A debut book examines the most likely energy developments of the next decades.
In this science and policy volume, Schwendiman uses the Super Bowl as the organizing metaphor for a discussion of the competing visions of the future of energy in the United States. Technologies belong to either the Fuel Conference (gasoline, ethanol) or the Electricity Conference (nuclear, solar) and face off against each other as the author evaluates their potential as primary power sources in the 21st century and beyond. The book comes down firmly in favor of both nuclear power and ethanol production and does not hesitate to make sweeping pronouncements: “Nuclear energy is the solution to all electricity problems in the world.” The supporting arguments are largely persuasive, although many of the book’s citations point to news articles and industry publications as opposed to independent research. Schwendiman favors the small modular reactor, a compact form of the device that overcomes many of the objections to large-scale nuclear plants. He makes largely compelling arguments for the technology’s safety, although his tendency to attribute the problems of Chernobyl and Fukushima to shortcomings in Soviet and Japanese cultures is less convincing. The book also examines the futures of wind, hydroelectric power, solar energy, and natural gas and finds them far less viable in the long run. Schwendiman is clearly knowledgeable about both the scientific and financial aspects of the energy processes described in the volume, although he sometimes oversimplifies the data, as in a graph of oil prices showing a smooth curve increasing from 1985 to 2050 that ignores the price fluctuations to date. Although this work is not authoritative enough to put an end to debates over the future of energy or inspire universal enthusiasm for nuclear power and ethanol, it does an excellent job of organizing current knowledge of the technologies and their potential for meeting the world’s energy needs.
An evaluation of the potential energy technologies of the future that draws on a sports metaphor to choose a winner.