Power Trip: From Oil Wells to Solar Cells--Our Ride to the Renewable Future

Overview

In the tradition of Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and Thomas L. Friedmam's Hot, Flat, and Crowded, prominent journalist Amanda Little maps out the history and future of America's energy addiction in a wonk-free, big-picture, solutions-oriented adventure story.

After covering the environment and energy beat for more than a decade, Amanda Little decided that the only way to really understand America's energy crisis was to travel into the heart of it. She embarks on a daring ...

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Overview

In the tradition of Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and Thomas L. Friedmam's Hot, Flat, and Crowded, prominent journalist Amanda Little maps out the history and future of America's energy addiction in a wonk-free, big-picture, solutions-oriented adventure story.

After covering the environment and energy beat for more than a decade, Amanda Little decided that the only way to really understand America's energy crisis was to travel into the heart of it. She embarks on a daring cross-country power trip, and describes in vivid, fast-paced prose the most extreme and exciting frontiers of our energy landscape.

At her side we visit an offshore oil rig, the cornfields of Kansas, the Pentagon's fuel-logistics division, the Talladega Superspeedway, New York City's electrical grid, and laboratories creating the innovations of a clean-energy future. As Little explains, energy is everything: It grows our crops, fights our wars, makes our plastics and medicines, warms our homes, moves our products and vehicles, and animates our cities.

How did we develop this insatiable appetite for fossil fuels? Little travels through history to track the evolution of America's energy addiction: the 1897 installation of the world's first power plant (a Thomas Edison–J. P. Morgan venture); the 1901 Spindletop gusher that threw open the era of cheap American fuel; FDR's encounter with a Saudi king that set the stage for our dependence on Middle Eastern oil; General Motors' early decision to sell big guzzlers rather than small, efficient cars.

Little illustrates how abundant oil and coal built the American superpower—even as they posed political and environmental dangers to the nation and the world. More important, we learn how the same American ingenuity that got us into this mess can get us out of it. With next-generation candor and optimism, Little explores the most promising clean-energy solutions on the horizon, arguing that everything we know about our past teaches us that we can solve the problems of our future.

Hard-hitting yet forward-thinking, Power Trip is a lively and impassioned travel guide for all readers trying to navigate our shifting landscape and a clear-eyed manifesto for the younger generations who are inheriting the earth.

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Editorial Reviews

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Power Trip offers a panoramic view of our energy crisis, exploring past, present, and future with hope, passion and humor. Whether you are liberal or conservative, expert or novice, young or old, you’ll find adventure and insight in this book.”
Bill McKibben
“Energy is the most important story in the world bar none, and no one has ever told it with more verve than Amanda Little. If you want to know how the world works, and why it may not work much longer, this is the book you need.”
Robert Redford
Power Trip takes a most timely and complicated issue and weaves a fast, fun, and gripping story—one that’s both candid and unflinching in its approach. Amanda represents the best of a new young perspective, a new voice of green.”
Daniel Yergin
“Lively, engaging and most thought-provoking. . . . Little answers the questions that perplex many-and, so importantly, identifies the key questions that only the future will answer.”
Steven Johnson
“A wonderfully illuminating voyage. Little charts a fresh path outside the usual doctrinaire accounts on energy. Her intelligence and enthusiasm will change the way you think about the future.”
Jim Rogers
“It’s hard to imagine a book about energy that would appeal as much to a business executive as it would to an eco-activist-or, for that matter, to a soccer mom, a farmer, a politician or a student. Here it is . . . a must-read for everyone.”
Congressman - Jim Cooper
"Charming, fun, and deeply informed, Power Trip is a great way to get a handle on our energy and environmental future. Little talks to the key players across America, digs into the reasons we have so many problems, and finds hope for a better world ahead."
Andrew Shapiro
“Combine the historical intrigue of Jared Diamond, the journalistic flare of Tom Wolfe, and the passionate advocacy of Rachel Carson-and you get Power Trip. Amanda Little’s multifaceted approach makes this the one book about our energy past and future that everyone should read and all will enjoy.”
Congressman Jim Cooper
“Charming, fun, and deeply informed, Power Trip is a great way to get a handle on our energy and environmental future. Little talks to the key players across America, digs into the reasons we have so many problems, and finds hope for a better world ahead.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061885143
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/20/2009
  • Edition description: Larger Print
  • Pages: 723
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Amanda Little’s award-winning columns on green politics and innovation have appeared in Grist.org, Salon.com, and Outside magazine. Her articles have been published in the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Wired, O, The Oprah Magazine, and the Washington Post. She lives with her husband and daughter in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Confessions of a Petroleum Addict ix

Part 1 Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Oil: The Story of the American Century

1 Over a Barrel: The Boom and Bust of America's Domestic Oil Empire 3

2 War and Grease: How Oil Built and Sustains a Military Superpower 71

3 Road Hogs: Why a Hundred Years of Joyriding Has Us Running on Empty 129

4 Plastic Explosive: From Baggies to Boob Jobs-Our Love Affair with Synthetics 179

5 Cooking Oil: How Fossil Fuels Feed the World (and Energy Shortages Could Starve It) 237

6 Chain of Fuels: The Story of a 20,000-Mile Spinach Salad 289

7 Short Circuits: Why a High-Tech Superpower Has a Third-World Grid 333

Part 2 Greener Pastures: The Dawn of the New Energy Era

8 Earth, Wind, and Fire: How Renewable Energy Will Dethrone the Powers That Be 391

9 Autopia: Detroit Does the Electric Slide 455

10 City, Slicker: Building Energy-Smart Homes and the Cities of Tomorrow 509

11 Fresh Greens: Not Your Grandma's Eco-Movement-Meet the New Pioneers 561

Acknowledgments 607

Notes 613

Bibliography 713

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