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If the title of this book makes you a little suspicious of what I’m up to, then all is well. We’ll get along just fine. That’s because the dirty secrets ahead aren’t the kind you can be told (you probably wouldn’t believe me anyway), but rather are the kind you must be shown. But even then, I don’t expect you to accept all of my particular renderings. Ahead you’ll see that this certainly isn’t a book for alternative energy. Neither is it a book against it. In fact, we won’t be talking in simplistic terms of for and against, left and right, good and evil. I wouldn’t dare bludgeon you with a litany of environmental truths when I suspect you’d rather we consider the far more intriguing questions of how such truths are made. Ultimately, this is a book of shades. This is a book for you and others who like to think. Ahead,we’llinterrogatetheveryideaof being for or against energy technologies at all. Many energy debates arise from special interests as Introduction: Unraveling the Spectacle The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation. –Albert Einstein xvi Introduction they posture to stake flags on the future—flags adorned with the emblems of their favorite pet projects. These iridescent displays have become spectacles in their own right. And oh, how we do delight in a spectacle with our morning coffee. Needless to say, these spectacles influence the answers we get—there is nothing new about this observation—but these energy spectacles do much more. They narrow our focus. They misdirect our attention. They sidetrack our most noble intentions. They limit the very questions we even think to ask. Consider, for instance, America’s extensive automotive transportation system that, alongside impressive benefits, yields a host of negative side effects such as smog, particulates,co2, and deadly accidents. America’s overwhelming response has been to adjust the technology, the automobile itself. Our politicians, corporations , universities, and the media open their palms to show us an array of biofuel, electric, and hydrogen vehicles as alternatives. But even though these vehicles might not emit toxic fumes directly , their manufacture, maintenance, and disposal certainly do. Even if we could run our suburbs on batteries and hydrogen fuels cells, these devices wouldn’t prevent America’s thirty thousand automobile collision fatalities per year.1 Nor would they slow suburban proliferation or the erosion of civil society that many scholars link to car culture. And it doesn’t seem that people enjoy being in cars much in the first place—40 percent of people say they’d be willing to pay twice the rent to cut their commute from forty-five to ten minutes, and a great many more would accept a pay cut if they could live closer to friends.2 Might we be better served to question the structure and goals of our transportation sector rather than focus so narrowly on alternative vehicles? Perhaps. Yet during times of energy distress we Americans tend to gravitate toward technological interventions instead of addressing the underlying conditions from which our energy crises arise.3 As we shall discover in the chap- xvii Unraveling the Spectacle ters to follow, these fancy energy technologies are not without side effects and limitations of their own. When I speak on energy, the most frequent questions I receive are variants of “What energy technology is best?”—as if there is a straightforward answer. Every energy technology causes aches and pains; shifting to alternative energy represents nothing more than a shift to alternative aches and pains. Still, I find most people are interested in exploring genuine solutions to our energy problems; they’re eager to latch on and advocate for one if given the opportunity. As it turns out, there are quite a few solutions that could use some latching onto. But they’re not the ones you’ll read about in glossy magazines or see on television news—they’re far more intriguing, powerful, and rewarding than that. In the latter part of this book, we’ll imagine tangible strategies that cross-examine technological politics. But don’t worry, I won’t waste your time with dreamy visions that are politically naïve or socially unworkable. The durable first steps we’ll discuss are not technologically based, but they stand on the same ground—that of human creativity and imagination. And...


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MARC Record
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