Clean Energy Nation: Freeing America from the Tyranny of Fossil Fuels

By Jerry McNerney; Martin Cheek | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
Energy and the World

On June 6, 1884, a passenger ship arrived in New York Harbor carrying a twenty-eight-year-old Serbian scientist dreaming of making a new life in the New World. Nikola Tesla soon found work in Thomas Edison’s invention factory, redesigning electric motors and generators to make them more energy efficient. The immigrant’s innovations provided Edison with several patents that proved quite profitable. After a short time, however, the two volatile geniuses had a falling out. Edison refused to concede to Tesla that alternating current (AC) had significant benefits over direct current (DC) as a method for carrying electricity through transmission wires. Tesla soon left Edison and, after a brief time working as a ditchdigger, started a rival company focused on developing the technology for commercial use of AC power.1 His inventions dramatically changed how America and the rest of the world now use electricity, and they helped create new businesses that made the United States an industrial powerhouse.

The metaphor of a melting pot often describes America’s unique characteristic of mixing the cultures of other countries to reshape our nation. Millions of ambitious legal immigrants—people with the same dreams as Tesla—have crossed oceans and rivers to make new lives for themselves here in the United States. These waves of people have been a driving force for America, bringing to our borders the energy of the world’s creativity. Time after time throughout our history, we have seen how the streams of people

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