Thirst for Power: Energy, Water, and Human Survival

Thirst for Power: Energy, Water, and Human Survival

Michael E. Webber

Language: English

Pages: 248

ISBN: 0300212461

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Although it is widely understood that energy and water are the world’s two most critical resources, their vital interconnections and vulnerabilities are less often recognized. This farsighted book offers a new, holistic way of thinking about energy and water—a big picture approach that reveals the interdependence of the two resources, identifies the seriousness of the challenges, and lays out an optimistic approach with an array of solutions to ensure the continuing sustainability of both.

Michael Webber, a leader and teacher in the field of energy technology and policy, explains how energy and water supplies are linked and how problems in either can be crippling for the other. He shows that current population growth, economic growth, climate change, and short-sighted policies are likely to make things worse. Yet, Webber asserts, more integrated planning with long-term sustainability in mind can avert such a daunting future. Combining anecdotes and personal stories with insights into the latest science of energy and water, he identifies a hopeful path toward wise long-range water-energy decisions and a more reliable and abundant future for humanity.

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—Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey, 1957 WATER IS IMPORTANT TO LIFE, ecosystems, and most of the processes we care about. When NASA’s deep space probes look for life, they look for water. Water helps give DNA its shape, which means water gives life its shape.1 It is also a critical harbinger of environmental and ecosystem health. It has been said that the modern environmental movement in the United States launched in 1969 because of three separate, but important, water events: an oil spill, a

Nuclear Plant near Dothan, Alabama, would need to shut down. In California, two of its fabled nuclear reactors are sited on the coast between Los Angeles and San Diego. As one drives along I-5 between the cities, these nuclear reactors look surprisingly like two gigantic concrete breasts rising above the coast, just beside the highway and silhouetted by the ocean. Despite their evocative shape and their appealing, innocentsounding name—SONGS, which stands for San Onofre Nuclear Generating

water, the agricultural sector consumes the most. A vast preponderance of the water that is withdrawn for power plants is returned to the source, though at a different temperature and quality. The amount of water that is withdrawn and consumed by thermal power plants is driven primarily by a mix of factors including the fuel (coal, gas, nuclear, etc.), turbine design, cooling technology, and local weather. Nuclear power plants are particularly water intensive because, unlike power plants fueled

water to give more finely resolved information is appealing. The most common type of electricity meter is a device that measures energy in kilowatt-hours through electromechanical induction. These meters were first demonstrated in the late 1800s. Remarkably, today’s meters operate on the same principle. The electrical current spins a metal disc at a rate proportional to the electrical power—this is the familiar rotating dial inside the glass bowl of conventional electricity meters. It rotates

Seismicity Associated with Fluid Injection into a Deep Well in Youngstown, Ohio,” Journal of Geophysical Research Solid Earth 118 (2013), doi:10.1002/jgrb.50247. 32. Kuwayama et al., “Water Quality and Quantity Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing.” 33. Dina Cappiello, Frank Bass, and Cain Burdeau, “AP Investigation: Ike Environmental Toll Apparent,” USA Today, October 6, 2008. 34. Michael Schwirtz, “Sewage Flows After Storm Expose Flaws in System,” New York Times, November 29, 2012; “Raw Sewage

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