The Truth about the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth
Nuclear power is not clean, cheap, or safe. With Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, the nuclear industry’s record of catastrophic failures now averages one major disaster every decade. After three US-designed plants exploded in Japan, many countries moved to abandon reactors for renewables. In the United States, however, powerful corporations and a compliant government still defend nuclear power-while promising billion-dollar bailouts to operators.
Each new disaster demonstrates that the nuclear industry and governments lie to “avoid panic,” to preserve the myth of “safe, clean” nuclear power, and to sustain government subsidies. Tokyo and Washington both covered up Fukushima’s radiation risks and-when confronted with damning evidence-simply raised the levels of “acceptable” risk to match the greater levels of exposure.
Nuclear Roulette dismantles the core arguments behind the nuclear-industrial complex’s “Nuclear Renaissance.” While some critiques are familiar-nuclear power is too costly, too dangerous, and too unstable-others are surprising: Nuclear Roulette exposes historic links to nuclear weapons, impacts on Indigenous lands and lives, and the ways in which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission too often takes its lead from industry, rewriting rules to keep failing plants in compliance. Nuclear Roulette cites NRC records showing how corporations routinely defer maintenance and lists resulting “near-misses” in the US, which average more than one per month.
Nuclear Roulette chronicles the problems of aging reactors, uncovers the costly challenge of decommissioning, explores the industry’s greatest seismic risks-not on California’s quake-prone coast but in the Midwest and Southeast-and explains how solar flares could black out power grids, causing the world’s 400-plus reactors to self-destruct. This powerful exposé concludes with a roundup of proven and potential energy solutions that can replace nuclear technology with a “Renewable Renaissance,” combined with conservation programs that can cleanse the air, and cool the planet.
Power from the People
How to Organize, Finance, and Launch Local Energy Projects
Over 90 percent of US power generation comes from large, centralized, highly polluting, nonrenewable sources of energy. It is delivered through long, brittle transmission lines, and then is squandered through inefficiency and waste. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Communities can indeed produce their own local, renewable energy.
Power from the People explores how homeowners, co-ops, nonprofit institutions, governments, and businesses are putting power in the hands of local communities through distributed energy programs and energy-efficiency measures.
Using examples from around the nation – and occasionally from around the world – Greg Pahl explains how to plan, organize, finance, and launch community-scale energy projects that harvest energy from sun, wind, water, and earth. He also explains why community power is a necessary step on the path to energy security and community resilience – particularly as we face peak oil, cope with climate change, and address the need to transition to a more sustainable future.
This book – the second in the Chelsea Green Publishing Company and Post Carbon Institute’s Community Resilience Series – also profiles numerous communitywide initiatives that can be replicated elsewhere.
The Solar House
Passive Heating and Cooling
Passive solar heating and passive cooling—approaches known as natural conditioning—provide comfort throughout the year by reducing, or eliminating, the need for fossil fuel. Yet while heat from sunlight and ventilation from breezes is free for the taking, few modern architects or builders really understand the principles involved.
Now Dan Chiras, author of the popular book The Natural House, brings those principles up to date for a new generation of solar enthusiasts.
The techniques required to heat and cool a building passively have been used for thousands of years. Early societies such as the Native American Anasazis and the ancient Greeks perfected designs that effectively exploited these natural processes. The Greeks considered anyone who didn’t use passive solar to heat a home to be a barbarian!
In the United States, passive solar architecture experienced a major resurgence of interest in the 1970s in response to crippling oil embargoes. With grand enthusiasm but with scant knowledge (and sometimes little common sense), architects and builders created a wide variety of solar homes. Some worked pretty well, but looked more like laboratories than houses. Others performed poorly, overheating in the summer because of excessive or misplaced windows and skylights, and growing chilly in the colder months because of insufficient thermal mass and insulation and poor siting.
In The Solar House, Dan Chiras sets the record straight on the vast potential for passive heating and cooling. Acknowledging the good intentions of misguided solar designers in the past, he highlights certain egregious—and entirely avoidable—errors. More importantly, Chiras explains in methodical detail how today’s home builders can succeed with solar designs.
Now that energy efficiency measures including higher levels of insulation and multi-layered glazing have become standard, it is easier than ever before to create a comfortable and affordable passive solar house that will provide year-round comfort in any climate.
Moreover, since modern building materials and airtight construction methods sometimes result in air-quality and even toxicity problems, Chiras explains state-of-the-art ventilation and filtering techniques that complement the ancient solar strategies of thermal mass and daylighting. Chiras also explains the new diagnostic aids available in printed worksheet or software formats, allowing readers to generate their own design schemes.
The Straw Bale House
Imagine building a house with superior seismic stability, fire resistance, and thermal insulation, using an annually renewable resource, for half the cost of a comparable conventional home. Welcome to the straw bale house! Whether you build an entire house or something more modest-a home office or studio, a retreat cabin or guest cottage-plastered straw bale construction is an exceptionally durable and inexpensive option. What’s more, it’s fun, because the technique is easy to learn and easy to do yourself. And the resulting living spaces are unusually quiet and comfortable.The Straw Bale Housedescribes the many benefits of building with straw bales:
- super insulation, with R-values as high as R-50
- good indoor air quality and noise reduction
- a speedy construction process
- construction costs as low as $10-per-square-foot
- use of natural and abundant renewable resources
- a better solution than burning agricultural waste straw, which creates tons of air pollutants
The Natural Building Companion
A Comprehensive Guide to Integrative Design and Construction
Natural buildings not only bring satisfaction to their makers and joy to their occupants, they also leave the gentlest footprint on the environment. In this complete reference to natural building philosophy, design, and technique, Jacob Deva Racusin and Ace McArleton walk builders through planning and construction, offering step-by-step instructions on:
- siting and site analysis
- choosing materials
- integrating basic structural considerations into a design
- strategies for heating/cooling efficiency and moisture management
- planning for acoustics
- developing an integrative design
- navigating budgeting, code compliance, and project management
- creating the foundation, wall system, roof, and floors
- selecting and making plasters and paints
- evaluating options for mechanical and utility systems
- protecting against fire and insects
- integrating structures within landscape, climate, and human communities
Applicable to building in climates that are cold and wet, hot and dry, or somewhere in-between, The Natural Building Companion provides the tools necessary to understand basic principles of building science, including structural and thermal engineering, and hydrodynamics. This guide offers thorough, up-to-date, and advanced installation details and performance characteristics of straw-bale, straw-clay, woodchip-clay, and cellulose wall systems, as well as earthen and stone wall systems and a variety of framing, roofing, flooring, mechanical system, and finishing options. This fully-illustrated volume informs professionals making the transition from conventional building, homeowners embarking on their own construction, or green builders who want comprehensive guidance on natural-building options. A State-of-the-Art Resource for Natural Builders The Natural Building Companion is a part of The Yestermorrow Design/Build Library and includes an instructional DVD.
Passive Solar Architecture
Heating, Cooling, Ventilation, Daylighting and More Using Natural Flows
New buildings can be designed to be solar oriented, naturally heated and cooled, naturally lit and ventilated, and made with renewable, sustainable materials—no matter the location or climate.
In this comprehensive overview of passive solar design, two of America’s solar pioneers give homeowners, architects, designers, and builders the keys to successfully harnessing the sun and maximizing climate resources for heating, cooling, ventilation, and daylighting.
Bainbridge and Haggard draw upon examples from their own experiences, as well as those of others, of more than three decades to offer both overarching principles as well as the details and formulas needed to successfully design a more comfortable, healthy, and secure place in which to live, laugh, dance, and be comfortable. Even if the power goes off.
Passive Solar Architecture also discusses “greener” and more-sustainable building materials and how to use them, and explores the historical roots of green design that have made possible buildings that produce more energy and other resources than they use.
The Hand-Sculpted House
A Practical and Philosophical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage
Are you ready for the Cob Cottage? This is a building method so old and so simple that it has been all but forgotten in the rush to synthetics. A cob cottage,cobb, however, might be the ultimate expression of ecological design, a structure so attuned to its surroundings that its creators refer to it as “an ecstatic house.”
The authors build a house the way others create a natural garden. They use the oldest, most available materials imaginable–earth, clay, sand, straw, and water–and blend them to redefine the future (and past) of building. Cob (the word comes from an Old English root, meaning “lump”) is a mixture of non-toxic, recyclable, and often free materials. Building with cob requires no forms, no cement, and no machinery of any kind. Builders actually sculpt their structures by hand.
Building with earth is nothing new to America; the oldest structures on the continent were built with adobe bricks. Adobe, however, has been geographically limited to the Southwest. The limits of cob are defined only by the builder’s imagination.
Cob offers answers regarding our role in Nature, family and society, about why we feel the ways that we do, about what’s missing in our lives. Cob comes as a revelation, a key to a saner world.
Cob has been a traditional building process for millennia in Europe, even in rainy and windy climates like the British Isles, where many cob buildings still serve as family homes after hundreds of years. The technique is newly arrived to the Americas, and, as with so many social trends, the early adopters are in the Pacific Northwest.
Cob houses (or cottages, since they are always efficiently small by American construction standards) are not only compatible with their surroundings, they ARE their surroundings, literally rising up from the earth. They are full of light, energy-efficient, and cozy, with curved walls and built-in, whimsical touches. They are delightful. They are ecstatic.
Growing a New Energy Economy, 2nd Edition
For anyone who is trying to keep up with the extremely rapid developments in the biodiesel industry, the second edition of Biodiesel: Growing a New Energy Economy is an invaluable aid. The breathtaking speed with which biodiesel has gained acceptance in the marketplace in the past few years has been exceeded only by the proliferation of biodiesel production facilities around the United States–and the world–only to confront new social and environmental challenges and criticisms.
The international survey of the biodiesel industry has been expanded from 40 to more than 80 countries, reflecting the spectacular growth of the industry around the world. This section also tracks the dramatic shifts in the fortunes of the industry that have taken place in some of these nations. The detailed chapters that cover the industry in the United States have also been substantially rewritten to keep abreast of its many new developments and explosive domestic growth.
An expanded section on small-scale, local biodiesel production has been added to better represent this small but growing part of the industry. Another new section has been added to more fully explore the increasingly controversial issues of deforestation and food versus fuel, as well as GMO crops. The second edition concludes with updated views on where the industry is headed in the years to come from some of its key players.
Designing, Building, and Living with a Piece of the Sun
Masonry Heaters is a complete guide to designing and living with one of the oldest, and yet one of the newest, heating devices. A masonry heater’s design, placement in the home, and luxurious radiant heat redefine the hearth for the modern era, turning it into a piece of the sun right inside the home. Like the feeling one gets from the sun on a spring day, the environment around a masonry heater feels fresh. The radiant heat feels better on the skin. It warms the home both gently and efficiently. In fact, the value of a masonry heater lies in its durability, quality, serviceability, dependability, and health-supporting features. And it is an investment in self-sufficiency and freedom from fossil fuels.
The book discusses different masonry heater designs, including variations extant in Europe, and explains the growth of their popularity in the United States beginning in the late 1970s. For the reader who may be familiar only with open fireplaces and metal woodstoves, Masonry Heaters will bring a new understanding and appreciation of massive heat storage and gentle-but-persistent radiant heat. Masonry heaters offer a unique comfort that is superior to that from convection heat from forced-air systems, and more personal than that offered by “radiant” floors. As Matesz demonstrates, the heat from the sun or from a masonry heater is genuine heat instead of just insulation against the loss of heat.
Those who are looking to build, add onto, or remodel a house will find comprehensive and practical advice for designing and installing a masonry heater, including detailed discussion of materials, code considerations, and many photos and illustrations. While this is not a do-it-yourself guide for building a masonry heater, it provides facts every heater builder should know. Professional contractors will find this a useful tool to consult, and homeowners considering a new method of home heating will find all they need to know about masonry heaters within these pages.
The Greened House Effect
Renovating Your Home with a Deep Energy Retrofit
With greater public awareness of the need for energy independence, the issue of how we can make our existing homes more resource efficient is becoming ever more critical. Residential buildings make up a large fraction of our energy needs, largely due to heating and air-conditioning. So it’s no longer enough to simply do the small stuff, like switching to compact fluorescent bulbs, or turning down the thermostat at night.
In The Greened-House Effect, author Jeff Wilson brings his twenty-five years of construction experience and knowledge of home building to bear on making our current houses cleaner, greener, and healthier. Think of a deep-energy retrofit (DER) as a “home makeover” – one that represents a significant investment, but that saves money from the get-go by capturing the energy you “drop on the ground” every month, every year, through inefficiency, poor design, or simply living in a typical older home.
Using his own family’s DER of their 1942 home as a prime example, Wilson weaves a readable narrative at a practical, hammer-and-nail level. He presents the solutions to our building and energy problems, making them seem possible for average homeowners and small contractors by offering the right set of information, skills, and materials.
More technical information is presented in sidebars and graphs, and numerous color photos illustrate the process, including:
- Testing the energy efficiency of your home and learning where improvements need to be made
- Issues of local building codes and regulations
- Financing and paying for a DER
- Major components of the DER, such as roofs, exterior walls, basements, and home systems
Wilson’s building experience, along with his lifelong passion for energy issues, all come together to form an inspirational, can-do approach to making our neighborhood, our community, our nation, and our world a better place – one home at a time.
Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era
Oil and coal have built our civilization, created our wealth, and enriched the lives of billions. Yet, their rising costs to our security, economy, health, and environment now outweigh their benefits. Moreover, that long-awaited energy tipping point—where alternatives work better than oil and coal and compete purely on cost—is no longer decades in the future. It is here and now. And it is the fulcrum of economic transformation.
A global clean-energy race has emerged with astounding speed. The ability to operate without fossil fuels will define winners and losers in business—and among nations.
In Reinventing Fire, Amory Lovins and Rocky Mountain Institute offer a new vision to revitalize business models, end-run Washington gridlock, and win the clean-energy race—not forced by public policy but led by business for enduring profit. This groundbreaking roadmap reveals market-based solutions across the transportation, building, industry, and electricity sectors. It highlights pathways and competitive strategies for a 158%-bigger 2050 U.S. economy that needs no oil, no coal, no nuclear energy, one-third less natural gas, and no new inventions.
This transition would cost $5 trillion less than business-as-usual—without counting fossil fuels’ huge hidden costs. It requires no new federal taxes, subsidies, mandates, or laws. The policy innovations needed to unlock and speed it need no Act of Congress.
Whether you care most about profits and jobs, national security, health, or environmental stewardship, Reinventing Fire charts a pragmatic course that makes sense and makes money. With clarity and mastery, Lovins and RMI point out the astounding opportunities for enterprise to create the new energy era.
Drawing praise President Bill Clinton, former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, and a host of others, Reinventing Fire has piqued the interest of world leaders, business leaders, and political strategists.
The paperback will carry a new preface detailing the response from China and beyond.
The New Net Zero
Leading-Edge Design and Construction of Homes and Buildings for a Renewable Energy Future
The new threshold for green building is not just low energy, it’s net-zero energy. In The New Net Zero, sustainable architect Bill Maclay charts the path for designers and builders interested in exploring green design’s new frontier net-zero-energy structures that produce as much energy as they consume and are carbon neutral.
In a nation where traditional buildings use roughly 40 percent of the total fossil energy, the interest in net-zero building is growing enormously–among both designers interested in addressing climate change and consumers interested in energy efficiency and long-term savings. Maclay, an award-winning net-zero designer whose buildings have achieved high-performance goals at affordable costs, makes the case for a net-zero future; explains net-zero building metrics, integrated design practices, and renewable energy options; and shares his lessons learned on net-zero teambuilding.
Designers and builders will find a wealth of state-of-the-art information on such considerations as air, water, and vapor barriers; embodied energy; residential and commercial net-zero standards; monitoring and commissioning; insulation options; costs; and more.
The comprehensive overview is accompanied by several case studies, which include institutional buildings, commercial projects, and residences. Both new-building and renovation projects are covered in detail.
The New Net Zero is geared toward professionals exploring net-zero design, but also suitable for nonprofessionals seeking ideas and strategies on net-zero options that are beautiful and renewably powered.