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Power Trip: The Story of Energy

Michael E. Webber

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History of engineering & technology

A global tour of energy--the catalyst of human civilization and one of the biggest challenges facing mankind today

For centuries, human activity has been dominated by the need to fuel human civilization. Energy is unique: no other physical resource in society has had such a wide-ranging impact on our ecosystems, economy, public health, and personal liberties. And as the era of fossil fuels stumbles to a close in the West, much of the rest of the world is still just waking up to coal. We have found ourselves on the cusp of a transition in how we get energy that is both obvious and profoundly uncertain. We must decide our next steps quickly. How can we invest responsibly now in a way that will ensure our access to clean, affordable, and reliable energy for the decades to come?

In Power Trip, energy expert Michael E. Webber takes readers on a global tour of energy's role in society across many regions and several hundred years. Starting with energy's end-uses and outcomes--water, food, wealth, cities, transportation, and war--Webber uncovers the complicated relationship our civilization has both with energy and its outputs. We've stimulated entrepreneurship, innovation, and opportunity beyond our wildest dreams--but it's come at the steep cost of accelerating climate change, geopolitical insecurity, increased economic inequality, and environmental degradation. Energy has proven to be something we can't live with, and we can't live without. But, as Webber argues, with long-term thinking, global interconnection, and an emphasis on conservation, we can simultaneously solve our energy supply's significant downsides while setting ourselves up for a much brighter future.

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