Book review: The very hungry city

10th May 2012

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The very hungry city – urban energy efficiency and the economic fate of cities

Austin Troy / Yale University Press / Hardback £25 / ISBN: 978–0–300162–31–8

Did you know that the average American uses six times more electricity than a European, 13 times more than a South American, 36 times more than someone in China, and 238 times more than a Tanzanian person? Furthermore, 88% of US citizens commute to work by car, and 87% of these journeys are made alone.

Yes, America is an energyguzzling country and the cost of that energy keeps on rising. In this book, Austin Troy, an associate professor of environment and natural resources at the University of Vermont, paints a picture of the energy-inefficient American society and what might happen to some of its great cities should energy costs spiral out of control.

Can Phoenix Arizona, for example, survive as the cost of pumping its water supply over mountains rises?
Troy looks for answers elsewhere to find examples that show how US cities can be weaned off their dependence on costly energy. He discovers that in Copenhagen, 90% of residents own a bicycle and only 53% own a car, while Stockholm is designed around mass transit.

He doesn’t offer any silver bullets, but he does discover some interesting solutions to problems that in the future will, inevitably, affect more than just those living across the pond.

Review by Paul Suff, editor of the environmentalist


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