Energy is humanity’s most important resource. It has allowed us to secure life-sustaining resources, build reliable infrastructure, connect continents, and democratize wealth. But our insatiable hunger for more and cheaper energy has also pushed us to the edge of a global crisis, beset by innumerable environmental disasters, trenchant geopolitical struggles, and an alarmingly warming planet. For better and worse, no other physical resource has had such a wide-ranging impact on our ecosystems, economy, public health, and personal liberties.
In fact, as energy expert Michael E. Webber argues in Power Trip, the story of how societies develop can be told largely in terms of how they manage energy sources through time. The water wheel reshaped what we eat, the steam engine remapped civilizations, electricity rebuilt the city, and oil rewrote the rules of war.
History makes one thing clear: energy can break societies just as easily as it makes them. But Power Trip offers wisdom for addressing today’s energy emergencies. Don’t look for curealls; energy is too complex a resource to allow for them. Solutions must be tailored to the needs and resources of individual societies. Scientific innovation needs public support. Long-term solutions are nonnegotiable. Our current energy crisis is real, but it is solvable. We have the power.
Power Trip is the companion to the forthcoming 6-part TV series.
“Power Trip ably guides us through the history of energy.
”—Jonathan A. Knee, The New York Times
“Energy is central to everything we care about in society. But it’s also hard to understand. With this book, Webber has done a service by explaining energy in a way that is easy to understand and fun to read.”—Ernie Moniz, former US secretary of energy
“To all of us concerned about new energy shocks and still hopeful of creating a better energy future—this book explains why the stakes of energy transition are higher than ever. It’s a really good read and highlights how access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy is essential in everything we do as citizens, consumers, communities, and whole societies.”—Angela Wilkinson, senior director of scenarios and business insightsfor the World Energy Council
“From creating wealth to starting wars, energy permeates our lives. Webber gives us a sense of just how inseparable energy has been to our past and will be in our future.”—Martin Doyle, professor in the environmental sciences at Duke University
“Michael has provided us an extraordinary volume—comprehensive, well-written, easy to read, and yet extremely informative. Ultimately, this book convincingly makes the case that energy is the key to understanding virtually all human activity and development. Whether you’re considering agriculture or mobility, cities or manufacturing, energy lies beneath and enables it all.”—Eric Toone, executive managing director of Breakthrough Energy Ventures
“Power Trip is a delightful combination of fun facts, personal anecdotes, rigorous scientific data, and good advice. And it’s full of surprises about the way energy is hidden right in front of us, embedded in every object and issue. It’s a must-read for anyone who cares about the future, not only of energy, but of the planet.”—Betty Sue Flowers, former director of the LBJ Presidential Library and coeditor of Realistic Hope