can be used to buttress specific policy frameworks in ways which subsequently prove to be flawed.

The aim of this series is to provide texts which lay out the technical, environmental and political issues relating to the various proposed policies for responding to climate change. The focus is not primarily on the science of climate change, or on the technological detail, although there will be accounts of the state of the art, to aid assessment of the viability of the various options. However, the main focus is the policy conflicts over which strategy to pursue. The series adopts a critical approach and attempts to identify flaws in emerging policies, propositions and assertions. In particular, it seeks to illuminate counter-intuitive assessments, conclusions and new perspectives. The aim is not simply to map the debates, but to explore their structure, their underlying assumptions and their limitations. Texts are incisive and authoritative sources of critical analysis and commentary, indicating clearly the divergent views that have emerged and also identifying the shortcomings of these views. However, the books do not simply provide an overview, they also offer policy prescriptions.

The present volume is very much in the latter category. It attempts to review the potential for moving to a sustainable energy future by looking critically at the social, political, economic and technological transitions that will be needed, and it offers suggestions as to how such transitions might be managed. It adopts a radical line, challenging existing approaches in many ways. It warns of the dangers of 'lock in' to existing development patterns and technical options, and calls for a more flexible and holistic approach, for example making better use of the opportunities now available from new energy supply and demand management systems. It also looks critically at the various ways in which both markets and public engagement might be harnessed to stimulate and support the development of a sustainable energy supply and demand system.

The range of coverage is wide - it is something of a tour de force of energy policy analysis, covering all the main issues, with contributions from some of the key researchers in the field. However, the focus is clear - from their different perspectives they present a challenging and coherent analysis of ways in which we might respond to climate change in the energy sector.

Part I The Energy Policy Agenda

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Guide to Alternative Fuels

Guide to Alternative Fuels

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