The emerging “energy crisis” in the United States results from the conflict between the nation's insatiable need to consume energy at an ever-accelerating rate and the opposing need to conserve resources, both natural and fiscal. Assessing the extent of the problem and recommending solutions, a long-term project to which this book makes important contributions, are vital to a society and an economy that are fundamentally dependent on energy production and consumption.
This report concentrates on the technological status of energy and fuel conservation process in the United States. It assesses the technical and economic adequacy of existing and proposed processes (and their consistency with developing standards of environmental quality) and suggests where additional effort is needed to accelerate change.
Unlike most studies, which restrict themselves to an examination of a single energy source or industry, this report examines in turn most of the various methods of energy production now in use or likely to come into general use. This wholeness of view allows the authors to make meaningful comparisons between alternative proposals and to devise integrated growth strategies.
As a full technical report, the book includes the available numerical evidence needed to corroborate its final assessments. However, the latter are presented unambiguously for use by economists and businessmen, political scientists and politicians, environmentalists and all other concerned citizens; the more detailed technical sections are a bonus for the working engineer.
Chapters are included on fossil fuel-to-fuel conversion (gas from coal, oil from coal, tar sands, and oil shale), nuclear power (present technology, breeder reactor technology, and thermonuclear fusion), and central-station power from fossil fuel (with material on combined gas-steam power cycles, magneto-hydrodynamics, superconducting generators, and fuel cells). In addition, the book provides background information and evaluations regarding other relevant topics, among them energy transportation and storage, thermal and sulfur dioxide pollution control, the prospects for utilizing solar energy, automotive power plants, and space heating and cooling.
The book is an outgrowth of a study undertaken by the M.I.T. Environmental Laboratory, sponsored by Resources for the Future, Inc., which was in turn sponsored by the National Science Foundation.