A Wyoming-based journalist and essayist chronicles her visits to nine electrical power stations across the country, examining the pros and cons of the fuel sources used at each site.
In a book that is part travelogue and part news report, Couch lucidly confronts the specter of what she calls the "new energy crisis.” Her project began as a way to learn about the major methods of electrical production, including those that involved wind, water, geothermal, solar and nuclear power. Between 2008 and 2010, Couch traveled around Wyoming and then to Nebraska, Iowa, Utah, Nevada, Texas, Kentucky and Maine to talk to "scientists, engineers, policy advocates, environmental activists, industry experts and the folks who work in or live around various sites of energy production." The result is a study that shows both the positives and negatives associated with nine different fuel types—excluding oil, which Couch associates with transportation rather than household or industrial needs—from which electricity is generated in America. She shows that none, including those that seem the greenest and the safest, are without some cost to use. For example, although the sun is an inexhaustible source of energy, its power can only be harvested for large-scale use in certain parts of the country. Moreover, a solar plant currently needs "seventeen times as much land as a nuclear [one] to generate the same amount of electricity." Couch does not offer any opinions on which fuels are ultimately best for an energy-hungry America. Instead, she presents information clearly and objectively to help readers better discern "the difference between numbers meant to impress, stories meant to persuade, and facts that prompt action."
Fair, thoughtful and balanced.