chapter  16
9 Pages

Energy quality

All deliberate human activity, from taking a train to teasing a tiger, is undertaken on the assumption that the rewards outweigh the risks. It is probably more meaningful simply to rewrite ‘rewards’ as ‘benefits’, and ‘risks’ as ‘costs’, because in each case the latter is easier to quantify. Of the many ways in which the history of civilization may be written, one of the simplest and most consistent is the account of humankind’s use and misuse of energy, which certainly can be described in costbenefit terms.