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

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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?

Corporate media parrot industry PR that renewable technologies just aren't ready for prime time. But Sovacool marshals extensive field research to show that the only barrier blocking the conversion of a significant proportion of the U.S. energy portfolio to renewables is not technological—the technology is there—but institutional. Public utility commissioners, utility managers, system operators, business owners, and ordinary consumers are hobbled by organizational conservatism, technical incompatibility, legal inertia, weak and inconsistent political incentives, ill-founded prejudices, and apathy. The author argues that significant conversion to technologically proven clean energy systems can happen only if we adopt and implement a whole new set of policies that will target and dismantle the insidious social barriers that are presently blocking decisions that would so obviously benefit society.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"…the book is not light reading, but is important reading for anyone with serious interest in national and global energy issues. …Although I may not agree with Sovacool on all points, his work is informative, interesting and compelling in logic. Without question, The Dirty Energy Dilemma provides some very serious food for thought. I would add it to the required reading list for all energy policymakers."


Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Waypoint Book Review

"When advocates of the conventional electric industry dismiss alternatives to fossil fuels and nuclear technology as immature, inefficient, and risky, says Sovacool (energy governance, National U. of Singapore), they are lying. He identifies the impediment to adopting them not as technological challenges, but social, cultural, economics, and political interests. He looks at financial and market impediments, political and regulatory obstacles, cultural and behavioral barriers, and aesthetic and environmental challenges."


SciTech Book News

"…[A] gem of an analysis pertaining to the energy industry in the United States…[A] superb piece of work…"


Energy Policy

"Conventional energy sources are low-cost but dirty, finite, and prone to price volatility, while clean energy is sustainable and reduces air pollution and emissions of greenhouse gases. However, clean energy is more expensive, demands difficult changes from both consumers and suppliers, and results in environmental disruption, so how do we embark on a cleaner, more sustainable energy path? Sovacool (Energy Governance Program, National Univ. of Singapore) solves this 'energy dilemma' by dismissing it. He argues that the negative aspects of clean energy are best ignored, even if doing so requires a federal mandate compelling utilities to purchase more expensive clean energy and forces energy consumers to pay a 'benefit charge' to finance their own reeducation by funding programs that promise to reduce consumers' aesthetic and environmental objections to clean power."



"Grappling with a topic that too many find boring, Sovacool ignites new passion to conserve energy, experiment with alternatives to fossil fuels, while seeking independence from suppliers who resent their customers along with a grid that's antiquated and burdensome. Obama's inaugural address offers hope that the time has come for the US to recognize that self-restraint can produce more freedom and happiness than excess, and Sovacool's book joins a rallying cry that marks the end of an era of so much wasted potential."


Yale Global Online

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780313355400
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/30/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

BENJAMIN K. SOVACOOL is Research Fellow in the Energy Governance Program at the Centre on Asia and Globalization in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. He is Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Government and International Affairs Program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He investigated the social impediments to renewable energy systems for the NSF Electric Power Networks Efficiency and Security Program. He has worked in advisory and research capacities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, and the U.S. Department of Energy's Climate Change Technology Program. He is the co-editor with Marilyn A. Brown of Energy and American Society: Thirteen Myths (2007) and a frequent contributor to such journals as Electricity Journal, Energy Policy, Stanford Environmental Law Journal, and Daedalus.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Foreword Marilyn A. Brown Brown, Marilyn A.

Introduction 1

1 The Big Four Energy Challenges 13

2 The Big Four Clean Solutions 73

3 Financial and Market Impediments 123

4 Political and Regulatory Obstacles 151

5 Cultural and Behavioral Barriers 165

6 Aesthetic and Environmental Challenges 181

7 The Big Four Policy Mechanisms 201

8 Conclusions 221

Notes 237

Index 291

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2012

    Very good book.

    This book is very well-written and informative. It provides the reader with a lot of information on a topic that not many people are informed on. It is not an easy read for the general public. The middle of the book may become long if the reader is not interested in the topic. I would recommend this book, because it is unbiased and provides a lot of information.

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  • Posted January 2, 2011

    A Must-Read for Citizens of America!!

    The Dirty Energy Dilemma is a book that opens a readers eyes to the necessity of implementing clean power technologies into our nation. This book discusses what technologies will work to ease the energy crisis America is facing. An aspect of the book that I really liked is how Benjamin K. Sovacool looked at every possible obstacle that clean power technologies are facing and what needs to be done to overcome these obstacles. I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to be informed about our current energy situation in the United States. It was written very well and provided facts and statistics that make you go "wow". After reading this book, you feel the sense of urgency that every American should be facing about our energy crisis.

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