Energy Book Press Release

Teresa Brady at 212-207-7170 or
Samantha DuPont at 212-686-6610, ext. 37

From the editors of, comes an entertaining, irreverent, and absolutely essential nonpartisan guide to the energy crisis


By Scott Bittle & Jean Johnson

“How far will we go to satisfy our oil addiction, and who will decide our energy future? If you want in on this discussion, then this book is for you. Bittle & Johnson make clear that while our energy crisis is real, there are also real solutions available right now; all we have to do is listen, learn, and act.”

—Antonia Juhasz, author of The Tyranny of Oil: the World’s Most Powerful Industry—And What We Must Do To Stop It

“In this clear, concise, and accessible book, Bittle and Johnson go beyond name calling and finger pointing and take a refreshing middle ground. It’s an invaluable read for anyone interested in our energy past, present, and future.”

—Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder, authors of The Clean Tech Revolution

In 2008 bestseller, Where Does the Money Go? Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson cut through the confusing political jargon to give readers an unbiased, understandable, and even humorous look at the federal budget crisis. In WHO TURNED OUT THE LIGHTS? (Harper Paperbacks; October 27th, 2009), Bittle and Johnson are back to tackle a subject even more controversial and confusing: The Energy Crisis.

Energy is a problem that never seems to go away, despite our best efforts to ignore it. Why has there been so much talk and so little action? WHO TURNED OUT THE LIGHTS? offers a much needed reality check: The “Drill, Baby, Drill” versus “Every Day is Earth Day” battle is not solving our problems and the finger-pointing is just holding us up.

By applying the same winning approach they used to irreverently explain the federal budget crisis in Where Does the Money Go?, Bittle and Johnson use pop culture to help define the fundamental concepts that shape the debate and explain the three risks we face: that we won’t be able to afford energy, that we’ll run out of it, and that we’ll destroy the planet before we have a chance to solve the problem. They guide readers through a range of ideas on the agenda, including alternative fuels, nuclear power, conservation, alternative forms of transportation, and alternative living patterns, and then outline the pros and cons of each. They focus on the some of the most important issues of the energy debate, including:

  • Right now, most Americans lack even the most basic knowledge to get involved in the energy debate. Surveys show 4 in 10 Americans can't name a fossil fuel, and half can't name a renewable energy source. More than half say nuclear energy contributes to global warming, and a third think the same thing about solar power. To make matters worse, very few of our leaders are leveling with us about what we’ll need to do to solve our problems.
  • Much of the debate focuses on global warming, and that's a crucial issue we've got to take on soon. But what gets less attention is how the entire world is demanding more energy, and how tough it’s going to be to get it. China and India, in particular, are booming to the point that more and more people there are able to live like we do. The best estimates are that world energy demand will rise 45 percent by 2030, and experts are asking troubling questions about where all that energy is going to come from.
  • The U.S. energy supply system is shaky. We import nearly 60 percent of our oil, much of it from countries that are politically unstable. Our oil and gas pipelines are aging, and our electricity grid is overloaded. We need to make some serious decisions about our energy supply and serious investments in our energy infrastructure. Right now, the transmission system isn’t even capable of supporting substantial use of wind and solar power.
  • Fossil fuels like oil, coal, and natural gas provide 80 percent of our energy, and "green" alternatives like wind and solar only small fractions—less than one percent each. Even if we make changes at maximum speed, we're going to be using fossil fuels for a long time. How can we use them to keep the environmental damage to a minimum? How can we make sure we have enough of them while we still need them?
  • Changing light bulbs isn’t enough. Yes, the small "green" things we do in our everyday lives can add up. But we're not going to be able to avoid big decisions, too: Do we continue to use coal? Do we switch to electric cars? Should we build more nuclear plants? What do these decisions mean for our economy? It’s costly to make these changes, but sticking with the status quo poses serious economic dangers too.

Also included in WHO TURNED OUT THE LIGHTS? are answers to questions you pretend to understand, but don’t:

  • What exactly are biofuels and carbon sequestration, and why do they matter?
  • Why are we making ethanol from corn when there are worldwide food shortages?
  • Is nuclear power so dangerous that it should be taken off the table as an option?

In the end, Bittle and Johnson present options from the right, left, and center but take just one position: the country must change the way it gets and uses energy, and the first step to making changes is understanding the choices.

About the authors: Scott Bittle is executive editor of, where he has prepared citizen guides on more than twenty major issues including the federal budget deficit, Social Security, and the economy. He is also the website director for Planet Forward, an innovative PBS program designed to bring citizen voices to the energy debate.

A co-founder of, Jean Johnson has written articles and op-eds for USA Today, Education Week, School Board News, Educational Leadership, and The Huffington Post.

Your Guided Tour to the Energy Crisis
By Scott Bittle & Jean Johnson
Harper Paperbacks
October 27th, 2009
ISBN: 9780061715648