Renewable: The World-Changing Power of Alternative Energy by Jeremy Shere

The mention of alternative energy, for most of us, brings up images of solar panels and wind turbines.  How about biomass?  Heat from therenewable earth that runs turbines?  And are the various types of alternative energies new ideas?

Renewable is a survey of the different types of alternative energy – wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and water – and the histories of their developments.  It may surprise you to find out that the fear of fossil fuels running out is not a new one – people have been predicting this since the first oil well was struck.  The advent of electricity in particular was the initial impetus for exploring other ways of producing energy, whether it be from wind, sun, or water.  The increasing popularity of the automobile also prompted some industry leaders to look for viable alternatives to gasoline.  In fact, Henry Ford was an early advocate for ethanol as car fuel.

Some of the early inventions were crackpot, and some were truly innovative for their time, although not sturdy enough to withstand the forces of nature.  The primary problem with alternative energies (then and now) is economic – the cost of producing energy from these methods is usually more expensive than using coal, natural gas, or nuclear sources.

Shere provides some interesting historical perspective, along with a realistic assessment of the state of alternative energies today.

Other books to consider for further reading is Powering the Dream by Alexis Madrigal (the author mentions this book in the introduction) and The Power Surge by Michael Levi.

(William Hicks, Information Services)


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