Power Trip by Amanda Little Harper Press HK$175
Amanda Little's book is worth the energy that went into producing it. That includes her treks around the US to see how power is used, who uses it, what for, how Americans developed their appetite for fossil fuels and what is being done to reduce consumption. The impetus for her research was something she, as an environmental journalist, well knew: that every facet of her life depended on energy, from her fleece sweatshirt, to the oil-derived paints on her walls, to her computer powered by coal plants. Another spur was September 11, 2001. The attacks wouldn't have happened, she writes, without the US presence in the Middle East, which was tied to its reliance on the region's oil: Americans use 25 barrels of oil per person, compared with 14 consumed by the Japanese. By visiting oil rigs, corn fields, plastic surgeons, wind farms, and innovators trying to change the US energy landscape, she offers an engaging first-person account that is also informative, although the book skims many topics. Readers who are just browsing should flip to the chapter on energy-smart homes for ideas; buildings, Little points out, account for nearly 40 per cent of energy use globally.