This is a fascinating story on many levels. Professor Klein describes the many technological breakthroughs from the invention and refinement of steam engines and turbines to the development of power plants and transmission grids that fit together like a complex jigsaw puzzle to create the modern electric utilities we know today. Along the way, he provides clear, understandable descriptions of the essential science and technology.
Professor Klein also explains why Edison and Westinghouse achieved great commercial success while other equally brilliant scientists and inventors such as Tesla faded into obscurity. The commercially successful innovators combined technological brilliance with the fine arts of raising money in private capital markets, procuring government contracts and subsidies, pursuing intellectual property lawsuits, mastering (and often influencing) a maze of new and changing government regulations, and of course self-promotion and public relations. Their successes provide important lessons for those of us working to build a clean and sustainable energy industry today.
The early oil trusts concentrated power and control to make massive and risky investments in oil wells and the infrastructure needed to refine the oil and transport it to market. Over time, however, that concentration of economic power threatened to harm the economy and cause innovation to stagnate. After Standard Oil was broken up as a result of President Teddy Roosevelt's antitrust suits, big oil did not weaken and wither. To the contrary, the new competition between what became 7 major oil companies actually strengthened the oil industry.
When we look at government energy policies today, it is important to remember the critical role that government policies and investments have played -- and continue to play -- in the business of oil and electricity. Big Oil is what it is today because of many government decisions from the construction of a national highway system to foreign policy decisions in the Middle East. In like manner, renewable energy will be defined not just by technological advances, but also by government policies and investments in basic infrastructure.
Both of these books read like Tom Clancy novels, with exciting characters who come to life and great technical details that are clear, accurate, and do not put you to sleep. Only these stories are 100% true and hold critical lessons for those of us who want to replicate the successes of dirty energy with clean and renewable alternatives.