Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology

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9780306820991: Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology
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Few today realize that America's relationship with green technology is far from a recent development. The truth is Americans have been inventing green for more than a century. Powering the Dream tells the fascinating stories of the brilliant, often irascible inventors who foresaw our current energy problems, tried to invent cheap and renewable solutions, and drew the blueprint for a green future.

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About the Author:

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he launched their Technology Channel, and an award-winning former staff writer for Wired.com. He lives in Washington, DC.

Review:

“[An] excellent new book...Madrigal shows that American policy toward green energy has been a mess, long before this new batch of Republicans went into Congress fixed on dismantling environmental protections.” New York Journal of Books, April 2011“In a world reeling from the news of the nuclear plant failures at Fukushima, no book could be more timely than Alexis Madrigal’s Powering the Dream. Headlines filled with nuclear disaster and soaring oil prices have reignited the energy debate while news stories about alternative energy focus almost exclusively on the sexiest new technology. What’s lacking is contextual background and perspective. Powering the Dream provides that...This book is far from a dull scientific read. Mr. Madrigal is a storyteller. He seems naturally drawn to the drama of success and failure and the fascinating eccentrics and visionaries that taken part in the battle of energy technologies...Those who are concerned about the future of energy and the environment will find Powering the Dream a very informative and useful resource.”
 Outside, May 2011

Kirkus, 3/1/11
“Eye-opening micro-histories about American energy past, with an eye to the future...A well-told cautionary tale about the need for widespread renewable-energy production.”

Conservation, March 2011
“It’s refreshing to read a history book whose intent is to improve decisions in the present and near future...[An] able account of the very checkered history of green energy schemes in America...Madrigal has the best critique I’ve seen of the ‘appropriate technology’ philosophy promoted by my Whole Earth Catalog in the 1970s...[An] admirable book.” Booklist, 4/1/11
“Madrigal rises above politics to review the surprisingly long and fruitful history of renewable energy in the U.S....He shows beyond a doubt that the past will lead the way to a greener future.” Library Journal, 3/15/11
“Part history of America’s use of green technologies, part history of our relationship with that technology, and part hope for the future...On all these counts, the book is successful...Recommended for general readers with an interest in America’s past, present, and future relationship with green technology.”

InfoDad.com, 4/14/11
“Madrigal seems to understand better than most writers on this topic that capitalism itself can be the great growth engine producing better and greener technology...Madrigal’s willingness to consider the many green-tech attempts of the past, most of them failed but so many of them fascinating, is a refreshing change from the doomsday scenarios so common in alternative-energy writing...His belief that solutions can be found, and that the past may hold the key to coming up with a better future, is salutary and most welcome.”
 PopMatters.com, 4/20/11“Personable and engaging...Refreshingly, it’s not a depressing, we’ve completely screwed up the planet kind of book. There’s an optimism that shines through...In the end, Madrigal writes a book that works on many levels. While not particularly scholarly, his simple statements...do ask audiences to think critically, his chapter openings are catchy, and his optimism gives readers hope that it’s not too late to find greener technologies.”
Internet Review of Books, 4/22/11


Hudson Valley News, 4/20/11
“Inspiring...The first book to explore both the forgotten history and the visionary future of America’s green-tech innovators.”
 Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/1/11“Well-thought-out ideas about how to advance low-cost green technology.”
 Print, 5/10/11“A quiet page-turner that anyone concerned with our future energy policy—or lack thereof—should read...Madrigal is a talented wordsmith and astute researcher with an eye for ferreting out the ‘need-to-know’ minutia in a complicated world of energy giants, green pioneers and international trading markets.” Blog Business World, 5/8/11
“[An] eye opening and very engaging book...A celebration of the spirit of innovation and its many successes and failures...Well researched...Fascinating and thought provoking...This book will change the way you think about green technology, and its past, present, and future.”

Ode, June 2011Quirky stories about individuals whose past inventions, often failures, anticipated many contemporary environmental solutions.” 


Bookforum
, April/May 2011
“Madrigal manages—without any gonzo shenanigans—to engage and sometimes even electrify the reader with lean and jaunty prose, skillful storytelling, analytic theorizing, and a proficiency in factual gee-whizzery...He makes the dream of a perfect power source seem all the more urgent, nowthat we know for how long, and in how many past episodes, it’s been deferred.”
 Grist.org, 3/28/11“[An] absorbing, often astonishing new book...Rather than rehash well-understood problems or relitigate well-entrenched debates, Madrigal tells stories, unlikely, idiosyncratic stories, about real human beings...The book yields a continual sense of discovery, sometimes delight. Madrigal has produced a kind of anti-history: a chronicle of paths not taken, failed visionaries and cranks, near-misses and fiascos. Along the way there are lessons learned, but no Grand Theories or first principles. With epistemic humility that's rare in the green space, Madrigal picks through these events for observations about what seems to work and how we might avoid our past mistakes.” Mother Jones (website), 3/29/11“[Madrigal is] a master at autopsies of promising yet deceased technologies.” Time.com, 4/6/11

“A wonderfully interesting book, and while it may be in parts a cautionary tale about unintended consequences, it is also a valuable history lesson. And the depth of research is astounding, especially as the author connects information to illustrate how nearly all-things-energy came to be...While addressing readers in every-day language, Madrigral's index and bibliography (each with more than twenty pages of listings) provides evidence of the breadth of his scholarly research and the validity of his historical references...Madrigal also does an excellent job in outlining the characters behind technical innovation...To finish Powering the Dream is to find oneself optimistic, pessimistic, a bit cynical, and nursing a small flame of hope that the same hubris, ambition, and the desire to live a better life for ourselves and our children that got us into this mess will get us out.”
St. Petersburg
Times, 4/17/11“Madrigal records a century and a half of American energy innovation—such as electric taxicabs in 1900—and imagines the future.”
January
, 4/20/11
“Madrigal skillfully uses stories from the past to illustrate both the follies and successes of the present. In doing so, he places some of the environmental madness we’re experiencing now in perspective.”
 

“Better batteries won't be enough to charge the future, argues Alexis Madrigal in the beautifully wrought Powering the Dream. With an eye to misfires in America's past...he astutely points to what it might take: technocrats wise enough to see that we need to reinvent not just our technology but our relationship with it." OnEarth.org, 4/15/11“[This book] may jolt many environmentalists...Madrigal’s survey of our past failures to get renewable energy off the ground is endlessly provocative.” TheAtlantic.com, 4/11/11“Madrigal's tour of the forgotten history of green technology is more than just an entertaining jaunt back through time...The history he documents is instructive to our current energy policy debate.” 

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