Energy is more than sources; energy is systems

When we talk about energy, we often talk about it in very disconnected ways. By that, I mean we talk about new renewable generation projects, we talk about cleaning up dirty old power plants, and we talk about personal decisions you and I can make to use less energy, or get more benefits from the same amount.

What we fail to talk about is how all those ideas fit together into a coherent whole. And that matters, because our energy problems (and our energy solutions) are about more than just swapping sources of power or making individual choices. We have to fix the systems, not just the symptoms.

Back in April, I got to go on Minnesota Public Radio's "Bright Ideas" to talk about my book, Before the Lights Go Out. Now MPR has the entire hour-long interview up on video. You can watch the whole thing if you want. But, if you're short on time, I'd recommend the stretch from about minute 8:30 to 10:50. That's where I explain in more detail why systems—infrastructures—are so important and why we can't solve our energy problems without focusing on how choices and sources fit into those larger issues.

Watch that clip, then read this Minneapolis Star-Tribune article about how investments in transportation-oriented bicycle infrastructure have changed the way Minneapolites think about biking and dramatically increased the number of people who choose to bike. I think you'll see some thematic connections.

Learn more about how our energy infrastructures shape our choices and our lives by reading Before the Lights Go Out.

Video Link


  1. They’ve got a relatively classy little studio there, as opposed to the typical radio studio booth type setup.

  2. Let’s all pretend that machines and methods that SOLVE energy crysis are not brutally supressed, or in some cases inventors even killed. Water automobile anyone? John Bedini anyone (to start with only…).

  3. That was an hour well spent. I’m far more pessimistic about straightforward political solutions to energy and climate but my pessimism doesn’t in any way negate an informative, thoughtful, and hopeful hour of talk about climate and energy. I’ve read boingboing since, IIRC, the second print issue and I think Maggie is quickly becoming my favorite contributor. At least once a week, I stop at a Koerth-Baker post and use my brain for a hour or more.  

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