Power to the People: How the Coming Energy Revolution will Transform an Industry, Change our Lives, and Maybe Even Save the Planet
Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran
May 28, 2005
Imagine a world where SUVs emit harmless water vapor instead of dangerous toxins, where consumers sell electricity back to utility companies - for a profit? TODAY'S ENERGY REVOLUTION IS BIGGER THAN THE INTERNET REVOLUTION.
The break-up of AT&T over two decades ago unleashed the flurry of innovation, entrepreneurship and investment that brought the world cellular telephones, broadband cable, cheap long-distance calls and, of course, the Internet. What is about to happen in the energy realm is every bit as dramatic as the telecommunications revolution and much more important.
In POWER TO THE PEOPLE Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran, the energy and environment correspondent for The Economist, explains the great opportunities in the energy realm today. He argues that there are three interrelated forces reshaping the world of energy:
1) The global move toward the liberalization of energy markets. Around the world, governments are liberalizing their energy markets and opening their borders to cross-border trade in gas and electricity. (The result is an outpouring of entrepreneurship, financial capital, and innovation).
2) The emergence of a new generation of market-friendly environmental activism. Concern about local air pollution and climate change is leading to intervention in favor of cleaner power and transport.
3) An explosion of technological innovation based on hydrogen energy and fuel cells. He goes on to explain how shifting to the use of hydrogen energy will turn the energy industry as well as the green debate on its head. News about the environment doesn't usually inspire optimism, but Vaitheeswaran's multi-disciplinary experience allows him to imagine an energy industry and a world in which contentious parties work together and in their own best interests toward a brighter tomorrow. Most importantly, he lays out the practical steps we'll take to get there. He cuts through the rhetoric of the right and the left and finds the ideas he believes will really work such as free markets working together with environmental goals and profiles quirky and visionary players from all sides. The planet-saving ideas he reports on are far from idealists' whims. They are supported by the likes of Ford, GE, Motorola, Shell Oil, BP, the US Army, and Presidents Bush and Clinton, as well as environmentalists.
Cleary, this shift away from an oil-based industry will have huge ramifications politically as well as environmentally. Energy is the world's biggest business, generating nearly 2 trillion dollars a year, and the way we use energy now is the single most destructive thing we do to our planet. The key to sustainable development lies in the clean use of energy and POWER TO THE PEOPLE shows us how today’s energy revolution promises just that.
Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran is The Economist's Environment and Energy Correspondent, covering developments in politics, economics, business, and technology as they relate to energy issues. He has received awards for his journalism, and previously wrote about Latin America as the magazine's regional bureau chief in Mexico City. Born in Madras, India, he grew up in Cheshire, Connecticut and graduated from MIT with a degree in mechanical engineering. He now lives in New York.