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Biography of an American Technology

The North American power grid has been called the world’s largest machine. The grid connects nearly every living soul on the continent; Americans rely utterly on the miracle of electrification. In this book, Julie Cohn tells the history of the grid, from early linkages in the 1890s through the grid’s maturity as a networked infrastructure in the 1980s.

America’s aging electricity infrastructure is deteriorating rapidly even as the need for highly reliable electric service—driven by the explosion of digital technology—continues to rise. Largely missing from national discussions, however, is a coherent, comprehensive national strategy for modernizing this critical infrastructure. Energy expert Mason Willrich presents just such a strategy in this book, connecting the dots across electric utilities, independent suppliers, government bureaucracies, political jurisdictions, and academic disciplines.

Combating Nuclear Terror and Climate Change

Humanity faces two existential threats: nuclear annihilation and catastrophic climate change. Both have human origins, and both are linked to the use of nuclear energy. Inherent in the use of atomic fission is the risk that the technology and materials can be diverted to terrorists or hostile nations and used to make nuclear weapons. The key question is whether we can use nuclear energy to reduce the threat of climate change without increasing the risk that nuclear weapons will be used.

Reform Priorities

The European Union (EU) faces critical challenges in energy policy making, the most pressing of which are how to achieve the deep greenhouse gas reductions promised at the December 2015 UN Conference of the Parties in Paris, and how this effort can be coordinated with already existing policies. Energy policy is primarily a member state responsibility, and policy makers need an overarching view of the main issues in energy policy and their interaction with environmental policies.

A History

"I wait for new Smil books the way some people wait for the next ‘Star Wars’ movie. In his latest book, Energy and Civilization: A History, he goes deep and broad to explain how innovations in humans’ ability to turn energy into heat, light, and motion have been a driving force behind our cultural and economic progress over the past 10,000 years.
—Bill Gates, Gates Notes, Best Books of the Year

Climate Change and Energy Scarcity

The future is not what it used to be because we can no longer rely on the comforting assumption that it will resemble the past. Past abundance of fuel, for example, does not imply unending abundance. Infinite growth on a finite planet is not possible.

Lessons from China

The development and deployment of cleaner energy technologies have become globalized phenomena. Yet despite the fact that energy-related goods account for more than ten percent of international trade, policy makers, academics, and the business community perceive barriers to the global diffusion of these emerging technologies. Experts point to problems including intellectual property concerns, trade barriers, and developing countries’ limited access to technology and funding.

The Struggle to Shape and Control the Electric Power Industry

For more than a century, the interplay between private, investor-owned electric utilities and government regulators has shaped the electric power industry in the United States. Provision of an essential service to largely dependent consumers invited government oversight and ever more sophisticated market intervention. The industry has sought to manage, co-opt, and profit from government regulation. In The Power Brokers, Jeremiah Lambert maps this complex interaction from the late nineteenth century to the present day.

A Key to Understanding Energy Sources and Uses

“There's no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil.”
—Bill Gates

Edited by Jon Strand

Government subsidies to energy are widespread and represent a heavy burden on public budgets in many countries. Both producers and consumers may be subsidized; the most common subsidies are for motor fuel consumption and electricity production and consumption. The subsidies to consumers often prove particularly harmful because they result in increased energy consumption, increased carbon emissions, and distortionary effects on consumer behavior.

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