fighting the lack of good ideas

producing your own power by many

Rodale Press published a collected works book entitled “Producing Your Own Power – How to make Nature’s Energy Sources Work for You” in 1974.

There are a host of now-humorous segments of the text:

The US government estimates that by 1980 1 percent of our country’s land will be covered with utility companies’ equipment” {viii}. The contiguous US takes up approximately 1.9 billion acres of land. Do utility companies use 19 million acres? That claim is completely preposterous.

If all mineable fossil resources were made available to us, we would still have energy problems. In a few centuries these would also be exhausted” {ix}. Does the author (Carol Hupping Stoner) of the introduction really believe that in the next few centuries we won’t develop better technologies like we have been for the past thousands of years?

The average six-room, older house probably costs about $400 to $500 per winter to heat” {282}. Based on current heating and cooling costs, how could anyone have afforded to heat their homes 35 years ago? $500 per winter is half what people I know in NY plan to spend every winter now – with a median income of about $60k; 20 years ago, the median was just above $30k ( shows slightly different numbers). So 35 years ago folks were spending >5% of their annual income on heating for the winter? That doesn’t grok well.

Other similar claims are made throughout the book with no direct referential backing – merely stating something that the author of that segment wants you to believe. They may have been true. Or not – without references there is no way of knowing where the data came from in the first place. There is a bibliography, but it is only tagged for each segment – there are not direct footnotes/references in the text itself to the original sources.

From having reread this book recently, I think it’s safe to say that the best part of the book is section 3 – Wood Power {pp103-135}. While many improvements have been made in the intervening decades with wood stoves and fireplaces, the information in this chapter on those two heating techniques is still – overall – solid (one of the recommended designs for a fireplace has a tendency to put an unusual amount of smoke into the room if the fire is not kept roaring-hot, but that’s a discussion for another day). Starting on p127 and continuing for 9 pages to p135 is a good discussion on woodlot management, windbreaks, and calculating wood needs for heating purposes.

Personally, I’d alter the suggested woodlot and windbreak designs to include food-producing trees and shrubs in addition to “merely” windbreaking and fuel-producing varieties. If you have the land to grow it – the overriding presumption of most of this book is that you have land – why not make use of the decorative and functional aspects of, say, apple trees? They can provide some privacy, act as a windbreak, and also supply food: just about can’t beat that three-for-one deal!

  • Quality of writing: 2.5/5
  • Quality of content:  2/5
  • Readability: 4/5
  • Overall: 2.5/5