The seeds of Energyphile were planted many years ago.
In 2008, I was liaising with a book publisher in New York. Having written a bestselling book already, I figured I was savvy to the process. But the advice I was about to hear radically changed my thinking.
“Just make sure the first and last chapters are good” was the directive from Debra, a publishing veteran. “Nobody reads the stuff in the middle.”
I don’t know why her words surprised me. As a busy finance professional, I rarely had any time to read business books from cover to cover. (I still don’t.) So why did I think other people would give up several hours of their time to read my book?
Nonetheless, I wrote that second book just as I’d written my first — except paying more attention to the first and last chapters that time around.
But Debra’s words sat with me over the years. And when I started thinking about my next project, I knew I had to try something radically different.
A long time coming
Energyphile is the result of that thinking. But, now that I think about it, Energyphile was starting to germinate even longer ago.
Over my two decades of writing and public speaking experience, I’ve always strived to engage with people about vital issues that relate to energy, environment, business and our economy. And to do it in a non-confrontational manner that — amid a climate of highly polarized opinions — gets people talking civilly, rationally.
In my articles and presentations, I routinely draw from historical anecdotes and my personal museum. Audiences appreciate the stories embedded in my energy-related artifacts, but the magic happens when a story from the past is juxtaposed with a current situation. Neurons start firing when people understand how it relates to their present-day circumstance and how it can help them think about the road ahead. Suddenly that seemingly distant tale means something to them. I’ve seen how a story about the demise of a mining town in 1922 prompts the CEO of an energy company to think differently about how they can respond to competition and new technology. I’ve seen how a postcard from the 1940s inspires citizens to think about their own relationship with, and responsibility for, their energy use.
These carefully curated objects and images form the inspiration for my stories.
The Energyphile vision
Energyphile is a multifaceted project comprising this website, a digital museum, books, book clubs and other events. Underpinning it all is my collection of curiosities — things like an Edison-era light bulb, a 19th-century whaling journal, a postcard of an old oil derrick, a 1914 dictionary and other energy ephemera. Also in the mix are photographs I’ve taken myself from around the world and material licensed from other museums and galleries. These carefully curated objects and images form the inspiration for my stories.
Through Energyphile, you can learn about our energy past and apply these lessons to our energy present. Then there’s our all-important energy future. You’ll find comfort in seeing there are plenty of historical analogues from which to model go-forward decisions. Is your business being attacked by a competitor with new technology? The CEO of a 19th-century candle company has sage advice for you. How should you engage with your end-use customers? A hundred-year-old utility bill has some answers. Think government subsidies are key to transitioning our economy to clean energy? An electricity entrepreneur from 1907 may make you think differently.
Energyphile offers something for everyone with a stake in energy (which is pretty much all of us). Use it to engage in lively boardroom discussions about business strategy and investment. Government is a contentious influence in energy — Energyphile can help policy wonks defuse debate. Caught in a heated dinner-table argument with relatives about fossil fuels? Energyphile’s stories can help you find common ground for shaping a more sustainable world.
So, welcome to my new guests and thank you to those who have been following along since our launch in February 2020. I’m happy to have you at the table.
To find out more about Energyphile, watch my presentation from Energy Disruptors 2019.