Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology

Few today realize that electric cabs dominated Manhattan’s streets in the 1890s; that Boise, Idaho, had a geothermal heating system in 1910; or that the first megawatt turbine in the world was built in 1941 by the son of publishing magnate G. P. Putnam–a feat that would not be duplicated for another forty years. Likewise, while many remember the oil embargo of the 1970s, few are aware that it led to a corresponding explosion in green-technology research that was only derailed when energy prices later dropped.

In other words: We’ve been here before. Although we may have failed, America has had the chance to put our world on a more sustainable path. Americans have, in fact, been inventing green for more than a century.

Half compendium of lost opportunities, half hopeful look toward the future, Powering the Dream tells the stories of the brilliant, often irascible inventors who foresaw our current problems, tried to invent cheap and energy renewable solutions, and drew the blueprint for a green future.

3 thoughts on “Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology

  1. The satisfying culmination of a long journey I’ve been following Madrigal’s notes for this book, at the blog greentechnistory.com, possibly since its inception, however many years ago that was.From the beginning, this book project has been, to my knowledge, utterly unique: a view on modern cleantech / clean energy through the lens of history. I just don’t think it had occurred to many of us that clean energy — which seems so newfangled — had a long history. But in the pages of Powering The Dream we discover the earliest…

  2. A Conscience for Clean Tech Enthusiasts If the future of clean energy technology hopes to successfully enable our society’s transition away from fossil fuels it will have to remember all the moments when a more perfect power stood poised to usurp a constant flow of coal and oil only to find itself denied the spotlight. The American story is one of a philosophy reinforced through access to cheap energy and burgeoned by technological innovation. In Powering the Dream, Alexis Madrigal provides a conscience for the green energy sector,…

  3. Good for bringing a note of realism into clean energy discussions Madrigal’s book is a history of clean energy technology and the many wrong turns. Many environmentalists get too excited about the prospect of making our current society run on wind turbines and solar energy. “Powering the Dream” makes clear that getting this to work on a large scale will not be easy.I liked Madrigal’s analysis of the reasons behind the huge numbers of poorly insulated, poorly sited housing built in the American suburbs since World War II. Low initial cost was…

Leave a Reply