Alexis Madrigal’s Powering the Dream smashes the myths and misconceptions of green energy perpetrated by the press and politicians. The reader gets an extensive history of alternative energy dating back over a hundred years to a time before oil. Madrigal also educates us on current alternative energy research, and provides insights on future possibilities. More importantly, he points out mistakes from the past that current researchers should avoid.
Everyone needs to understand alternative energy solutions. Gas prices will continue to rise as shortages occur. Congress continues to debate alternative energy resources, especially nuclear power and natural gas. Electric cars, solar energy, and wind appear in media articles on a regular basis, but none of these ideas are new. Madrigal explains it all to the reader from the beginning to the present as well as future possibilities.
The narrative begins at the TED Conference 2007 (Technology, Entertainment, Design). This conference invites the best minds, innovators, and technology gurus to participate. At the conference, John Doerr, a venture capitalist who recognized the importance of Amazon and Google early, gave an invigorating talk on the need for green energy and his concerns about global warming.
Doerr’s basic premise stated the Earth and our children need clean alternative energy. However, alternative energy only works, if investors and companies see the feasibility and economic benefits. The current green energy movement differs from previous generations because capitalists see a chance to earn income. The movement does not rely entirely on government research funds and ecological sentiment. This time around, economy and ecology drive the search for alternative energy resources.
Madrigal believes the country lacks a historical perspective on green energy. New green era researchers spend too much time reinventing the wheel. They make the same mistakes, and investigate ideas that have already failed. Some may have been ideas that failed due to bad science, while others may have been good ideas that failed because of bad policy or bad execution. In order for the country to advance alternative energy, researchers need to determine the inflection points at which good ideas went bad, and avoid them.