By Robert B. Laughlin
Basic Books, $26.99, 223 pages
While politicians dazzle you with a promise of endless supplies of fossil fuel energy, Robert Laughlin lays out a sober outline of powering the future. The clock began winding down since the discovery of giant caches of crude oil, natural gas and coal. Now that the end of such caches nears, Laughlin hopes to prepare the political arena for the wake-up call. This, he eloquently explains, is how we will rescue ourselves from the disaster that will follow from the last drops of oil, the final puff of gas and the end of the endless bricks of coal.
“…unless the world rids itself of nuclear technology altogether…nuclear power will remain in the background, disavowed by elected governments but nonetheless standing by, ready to expand into the economic vacuum left as coal and oil retreat.”
Already in the making are the many sources of renewable energy, including: solar, wind, biodiesel, manure gas and nuclear power. In addition, Laughlin sees how we can stave off energy starvation by investing in alternate fuel sources before the real crisis begins. These are in addition to the already huge investment many countries have made in nuclear energy plants. Laughlin feels that all sources of energy must be exploited in order for sovereignties to exist. Even though many of these ambitious programs are only in the formulary stages, he claims that we are heading in the right direction thanks to government-driven incentives and the feasibility of profit among private enterprises.
He seems to think that nuclear plants have the most promise. At the same time concerns of disposal of spent nuclear waste pile up, Laughlin sees how we can recycle it. Building scrubbing plants that will utilize the heat cast off by spent power modules can be used for steam-powered plants to generate electricity.
Laughlin paints a picture of the golden age of energy. He reflects assuredly on the promise of a new age. This is an invigorating and inspiring read that will propel your thoughts to our future.
Reviewed by D. Wayne Dworsky