|Type of paper:||Book review|
|Categories:||Literature Energy Books|
Electricity gives life to our lives such that when darkness sets in, life seems abnormal. Nye discusses power outages in America from 1935 to 2003. In this book, David tackles the issues of what happens when there is a temporally electrical power outage and purports that the moment when lights go off is often memorable. Nye's massive knowledge on the role played by electricity in structuring the modern world enables him to present both sides of an argument. Nye argues that electricity has critically affected the way we work, live, talk and every other aspect of our lives (Nye,02). It would be practically impossible to do most of what life pertains in the absence of electricity. According to Nye, power outages are not merely due to technical problems and can be termed as the result of unpredictable political and economic judgements, military tactic against terrorism, social experience disruption, the crisis in a networked city, an abrupt meeting with sublimity or even a memory anesthetized in photographs.
Nye starts by discussing the energy revolution that started in the eighteenth century and that saw the onset of development of massive electrical grids. The first electrical utilities covered small areas and were not interconnected leading to frequent outages that were only confined to small areas. Nye argues that the construction of hyper-complex electrical grids covering massive geographical areas not only made blackouts in big areas possible but are also inevitable. Nye says that although electricity loss is still common in small grids, what interests him the most is the loss of electricity in large areas, their causes and the reactions that come as a result of the outages (Nye,100).
Nye discusses various situations that involve power outages to ascertain that power outage is not only caused by technical errors and to show the importance of electrical power in every day's life. The first situation that Nye examines is the world war 2 blackouts. According to Nye, the power loss was aimed at extinguishing lighting without eliminating all the uses of electricity. A lot of effort in the united states was geared towards planning blackouts until it became evident that bombers were no longer a serious problem. During the world war 2, power outages, especially in Europe, were organized and done as a major civil- defense activity that in the end proved not very effective despite the various unplanned total electricity losses (Nye, 33).
The Northeast outage of 1665 and 1977 is another situation analyzed. These outages affected massive areas and received a lot of attention. Although New York City is the only area that is analyzed in detail in the two cases, the outage resulted to loss of technological infrastructure and cause a type of social regression in the two cases.in 1965, strangers freely interacted with no barriers in economic classes leading to people rediscovering their neighbors. 1977 was marked by anarchy including looting and riots. In this case, darkness was equated with criminality and chaos unlike in 1965 where people experienced elation in darkness. to explain the reason for social compact seeming to have roots in the first case and absent in the second case, Nye uses psychological and sociological principles. The difference between the 1965 and the 1977 outages simply shows how time had changed causing New York to suffer from an economic loss of more than 600,00 jobs, rise in fuel prices and general electricity use.
Other situations analyzed to support the proposition that electricity outage is not only caused by technical failures and the importance of electricity are the blackouts experienced in the 2000 and 2001 summers in California and the electricity outage of 2003 that affected a large grid from New York to Ohio. Nye uses these situations to ascertain whether large-scale electricity grids are so common leading to normality in failure. Nye after assessing the 2003 blackout suggests that in order to avoid frequent blackouts, we should do away with large scale interconnection although blackouts result in changes that make the grid more robust. According to Nye, the California power outages are as a result of the history of deregulation in California preceding them. The flawed California system created adverse incentives resulting in electricity suppliers owning and exploiting the market power.
In one of his strongest chapters, Nye considers the possibility of terrorists' activities threatening the electrical grid and considers various ways that this could be done. The most serious way considered is the use of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that results from a nuclear weapon explosion. Nye ascertains that even a small explosion can trigger an EMP that can potentially destroy intertwined circuits over a big geographical grid. The destruction caused by an EMP could cripple both the production and the use of electrical power. Although there are a number of possible counters to all terrorist threats, most terrorist threats are geared towards causing panic and havoc in the population since crippling the electricity supply for long periods using EMP devices is practically difficult to do without being detected.
According to Nye, blackouts lower the value of human life and they break in the happening of social time that tell a lot about the course history of America. Every time that a blackout occurs, Americans are forced to challenge their defining situation- not as lonely and secluded people but as a community that is united binding itself with electrical signals and wires. According to Nye, most of the power outages in the US are due to long-term energy build up and stressed out electricity cables due to overuse errors that could be corrected by the Americans learning not to be over-dependent on electricity and consume less power or by building an alternative power generation system that is efficient and effective (Nye,177).
The author has used several sources to come up with the main content. The book was published in 2010 long after the events described took place. The time gap did not affect the main message because the events he describes were very serious and rememberable. The author wrote the material at the time he had already experienced the impact. The events he describes in the book are those that were witnessed first-hand and they made a lasting impression in the world. The author talks about the great northeastern blackout of 1965 in California when the flowing power catastrophe left fifty million individuals deprived of electricity. The author got the information from the documentation of the event and used is to pass the message to the reader.
In the book "when the lights went out" the author has used primary sources. He uses the sources to help the reader understand the past blackout that has happened. The sources are written newspaper documentation like New Yorker in 1942 which described riding on top of the fifth avenue bus when a wartime blackout began. The author attempts to use the source to understand what happened in the past and the impact the event had on people. The author gets tons of information form this newspaper about that past event. It is a very useful source to the author because it helps to describe the vent vividly which gives the reader a clear picture of what it looks like with a blackout and the effects it brings to the people.
The quotation used by the author in the book "when the lights went out" is from primary sources. Their quotations are from the newspaper used to get the information about the events. The author uses these quotations to present evidence of the event happenings. By using these quotations, the reader is able to know when the event happened and the impact they caused. The author does not represent both sides of the debate equally(Schwarz,78). This is because, in the final chapter, the author provides his solution to the problems on the blackouts. He says that electricity usage could be decreased as evidenced by the voluntary. This gives evidence that the author relies too heavily on the sources that favor one side. Nye does not discuss the mispricing of the electricity and the ubiquitous subsidies received by all forms of energy production. These issues can also cause blackout but the author does not include them in his book.
In my opinion, am persuaded by the author's argument. The author analyses all his argument in a vivid manner that convinces the reader about all the events. He makes sure that his message is well received by discussing all the impact electrification had impacted the lives of the Americans. The author's even-handed approach presents well all his sides of the argument which I support. I like his deep knowledge of the ways in which electricity structures modern life. the author I able to convince me using the sociological theory which explains well about human behavior. Use of technology such as electrify is sometimes disappointing causing blackout point which is well explained by the author using various events that have happened in the past(Fischer,108)
The evidence and the sources used by the author validate the author's thesis. This is because according to the author's thesis, the blackout is not only caused by technical errors but also by the effect of political and economic influences and tactics against a terror attack. He strongly discusses how terrorist activity threatens the electrical grid. This has been validated by the evidence given of America's blackout from the 1930s which the power failure had many suspecting terrorism, economic disturbances, political problems and represent a massive failure of infrastructure. Nye examines how all these technical unrelated issues caused a blackout in the past (Nye,147). There is no other way of interpreting this data because it's clearly stated how these issues caused a blackout in America. The authors discuss in World War 2 how the government would switch off power or interfere with the electricity sources to cause a blackout. This cannot be interpreted in another way because the author has supported his thesis with evidence of a past event.
Nye narrative is not complete. This is because although the author has given evidence of the events that the blackout has occurred, he has failed to mention some other part of the narrative like the mispricing of the electricity. I think the author should have provided some of the solutions that can be used to prevent blackout. This would complete the book because the author has strongly talked about the causes and the effects of the blackout to the American people. It would only be fair to the reader if he would have provided them with the solution of the blackout problem (Canfield,40). The story feels incomplete without the discussion of technology-focused initiatives like smart grid which can be used to improve power reliability and efficiency. This point should have been elaborated further for the readers. I also think that the point about how economic and political disturbances caused blackout out should be discussed in more details to let the reader know how it happened expertly to cause lights out.
In conclusion, the author has used this book well to highlight blackout as a method to clarify the conflicts that are critical to electricity usage in America. In his book, the customers have the desire to use more electricity but are skeptical to live next to a power plant. This comes as a surprise because, in an electrical grid where amplified difficulty has steered to an advanced likelihood of massive outages, the smart grid solution serves to further upsurge involvedness.
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