Chapter 1

The History and Culture of Energy

Abstract

Why is the supply of energy so important? Is it something we can reduce or do without? In this chapter I discuss how the most successful civilizations throughout history have been the ones that maximized their energy throughput. The energy sources have changed over time from human labor to animal labor to biomass, and we currently live in an era when hydrocarbon energy has ruled. This era of hydrocarbon energy has made energy so cheap that it has profoundly raised the standard of living for vast numbers of people. But energy use comes at a cost. Because energy is part of the environment, its use is going to have an impact on the environment. I refer to this relationship between energy use and ...

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