The Dirty Energy Dilemma: What's Blocking Clean Power in the United States

The Dirty Energy Dilemma: What's Blocking Clean Power in the United States

The Dirty Energy Dilemma: What's Blocking Clean Power in the United States

The Dirty Energy Dilemma: What's Blocking Clean Power in the United States

Synopsis

The American electric utility system is quietly falling apart. Once taken for granted, the industry has become increasingly unstable, fragmented, unreliable, insecure, inefficient, expensive, and harmful to our environment and public health. According to Sovacool, the fix for this ugly array of problems lies not in nuclear power or clean coal, but in renewable energy systems that produce few harmful byproducts, relieve congestion on the transmission grid, require less maintenance, are not subject to price volatility, and enhance the security of the national energy system from natural catastrophe, terrorist attack, and dependence on supply from hostile and unstable regions of the world. Here arises The Dirty Energy Dilemma: If renewable energy systems deliver such impressive benefits, why are they languishing at the margins of the American energy portfolio? And why does the United States lag so far behind Europe, where conversion to renewable energy systems has already taken off in a big way?

Excerpt

As the United States and the world face a crisis of energy availability and security, many must wonder why electricity continues to be delivered to peoples’ homes, apartments, businesses, and factories much as it always has. Overhead transmission lines transport electrons from remote coal, natural gas, and nuclear power plants to substations where they are converted to lower voltages suitable for use in an array of appliances and gadgets. By the time the power lights an incandescent bulb, 97 percent of the energy embodied in the original lump of coal burned to drive a turbine in a conventional power plant has been lost.

Why has the U.S. electric system not been transformed to take advantage of the new electrical engineering accomplishments in the past half century? Why does more than half of the total power produced in Denmark come from combined heat and power (CHP) facilities, while only a fraction of U.S. power is drawn from CHP? Why is about 8 percent of total installed electricity capacity in the European Union from renewable sources other than hydropower and biofuels, while the United States boasts only 2 percent? Why have roof-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) panels become a common feature in Germany and Japan, while many states in the United States do not even have “one-stop-shop” providers of PV products?

The Dirty Energy Dilemma: What’s Blocking Clean Power in the United States answers these questions and many more. First written by Benjamin Sovacool as a doctoral dissertation in Virginia Tech’s Department of Science and Technology Studies, this book has been transformed into an encyclopedic, yet highly readable, explanation of the underachievement of clean energy technologies in this country. Expanding on an initial list of three types of clean energy (distributed generation, combined heat and power, and renewable resources), the book goes beyond the dissertation’s scope by incorporating an important additional clean resource—energy . . .

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