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  • Traveling the Power Line: From the Mohave Desert to the Bay of Fundy by Julianne Couch
  • Francis Moul
Traveling the Power Line: From the Mohave Desert to the Bay of Fundy. By Julianne Couch. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013. xx + 214 pp. Bibliography. $19.95 paper.

Traveling the Power Line: From the Mohave Desert to the Bay of Fundy is a chatty but handy guide to the modern era of energy powering our homes, factories, stores, and more. Couch, a journalist, does not claim to be an engineer or scientist, but is a keen observer, willing to travel across the nation to look at the many ways of creating electrical power. [End Page 85]

This is important stuff to know these days. Climate change is clearly affecting our world adversely; a great share of its effects comes from burning fossil fuels to make electricity that allows us to have a rich life. Looking at alternatives to burning gas, coal, and oil for power is crucial to our long-term well-being.

And, as this book shows, there are many alternative ways to produce clean, safe power—even though each way has its problems.

As a Wyoming resident, Couch starts at home in a state where power is supremely important. Wyoming coal mines produce the fuel for power plants across the nation. She visits a coal-burning plant and gives us a good understanding of how it works. She also explores an alternative to coal, a wind farm.

In each of her nine visits to power-producing installations, Couch explains, in plain language, how things work, using the words of experts where necessary but bringing in her own insights and research to make things understandable. The end result is not a comprehensive, scientific study of energy production, but a realistic view of how things work.

Additionally, the author visits a Nebraska nuclear power plant and a Texas natural gas field, highlighting the importance of Plains natural fossil and solar resources that are exported across America.

One of the most unusual visits was to a tidal power project off the coast of Maine, where the moon’s tidal pull will be harnessed to provide local power to a handful of towns in a sparsely settled area. Because the four daily tide surges turn the turbines with no pollution and little or no danger to fisheries, this is the cleanest, safest way to make electricity.

Other journeys encompass a biomass research facility in Iowa where renewable plants are used to make ethanol, and a Kentucky hydropower plant using one of the oldest methods of producing energy—water passing through turbines. Another unusual power plant is a geothermal unit in Utah that uses the heat of the earth to light up the night. Solar power from sunshine is viewed in a vast plant in Nevada.

For some reason, though, Couch cannot refrain from being chatty in this book. She brings personal asides into her story that have nothing to do with her assignment and which are, frankly, irritating. A good editor would have cleaned those up.

Francis Moul
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2334-2463
Print ISSN
1052-5165
Pages
pp. 85-86
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-05
Open Access
No
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