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The Dirty Energy Dilemma: What's Blocking Clean Power in the United States
by:Benjamin K. Sovacool
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...
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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