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The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future

The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future

by Gretchen Bakke


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A revelatory look at our national power grid—how it developed, its current flaws, and how it must be completely reimagined for our fast-approaching energy future.

America's electrical grid, an engineering triumph of the twentieth century, is turning out to be a poor fit for the present. It's not just that the grid has grown old and is now in dire need of basic repair. Today, as we invest great hope in new energy sources—solar, wind, and other alternatives—the grid is what stands most firmly in the way of a brighter energy future. If we hope to realize this future, we need to reimagine the grid according to twenty-first-century values. It's a project which forces visionaries to work with bureaucrats, legislators with storm-flattened communities, moneymen with hippies, and the left with the right. And though it might not yet be obvious, this revolution is already well under way.

Cultural anthropologist Gretchen Bakke unveils the many facets of America's energy infrastructure, its most dynamic moments and its most stable ones, and its essential role in personal and national life. The grid, she argues, is an essentially American artifact, one which developed with us: a product of bold expansion, the occasional foolhardy vision, some genius technologies, and constant improvisation. Most of all, her focus is on how Americans are changing the grid right now, sometimes with gumption and big dreams and sometimes with legislation or the brandishing of guns.

The Grid tells—entertainingly, perceptively—the story of what has been called "the largest machine in the world": its fascinating history, its problematic present, and its potential role in a brighter, cleaner future.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781632865687
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 07/11/2017
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 109,901
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Gretchen Bakke holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in Cultural Anthropology. Her work focuses on the chaos and creativity that emerges during social, cultural, and technological transitions. For the past decade she has been researching and writing about the changing culture of electricity in the United States. She is a former fellow in Wesleyan University's Science in Society Program, a former Fulbright fellow, and is currently an assistant professor of anthropology at McGill University. Born in Portland, Oregon, Bakke lives in Montreal.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Chapter 1 The Way of the Wind 1

Chapter 2 How the Grid Got Its Wires 25

Chapter 3 The Consolidation of Power 57

Chapter 4 The Cardigan Path 85

Chapter 5 Things Fall Apart 115

Chapter 6 Two Birds, One Stone 149

Chapter 7 A Tale of Two Storms 185

Chapter 8 In Search of the Holy Grail 219

Chapter 9 American Zeitgeist 255

Afterword: Contemplating Death in the Afternoon 291

Acknowledgments 293

Notes 295

Index 343

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