Welcome Amanda Little, and Host Miles Grant (thegreenmiles.com)

Power Trip: The Story of America’s Love Affair with Energy

Host, Miles Grant:

Does Firedoglake’s Book Salon have a mole in the White House? Amanda Little’s Power Trip has been on the schedule for today’s Salon for weeks, but it was only days ago that we learned President Obama would be unveiling new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks yesterday. Regardless of whether it was covert or coincidence, it’s a great time to dive into the energy debate.

Little sees electric cars as a key to ending America’s addiction to oil, and the fuel efficiency standards are an important step. But can our electric grid support them? Little details her experience being left in the dark by the epic Northeast Blackout of 2003, a painfully vivid demonstration of America’s outdated electric grid. The Senate’s refusal to act on clean energy and climate legislation last year may be Congress’ best-known failure on energy and environmental policy, but the concept of a smart, decentralized electric grid has been almost completely ignored. “We’ve seen almost no expansion or evolution of the grid that struggles to sustain our skyrocketing digital demands,” Little writes.

While Congress has remained unable – and in many cases unwilling – to tackle America’s energy problems, the Obama administration has used the regulatory powers of the executive branch to take small steps forward. Beyond the new fuel efficiency rules, the Environmental Protection Agency is developing a new mercury and air toxics standard and carbon controls under the Clean Air Act. In the wake of the Gulf oil disaster, the administration continues to tighten drilling standards.

But is it enough? Al Gore called out the president in a Rolling Stone essay, saying “President Obama has never presented to the American people the magnitude of the climate crisis.” The Obama administration has put off action on other regulations, like an air toxics standards for boilers and certain solid waste incinerators. And it got caught trying to score political points off bashing environmental regulations.

Little makes the case that the road to our new energy future runs not through Washington, DC but through the prairies of west Texas, where wind energy can be cheaply harvested, and the South Bronx, where activists like Majora Carter are leading a new environmental movement based on protecting public health. The great energy debate will be settled not with a single headline-making event, Little argues, but gradually as dropping clean energy prices first converge with rising dirty energy prices, then leave them in the dust. Why keep paying to drill ever-deeper under the Gulf of Mexico with all its accompanying risks if it’s cheaper to charge our electric cars with wind energy? Why send our soldiers out to battle weighed down with pounds of batteries if they can unfold a flexible solar panel to keep their gadgets charged?

Do you share Amanda Little’s optimism that American ingenuity can create a brighter future for our children and grandchildren? Join us in comments to share your thoughts and questions for today’s Book Salon author.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

74 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Amanda Little, Power Trip: The Story of America’s Love Affair with Energy”

cal222 July 30th, 2011 at 1:23 pm

I haven’t read Amanda Little’s book, but if I see it at the library I will have a look at it. I don’t share her apparent optimism over wind and solar, though. From what I’ve read about it, the problem with wind as a technology is that the energy derived from it cannot be stored. Also, in many places the wind doesn’t blow enough to be useful as an energy source. Also, wind turbines create their own environmental issues for some people, who often regard them as aesthetically displeasing as well as a noise nuisance. Many people also have a problem with the so-called strobe effect or shadow flicker that turbines often create.

BevW July 30th, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Amanda, Miles, Welcome to the Lake.

Miles, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Amanda, what do you think of the new fuel efficiency standards? Are they strong enough? What else could we be doing to speed the transition away from oil-powered vehicles?

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 2:01 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 3

Great to be here Miles, and thanks for the invitation Bev!

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 2:05 pm

The fuel economy standards are a critical step forward. The new standard will stoke innovation in the auto industry and based on analysis from NRDC and UAW, it could product up to 150,000 new jobs as a result. That said, the standards could be more aggressive and leave us with much more to do.

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Obama called called this new standard — which will hike fuel economy requirements to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, roughly double what it is today — the “single most important step we’ve ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” That may be true, but it also speaks to how *little* we have done as a nation thus far to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 2:09 pm

In Power Trip, you detail how fossil fuels powered America’s rise to its current status as the global superpower. Politicians from fossil fuel states would have us believe oil and coal can carry us into the future as well. What would you tell Sen. Joe Manchin or Sen. Mary Landrieu?

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 2:12 pm

We often hear members of Congress say we can’t act on clean energy & climate action until China & India do – but you say they’re leapfrogging us. Why is the Beltway conventional wisdom stuck in the past on this one?

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 2:15 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 3

As for what more we could be doing — aggressively drive investment into R&D for batteries, aggressively scale up clean-energy standards for utilities, and aggressively scale up investment in and requirements for a national smart grid. Electric vehicles won’t work at a mass scale unless we have the infrastructure to support them and the clean energy to power them.

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 2:18 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 8

It boggles the mind that China is so far ahead of us on clean energy. While it’s true that China and India are adding coal plants at astonishing rates, they are also developing wind and solar at astonishing rates. Chinese companies control almost half of the $45 billion global market for wind turbines. They produce a quarter of the world’s solar panels. ABC News reported recently that China last year spent $12 million dollars every hour on clean energy. And of course most of the technologies they are now developing were invented on US soil.

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 2:20 pm

A recent report detailed how much vampire power is sucked up by devices like cable boxes & DVRs, even as consumers think they are off. You recently wrote in the New York Times that we should consider nutrition-style labels for energy consumption. Given our current political climate, how could such labels be implemented? Do you think businesses would be interested in voluntary measures, or would those lack (wait for it) teeth?

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 2:21 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 8

Beltway folks are choosing to focus on what China is doing wrong — rather than what it’s doing right — to stall the process of passing significant climate regulations in the US. China is more than happy to see us stalling out on a climate plan while their companies zoom to the font of the clean-tech race, and ours lag in the dust.

Jane Hamsher July 30th, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Hey Amanda, thanks so much for writing this, and thanks for hosting today Miles.

Can either of you tell me about any specific actions that you’ve seen that have been successful recently? It would be great to know more about tactics or methods that can serve as good models for future action.

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 2:24 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 11

Some background on my proposal for energy labels: The premise is that Americans, per capita, consume far more energy than the citizens of any other industrial nation. We consume about 75 percent more oil per capita per year, than the people of Japan, and more than DOUBLE per capita than the citizens of England. Our hunger for oil, like our fondness of fast foods, has spawned a kind of obesity epidemic –but one that doesn’t manifest itself in physical symptoms like diabetes and heart disease.

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 2:25 pm
In response to cal222 @ 1

It’s a mistake to think of any one source of energy as a silver bullet, but teamed up with solar power & aggressive efficiency measures, wind can play a huge role in our energy picture. There are also some interesting wind power storage systems coming online. As for risks, it’s important to think about what wind power is replacing – are occasional shadows really a bigger threat than nuclear or coal power?

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Amanda, was there any part of your research for Power Trip you found particularly discouraging?

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 2:30 pm
In response to Jane Hamsher @ 13

Hi Jane! Thanks for jumping in. While things are stalling out at a federal level on the climate and energy front, there is a huge amount of positive activity happening at state and city levels. My own state of Tennessee, for instance, now has more than 43,000 people employed in Green Jobs, according to a recent study (jobs, for instance, creating electric cars, solar panel components, green homes, etc). And my city of Nashville is now 11th in green jobs creation among all US cities nationally. (And we are a far cry from Portland Oregon in terms of environmental activism and green lifestyles.)

magilla July 30th, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Solar thermal plants that super heat a large mass of thermal storage material seem to have real promise. Any comments..

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Jane, it’s incredibly frustrating that there isn’t more coverage of the good work going on across the country on the mercury rule. Groups from the Sierra Club to the NAACP have generated over 800,000 comments in support of it – but it’s gotten 0 media attention, while media continue to outnumber Tea Partiers at their events.

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 2:33 pm
In response to Jane Hamsher @ 13

Just to elaborate a bit further on Jane’s question: The most exciting activity right now to my mind is green job creation: The Obama admin has said that by 2012, there will be an estimated 800,000 green jobs throughout America–skilled, innovative jobs developing solar, wind and geothermal power, biofuels, electric cars, advanced batteries, sophisticated plastics, smart grid components, green chemicals, efficient homes and appliances, local and organic foods, etc. Not since the first decade of the 20th century has our nation seen such a dramatic burst of innovation within one decade.

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Amanda, Michael Humphrey recently wrote at Salon about how he lost 80 pounds after moving from the Midwest to New York City, in large part by being able to walk everywhere instead of having to drive. You did the reverse, moving from New York City to Tennessee. Have you experienced any sustainable culture shock?

Tammany Tiger July 30th, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Michael Klare, who writes about energy and geopolitics, is worried that competition for oil and gas could lead to armed conflict among superpowers (the U.S., Russia, and China). He also says that even if the superpowers avoid such a conflict, the rising price of energy will lower living standards all over the world. Are you as pessimistic as Professor Klare is?

person1597 July 30th, 2011 at 2:35 pm

People don’t like paying very much for their energy. Given how much power it takes to run our lifestyles, we’ve been snookered into believing that you need only just “plug it in” — including, and especially so, the electric cars of the future.

True, the Sun provides all the energy we’ll ever need — whether by immediately converting this flux directly (PV, wind) or using a stored version — fossil and bio-fuels. There shouldn’t be a traumatic impact on society if the supply of energy is maintained at ongoing demand levels. (Except, of course, for the pollution.)

However, emerging markets demand a higher energy lifestyle and the global demand for oil is growing by way of new demand from China and elsewhere. This will impact the global energy balance in ways Americans cannot preconceive.

Remember the oil shocks of the seventies? That was a supply disruption.

What we have to deal with in the short term is a demand explosion thanks to the American consumer who has brought wealth to billions who were once leading agrarian lifestyles and now seek to emulate Western-style affluence. Can you blame them? No. Can we compete with them?

That is the question in my mind going forward. Technology is one thing (how to access the energy), equitable distribution of energy is quite another. Where there’s a power play, there’s an Enron lurking behind the curtain.

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 2:36 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 11

Just a bit more on the energy labels and the crisis of energy obesity in America: The energy-efficiency problem in the US stems largely in my opinion from a measurement problem. While we have come to expect labels on our food products that quantify calorie, fat and nutrient content, we have no clear way of measuring the amount of energy it takes to make our products and propel our daily activities.

Imagine an iPhone app called DECAL (Daily Energy Calories): It would scan the bar code of any product you buy and estimate how much energy it took to produce that item. It would synch to the computer systems in cars, busses, trains and airplanes and calculate how much energy you use during daily errands and commutes. It would synch to a smart meter in your home. At the end of the day, the app would generate your total energy diet – a DECAL “score” that would quantify how many energy-calories you’ve consumed.

joelmael July 30th, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I didn’t read what Obama said about mileage standards, sad to say I no longer pay any attention to him.

I live in Texas where it seems like half the vehicles are full size pickups. They use them to commute. Did he address that? Interstate MPH is mostly 65 but if you drive 70 you get passed on left and right. Almost no enforcement. I don’t see what good a few electric vehicles when simple measures like lower speed limits, enforced, and guzzler tax on pickups can be done immediately and save a really lot of oil right now.

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 2:39 pm
In response to magilla @ 18

I think solar thermal is a hugely exciting technology. Check out this piece by climate activist Joseph Romm which calls CSP (concentrated solar thermal) “The Technology That Will Save Humanity”

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 2:39 pm
In response to joelmael @ 25

The new standards cover both cars & light-duty trucks – and the administration is working on first-of-their kind standards for heavy-duty trucks, as well.

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 2:40 pm
In response to magilla @ 18

Correction! The acronym is CSP — concentrated solar power — rather than CST.

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Amanda, you’ve criticized environmentalists for bashing “supposedly villainous” oil companies. Given their extensive financial backing of pro-oil candidates and funding of climate science denial groups, haven’t oil companies worked long & hard to earn their status as villains?

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 2:47 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 22

Great question. I highly recommend reading all of Klare’s books — particularly Resource Wars and Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet. I interviewed Klare extensively for Power Trip. I do think he’s right that geopolitical conflict has for decades (centuries, reallY) centered around who controls the world’s resources, in particular, energy resources — and this trend will become increasingly severe as resources become scarcer. On the bright side, this is what makes clean-tech innovation all the more valuable — they have the potential to save not only the planet, but our military and national security. Powerful clean-tech solutions will, I think, prove to be the greatest comeback story of our time, for environmental and geopolitical reasons both.

magilla July 30th, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Tesla believed the elctro magnetic field generated by the planet could be used tp provide virtually free electricity for everyone. Has anyone been researching this recently?

Tammany Tiger July 30th, 2011 at 2:50 pm
In response to Amanda Little @ 30

I hope you’re right, and that people like my congressman, Thaddeus McCotter, wise up about energy policy. Four years ago. McCotter and a group of right-wing Republicans staged a “speak-in,” a make-believe session of the House (the grownups had adjourned for summer recess), at which they argued for a “drill here, drill now” energy policy.

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 2:50 pm
In response to person1597 @ 23

I entirely agree that the great challenge we face is the global energy demand explosion led by the US. By far the most significant challenge we have ahead of us is energy *efficiency* — that’s Priority #1, innovations in cleantech solutions like solar, wind, batteries etc, come next. Fortunately Japan and Europe have shown that it’s possible to have high-tech comfortable lifestyles using a fraction of the energy that we use in the US.

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 2:51 pm
In response to person1597 @ 23

Amazing stat: the U.S. uses just over 9,000 BTUs per US dollar of GDP. Japan by comparison uses about 4,500 BTUs per US dollar of GDP. So we’re about HALF as efficient in our energy use as Japan.

joelmael July 30th, 2011 at 2:53 pm

The U of Texas medical branch recently built a new building. The huge lobby has two and half stories of glass wall on the south and west sides. Shit like this makes me feel hopeless.

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 2:53 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 32

So weird that Representatives from non-fossil fuel states are so virulently pro-fossil fuel. Does McCotter conflate being pro-oil with being pro-auto industry? Well, I guess if he’s delusional enough to think he’s a viable presidential candidate, he could believe anything.

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 2:53 pm
In response to person1597 @ 23
person1597 July 30th, 2011 at 2:55 pm
In response to Amanda Little @ 34

Bub, but, “Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis all by itself for a sound, comprehensive energy policy.”

Oh, that was then! (And this is not now, but then, reloaded.)

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 2:57 pm
In response to Amanda Little @ 37

Amanda, hate to be envisioning disaster on a nice summer night, but if there was one threat that could prompt a Japan-style energy upheaval in America, what would it be?

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 2:57 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 32

No question that the actions of McCotter and others in the hard right are depressing and myopic. We need to work at a grassroots level to turn the “drill, baby, drill” mentality into “shine, baby, shine” and “spin, baby, spin”. Texas has massive wind and solar resources so it’s a great battleground for changing this mindset.

person1597 July 30th, 2011 at 2:58 pm
In response to magilla @ 31

“The tragedy of Tesla in Wardenclyffe, the tower was dismantled on July 4, 1917. It was dynamited and razed by the mortgage holder, the proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.”

Gosh darn those mortgage bankers, always pulling the plug on a great experiment!

person1597 July 30th, 2011 at 2:58 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 39

Meltdown, Fukushima style?

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 3:00 pm
In response to joelmael @ 35

Can’t wait for solar film to start being used widely – lobbies like that could help pay their own A/C bills.

magilla July 30th, 2011 at 3:02 pm
In response to person1597 @ 41

Threatening the investment/profit paradigm is Risky..

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 3:02 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 39

Lordy, that’s a hard one. You’d have thought a year ago that a colossal oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico would have been cause enough to rethink our dependence on fossil fuels — it would have punctured the myth that we can live energy-lavish lifestyles without experiencing any negative effects. But the truth is that whether it’s environmental catastrophe or rocketing global energy prices, we have a long pattern of swinging from from states of shock and concern about our energy crisis, to total apathy. In other words: It appears that we would need not only a severe trauma to cause us to radically rethink our energy landscape, but a trauma that does not quickly subside.

joelmael July 30th, 2011 at 3:03 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 43

Didn’t know about solar film. Looked like ordinary glass to me. Also I wonder if the car dealers that light their lots all night like daylight pay the same rate for electricity that I do.

person1597 July 30th, 2011 at 3:04 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 43

Buy them here

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Amanda, I was watching Anthony Bourdain the other day and he was patting himself on the back for eating at a restaurant in the Bronx that served grass-fed, local beef. But watching him down a huge cheese & egg-based appetizer & a catcher’s mitt-sized steak, I wondered – is there such a thing as truly sustainable beef?

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 3:06 pm
In response to person1597 @ 38

The challenge is to reframe energy conservation as a competitive advantage for the US economy: It’s not just a personal virtue, but a massive economic advantage. The fact that the Japanese economy is twice as energy-efficient as ours means that Japan will have a double-advantage as global energy prices escalate.

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Amanda, speaking of solar film, if you could pick any one breakthrough innovation that’s on the horizon as a real game-changer, what would it be?

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 3:11 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 43

I totally agree that Solar thin film is a hugely exciting area of innovation. Check out this recent article in Bloomberg:
GE Sees Solar Cheaper Than Fossil Power in Five Years
I also recently interviewed a top executive at Nanosolar and am hugely excited about their products.

person1597 July 30th, 2011 at 3:15 pm
In response to Amanda Little @ 49

Thanks for emphasizing this — it bears repeating about conservation:

It’s not just a personal virtue, but a massive economic advantage.

But is it Joe4Loko’s cup of tea? I’ll suggest that the Japanese are a decade ahead of us in many ways. They have adapted to so much trauma that it seems impossible to imagine a similar adaptation inside the American psyche.

And who will educate the next generation about the perils of unsustainable profligacy? … Fox News? I’m with Miles @39 on this one.

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 3:15 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 50

Well the most crucial innovations on the horizon are not exactly the sexiest: Batteries and Smart Grid. Our clean-energy future hinges absolutely on batteries and smart grid. Two companies I’m excited about that are making good strides in batteries are Boston Power and Sakti3

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 3:21 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 50

The challenge with Smart Grid technology is bigger and more grave — there are key folks in the private sector competing to create smart grid components like Cisco — but actually rebuilding the energy grid soup to nuts requires a massive coordinated political effort at the state and federal level. Given how difficult it is to make anything happen right now at a federal level, the smart grid is a much more urgent problem than batteries,

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 3:23 pm
In response to Amanda Little @ 54

Heaven forbid the federal government invest in infrastructure at a time when millions of people need work and interest rates are so low that borrowing money is virtually free.

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 3:26 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 48

Great question. I personally have a steak, er, stake, in this question because I’m a many times failed vegetarian. I confess that I love a good hamburger, and though I eat meat rarely, I have had real trouble giving it up. It’s not lost on me that livestock consume roughly eighteen pounds of grain for every one pound of meat they produce, and growing these grains takes fossil fuels. However, there are certainly farms with grass-fed cattle that require a tiny fraction of the energy input. I defer to Michael Pollan and Tom Philpott at Grist.org on this question — they have profiled great examples of small and mid-sized farms that produce both meat and crops that are very close to 100 percent sustainable.

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 3:30 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 55

Great point. It’s been said before but I’ll say again that Eisenhower’s interstate highway project in the 50s was a massive investment and a massive job-producer. We need a project along this scale — or better yet on the scale of the New Deal — that rebuilds America’s national infrastructure around a smart grid and improved public transit. What better way to put Americans to work! Ah but then, it would require two scariest words in the english language right now: government spending.

mafr July 30th, 2011 at 3:30 pm


have you heard of the Marin energy authority?

they are doing this:

“Right here, right now. Voluntarily signing on for our Deep Green Option is the single most important action any of us in Marin can take right now to curb global warming, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, say no to dirty and dangerous fossil fuels, and achieve energy independence—all while keeping ratepayer dollars right here in our county to reinvest in a healthier environment.

Does it cost a little more? Of course. But we think it’s very little more, when viewed in the context of what we’re achieving here. Generally speaking, it will cost an additional $0.01 per kilowatt-hour for 100% renewable energy to power your home or business. For the average family of 4, that adds up to something like $5-10 per month”

why isn’t this happening elsewhere?

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 3:32 pm

I didn’t notice this as I was reading, but it caught my eye as I was checking something in the index – you don’t talk much about the climate crisis in the book. As I said, it’s not like there were places in the book where I felt like you left it out, so I was curious if it was coincidence or a conscious decision.

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 3:34 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 16

Perhaps one of the most discouraging parts of my research (aside from discovering how much energy it takes to fuel war, and how much that costs in both blood and treasure) was how the energy industry has for more than a century been dominated by men. Men invented, engineered, invested in, and presided over the technologies and companies that made oil, coal, and natural gas the dominant fuels of our time. And now men are running the show at most of the firms pushing renewables, efficiency, clean cars, and the smart grid.But I just published a story on the Top 12 Women of Cleantech that shows that the tides are turning on this issue.

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 3:34 pm
In response to mafr @ 58

Here in Virginia, Dominion Power offers a wind power option, but it’s MUCH more expensive than its usual mix (mostly coal & nuclear).

person1597 July 30th, 2011 at 3:37 pm
In response to Amanda Little @ 56

Bring back the buffalo! (Good eatin’, too.)

On batteries — Battery University. Lots to know.

Smart Grid is, as you imply, is stuck in the Catch-22 of contemporary politics (and economics). Getting to a “smart intertie” is problematic enough without Mr. Golden Sun sneezing a few CME’s at us.

Oh look, an M-class flare today. More to come? You Betcha!

I guess you know what an earth directed coronal mass ejection can do to a few power lines, eh?

March 13, 1989 at 2:44 am, a large geomagnetic storm caused variations in the earth’s magnetic field, tripping circuit breakers on the transmission network. The James Bay network went offline in less than 90 seconds, giving Quebec its second blackout in 11 months.[62] The power failure lasted 9 hours,[63] and forced Hydro-Québec to implement a program to reduce the risks associated with geomagnetically induced currents.[64]

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 3:38 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 60

I’m glad you noticed. Absolutely it was a conscious decision! Climate, quite obviously, is a hugely polarizing issue in the US. Check out this recent report by the Breakthrough Institute which makes the case that the best way to move forward on climate policy is to not focus on climate at all. That’s the basic idea inherent in my decision not to focus on climate change in Power Trip.

tambershall July 30th, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Smart grid ideas are being investigated and tried all over the world.
So are massive renewable energy projects.
Germany is such leader. They are not only getting rid of nuclear, but they are implementing smart grids. Yes, grids (with an S).
Basic idea: Instead of a massive project from top down across the country, they are starting small and moving up. They start with each community. Get the community connected (this has already been implemented on a small scale and =is growing. Then start connecting communities (this is their future). Finally the whole country will be connected. Yes it’s piecemeal, but there are advantages. First, each community serves as a test/experiment where best ideas/practices are determined. With many communities doing this INDEPENDENTLY, many many ideas are raised and best practices that work one place may not be ideal for others. So it’s many independent experiments, each one developing unique solutions. So what works in area 1, may not work in area 2, but it will work in area 3 (grossly simplified, but you get the point). Also, since there are so many ideas, there will be things that work in area 1, that work in all areas. And area 3 may have found a better way to do what area 1 is doing and would work in all areas.
It goes on. Try trehugger.com for more info.

It can be done. Just NOT in this country.

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Amanda, with Power Trip now out in paperback, what’s ahead for you?

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 3:45 pm
In response to mafr @ 58

Good to hear! And Im happy to report that it is happening elsewhere– I pay about $15 more a month on my energy bill in Nashville to do the “green power switch” — essentially paying my utility to add wind power to its mix. That said, it’s an expense that most folks would understandably not want to pay. Also check out this California-based company SunRun which is a big new force in residential solar, and offers solar energy to residential consumers at prices cost-competitve with conventional energy.

SunRun selects, buys, installs, and services each of its PV systems, and muddles through the complexities of permitting, net-metering, and tax credits. All a homeowner has to do is provide a rooftop for the installation and sign a fixed-price, long-term contract to purchase the carbon-free electricity the panels produce. Four years after it was founded, SunRun now commands 10 percent of the residential solar market and operates in nine states. The company, which installs $1 million worth of solar equipment each day, grew 300 percent in 2010 and is poised for similar growth this year.

Jane Hamsher July 30th, 2011 at 3:50 pm
In response to mafr @ 58


BevW July 30th, 2011 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the end of this Book Salon,

Amanda, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and our energy future.

Miles, Thank you very much for this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Amanda’s book and website

Miles’ website

Jeremy Ben-Ami / A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation
Hosted by EdwardTeller

Just quick reminder:
Membership drive! Are you an FDL member? If not, please join and help keep FDL delivering kick ass activism and independent journalism. You can join HERE.

Thanks all,
Have a great evening.

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 3:53 pm
In response to tambershall @ 65

Thanks for contributing this — the piecemeal concept makes a lot of sense and it’s exciting to see it emerging elsewhere. Check out this piece on The Top Five Coolest Ways to Integrate Renewable Energy Into The Grid for more info on new grid-related innovations.

Also I want to stress that it CAN happen in the US. As Gore has said: political will is the country is (or at least once was, and still can be) a renewable resource.

Miles Grant July 30th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Thanks so much to Amanda Little for joining us tonight! As someone who does energy & environment issues 24/7, I was pleasantly surprised to find tons of stuff I didn’t know (or stuff I knew framed in a new light) in Power Trip. It’s definitely worth a read. You can also keep up with Amanda on her blog and on Twitter. And thanks to Bev for inviting me to host!

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 3:56 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 66

I’m currently working on my second book project, which is about sustainable food and urban agriculture. It seemed at first like a big leap from the energy topic, but there’s a huge amount of traction and progress on the food issue in the US. and needless to say the food and energy issues are intimately tied. I read recently that 400 gallons of oil equivalents are expended annually to feed each American.

Amanda Little July 30th, 2011 at 4:00 pm
In response to Miles Grant @ 71

Thanks so much for having me, and to all those who contributed! I’ll leave you with this not-so-optimistic but nevertheless super clever poster that illuminates the problems behind energy obesity in America.

DWBartoo July 30th, 2011 at 4:00 pm
In response to Amanda Little @ 72


Someone must be going hungry.

Hello, Amanda, interesting Book Salon, thank you!!!

Looking forward to your next book, should be plenty of food for thought.


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