Energy innovation offers us our best chance to solve the three urgent and interrelated problems of climate change, worldwide insecurity over energy supplies, and rapidly growing energy demand. But if we are to achieve a timely transition to reliable, low-cost, low-carbon energy, the U.S. energy innovation system must be radically overhauled.
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.
The many books on globalization published over the past few years range from claims that the world is flat to an unlikely rehabilitation of Genghis Khan as a pioneer of global commerce. Missing from these accounts is a consideration of the technologies behind the creation of the globalized economy. What makes it possible for us to move billions of tons of raw materials and manufactured goods from continent to continent? Why are we able to fly almost anywhere on the planet within twenty-four hours?
Americans take for granted that when we flip a switch the light will go on, when we turn up the thermostat the room will get warm, and when we pull up to the pump gas will be plentiful and relatively cheap. In The End of Energy, Michael Graetz shows us that we have been living an energy delusion for forty years. Until the 1970s, we produced domestically all the oil we needed to run our power plants, heat our homes, and fuel our cars. Since then, we have had to import most of the oil we use, much of it from the Middle East.
The biosphere—the Earth’s thin layer of life—dates from nearly four billion years ago, when the first simple organisms appeared. Many species have exerted enormous influence on the biosphere’s character and productivity, but none has transformed the Earth in so many ways and on such a scale as Homo sapiens. In Harvesting the Biosphere, Vaclav Smil offers an interdisciplinary and quantitative account of human claims on the biosphere’s stores of living matter, from prehistory to the present day.
On April 20, 2010, the gigantic drilling rig Deepwater Horizon blew up in the Gulf of Mexico, killing eleven crew members and causing a massive eruption of oil from BP’s Macondo well. For months, oil gushed into the Gulf, spreading death and destruction. Americans watched real-time video of the huge column of oil and gas spewing from the obviously failed “blowout preventer.” What was missing, though, was the larger story of this disaster.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. An invisible, tasteless, colorless gas, it can be converted to nonpolluting, zero-emission, renewable energy. When burned in an internal combustion engine, hydrogen produces mostly harmless water vapor. It performs even better in fuel cells, which can be 2.5 times as efficient as internal-combustion engines. Zero-emission hydrogen does not contribute to CO2-caused global warming. Abundant and renewable, it is unlikely to be subject to geopolitical pressures or scarcity concerns.
America is addicted to fossil fuels, and the environmental and geopolitical costs are mounting. A public-private program-- at an expanded scale-- to stimulate innovation in energy policy seems essential. In Structuring an Energy Technology Revolution, Charles Weiss and William Bonvillian make the case for just such a program. Their proposal backs measures to stimulate private investment in new technology, within a revamped energy innovation system.
Tackling climate change and improving energy security are two of the twenty-first century's greatest challenges. In this book, Marilyn Brown and Benjamin Sovacool offer detailed assessments of the most advanced commercially available technologies for strengthening global energy security, mitigating the effects of climate change, and enhancing resilience through adaptation and geo-engineering. They also evaluate the barriers to the deployment of these technologies and critically review public policy options crucial to their adoption.
Americans are concerned about the state of the environment, and yet polls show that many have lost faith in both scientists’ and politicians’ ability to solve environmental problems. In America’s Environmental Report Card, Harvey Blatt sorts through the deluge of conflicting information about the environment and offers an accessible overview of the environmental issues that are most important to Americans today. Blatt has thoroughly updated this second edition, revising and adding new material.