Traveling the Power Line: From the Mojave Desert to the Bay of Fundy

Traveling the Power Line: From the Mojave Desert to the Bay of Fundy

Traveling the Power Line: From the Mojave Desert to the Bay of Fundy

Traveling the Power Line: From the Mojave Desert to the Bay of Fundy


In our power-hungry world, all the talk about energy-what's safe and what's risky, what's clean and what's dirty, what's cheap and what's easy-tends to generate more heat than light. What, Julianne Couch wanted to know, is the real story on power production in this country? Approaching the question as a curious consumer, Couch takes us along as she visits nine sites where electrical power is developed from different fuel sources. From a geothermal plant in the Mojave Desert to a nuclear plant in Nebraska, from a Wyoming coal-fired power plant to a Maine tidal-power project, Couch gives us an insider's look at how power is generated, how it affects neighboring landscapes and the people who live and work there, and how each source comes with its own unique complications.

The result is an informed, evenhanded discussion of energy production and consumption on the global, national, regional, local, and-most important-personal level. Knowledge is the real power this book imparts, allowing each of us to think beyond the flip of a switch to the real consequences of our energy use.


This book tells the story of my travels to various sites of electrical power production across the United States. The trips were made between spring 2008 and spring 2010, with Laramie, Wyoming, serving as my home port. Expedition bulletins that start each chapter acclimate fellow travelers to conditions there.

In Wyoming there exists almost every sort of power plant or form of electrical energy production described in these pages. However, because the population of Wyoming is only around half a million, word of its role in the energy game has not spread nationwide. For that reason, I wanted to visit places where natural resource development and energy production were not typical dinner-table conversation, as they are in Wyoming. In that way I could learn firsthand not only about hydroelectric power, for example, but about how hydroelectric power shapes the lives and landscapes around it.

I chose to visit a wind farm and a coal-fired power plant in Wyoming because these forms of power production are virtually synonymous with that state. Starting from my home base gave me ways to think about approaching my visits to other types of power less familiar to me. The nuclear plant in Nebraska is one of the westernmost plants before the arid Great Plains, where that water-intensive power source is rare.

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