A passionate, but not ideological, argument that offers a practical approach to solving real problems.

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LIGHTING THE WORLD

TRANSFORMING OUR ENERGY FUTURE BY BRINGING ELECTRICITY TO EVERYONE

The former chairman, president, and CEO of Duke Energy, the largest electric power company in the United States, argues that access to clean, sustainable electricity should be a basic human right.

Without access to electricity, education, health care, efficient farming, and development are barely conceivable. One out of every 6 people worldwide (1.5 billion total) lack any access to electricity. Another 1.5 billion have limited access. Discussing income equality, equal rights for women, and other issues without talking about electricity, writes Rogers, “is a huge blind spot.” Everyone, he insists, will benefit from dramatically reducing the use of expensive and polluting kerosene and firewood and improving health and educational levels. The primarily coal-based supply systems of North America and Western Europe, which India and China are instituting, will not provide a sustainable solution. What is needed, Rogers argues, is “a new way to deliver [electricity] that doesn't involve the heavy pollution of power plants, or the complex grid of electrical wires.” The author presents case studies from India and Africa to show how small-scale solar power and battery-storage combinations are being used to provide light and cellphone charger capabilities at the village level. Rogers also examines installer education, maintenance, and payment systems, developing the case for power generation by way of franchises and locally authorized monopolies. As he notes, for remote rural villages, central generating and long-range grid distribution are not practical. Rogers provides a comprehensive overview of sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Indonesia as potential major contributors to the needed post-coal redesign of electrical production and distribution in America and Europe. He compares fuel sources and generating technologies in light of the challenges of reducing carbon emissions and global warming, and he both points out the problems and ranks proposed solutions.

A passionate, but not ideological, argument that offers a practical approach to solving real problems.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-137-27985-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

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EDISON

One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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