Rifkin, J. (2011). The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. 304 pp. ISBN 13-9780230115217 (hardcover).
In The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World, Rifkin moves beyond panicking about the worldwide energy crisis. Instead, he presents a grandiose, yet potential, solution and describes actual case studies from across the world where political leaders are embracing and beginning to implement these changes. Although Rifkin enjoys name dropping and puts much confidence in the power of top-down national/regional initiatives, the arguments and scenarios presented in the text are well referenced and multiple endnotes accompany each chapter. Through this academic framework, he explores and welcomes this third industrial revolution through the changes in communication and energy sources.
The first industrial revolution came about with steam-powered technology and the printing press. The second industrial revolution used electrical communication and fossil fuels, specifically the oil-powered internal combustion engine. The third industrial revolution will take advantage of distributed communication systems such as the Internet, social networking, collaboration, and distributed renewable energy.
Rifkin (2011) recognizes, "Infrastructure is an organic relationship between communication technologies and energy sources that, together, create a living economy ... Infrastructure is akin to a living system that brings increasing numbers of people together in more complex economic and social relationships" (p. 35). In the book, he describes five pillars for the third industrial revolution becoming a postcarbon society:
(1) Shifting to renewable energy; (2)
transforming the building stock of every
continent into micro-power plants to collect
renewable energies on site; (3) deploying
hydrogen and other storage technologies in
every building and throughout the infrastructure
to store intermittent energies; (4) using Internet
technology to transform the power grid of every
continent into an energy-sharing intergrid that
acts just like the Internet; (5) transitioning the
transport fleet to electric plug-in and furl cell
vehicles that can buy and sell electricity on a
smart, continental, interactive power grid. (p. 37)
Rifkin (2011) projects this new relationship will be a "democratization of energy and universal access to electricity" (p. 63). This focus on a renewable and distributed energy system could empower all communities to become energy producers and share access with all the populations on earth, including the poorest. While Rifkin mentions people in poverty and workers, he does little to describe their role in this transformation. He enjoys focusing on people in power who can directly order actions to be done. Much more education and direct community involvement will be needed to make this vision come to fruition.
The book is divided into three sections. The first section revisits the 2008 economic crisis and makes connections to the price of oil as the trigger for the "worldwide collapse of purchasing power" (Rifkin, 2011, p. …