Energy and the Environment , James AFay and Dan S.Golomb Cambridge U. Press, New York, 2002. $60.00 (314 pp.). ISBN 0-19-515092-9

According to their preface, James Fay and Dan Golomb intended Energy and the Environment to be an upper-level undergraduate text for mechanical engineering students. The content of the book, however, is not part of the core curriculum in mechanical engineering. Rather, it has more general interest and would be accessible to many readers with some college mathematics and physics. Fay, a professor emeritus in mechanical engineering at MIT, has much practical experience in air-pollution control policy. Golomb is a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, and has worked extensively in air-pollution science.

The text covers human use of energy and the main environmental problems associated with that use. Any text on energy faces an enormous challenge because energy provision to and use by people is a huge, sprawling subject. Energy and the Environment has limited success in meeting that challenge, although its treatment of thermodynamics and its analysis of a few important devices is good. Far more focused and authoritative than the energy material are the two environment-related chapters, which deal primarily with global warming and local and regional air pollution. These chapters present useful discussions of the environmental impacts of pollutants and emphasize greenhouse gases and acid deposition.

The section on energy use is restricted to electricity and transportation—a sensible choice, for those categories represent the greatest fraction of the power generated in the industrial world, and are the fastest growing categories worldwide. But the section includes almost nothing on related energy supply and mentions petroleum refining only incidentally. Many instructors and students would want oil and gas supply to be discussed in more than the half-page that each receives in Fay and Golomb’s text. What exploration and development technology is emerging? What are the prognoses? The future petroleum supply is too briefly mentioned, and the statement that production might peak in the present decade is a controversial minority view. (See the article by Brian Clark and Robert Kleinberg in April 2002, page 48.)

The presentation quality is mixed. For example, the section on wind energy offers an excellent selection of important topics. However, the discussion of wind-power economics (p. 181) is too simplified to be useful, even granting the space limitations of an inclusive text. The fuel-cell discussion is good but misses a chance to indicate that there are more complex and interesting things than the linear voltage-current relationship assumed in Fig. 3.10a. (See the article by Sivan Kartha and Patrick Grimes in November 1994, page 54.)

Quantitative information in the energy section is usually presented without any citations. Such data should be cited, if only to teach students to examine numbers critically. The book does not mention the Annual Energy Review (AER) from the Energy Information Administration. That review, available on the World Wide Web at, is the premier US statistical resource on energy. Fay and Golomb’s text contains many figures that are inconsistent with the AER.

For example, page 1 states, “Fossil fuel use per capita … [is] 56 times the necessary daily food energy.” But from Table 1.3 of the AER, the year-2000 US fossil-fuel use was 85.2 quadrillion British thermal units, which, divided by a resident population of 275 million, results in 214 000 kilocalories per day. If one person needs 2500 kilocalories of food intake per day, then Circle number 31 on Reader Service Card the per-capita fossil-fuel use, on the average, is slightly more than 85 times as great.

Another example of the book’s inconsistency with the AER occurs on page 6, which says per-capita energy use in the US was 13 kilowatts in 1995. According to Table 1.3 of the AER, it was less than 12 kilowatts.

Inconsistencies of numbers also occur within the book itself. For example, page 16 shows the primary use of biomass in the US as less than 0.7% on page 16, but page 48 shows it as 1.25%. Both numbers are inconsistent with the more plausible 3% figure cited in the AER: Forest-product industries and firewood alone account for at least 1.25% of the per-capita energy use. Table 3.1 shows high heat value for gasoline, but the given quantity is defined to be low heat value. On page 84, it says, “If the capital cost is $500 per kilowatt of power, then the capital cost of pumped storage energy is $23 per gigajoule.” Such a statement makes no sense unless one specifies a period of time.

Finally, some numbers in the book are intrinsically implausible. For example, page 4 cites a particular power plant as generating nearly 3000 megawatts of electrical power. That’s a very large power plant indeed; the 3000 megawatts probably refers to the thermal power before it is converted to electricity.

In summary, Energy and the Environment presents basic thermodynamics, device descriptions, and environmental-impact descriptions clearly enough to be read by students and casual readers. Its numerical data, however, are insufficiently referenced and contain enough errors that the book should not be used as a reference resource. If the book were used as a text, a useful student exercise would be to check the accuracy of the illustrative numbers.