America's electrical grid, an engineering triumph of the twentieth century, is turning out to be a poor fit for the present. It's not just that the grid has grown old and is now in dire need of basic repair. Today, as we invest great hope in new energy sourcessolar, wind, and other alternativesthe grid is what stands most firmly in the way of a brighter energy future. If we hope to realize this future, we need to reimagine the grid according to twenty-first-century values. It's a project which forces visionaries to work with bureaucrats, legislators with storm-flattened communities, moneymen with hippies, and the left with the right. And though it might not yet be obvious, this revolution is already well under way.
Cultural anthropologist Gretchen Bakke unveils the many facets of America's energy infrastructure, its most dynamic moments and its most stable ones, and its essential role in personal and national life. The grid, she argues, is an essentially American artifact, one which developed with us: a product of bold expansion, the occasional foolhardy vision, some genius technologies, and constant improvisation. Most of all, her focus is on how Americans are changing the grid right now, sometimes with gumption and big dreams and sometimes with legislation or the brandishing of guns.
The Grid tellsentertainingly, perceptivelythe story of what has been called "the largest machine in the world": its fascinating history, its problematic present, and its potential role in a brighter, cleaner future.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Way of the Wind 1
Chapter 2 How the Grid Got Its Wires 25
Chapter 3 The Consolidation of Power 57
Chapter 4 The Cardigan Path 85
Chapter 5 Things Fall Apart 115
Chapter 6 Two Birds, One Stone 149
Chapter 7 A Tale of Two Storms 185
Chapter 8 In Search of the Holy Grail 219
Chapter 9 American Zeitgeist 255
Afterword: Contemplating Death in the Afternoon 291