Radio documentary on elections and America's energy future: The Power of One, with Alex Chadwick

BURN: An Energy Journal, the radio documentary series hosted by former NPR journalist Alex Chadwick, has a 2-hour election special out. It's the most powerful piece of radio journalism I've listened to since—well, since the last episode they put out. You really must do yourself a favor and set aside some time this weekend to listen to “The Power of One.”

Energy policy, defining how we use energy to power our economy and our lives, is among the most pressing issues for the next four years. In this special two-hour edition of BURN, stories about the power of one: how, in this election season, a single person, place, policy or idea can — with a boost from science — affect the nation’s search for greater energy independence.

The documentary examines how "individuals, new scientific ideas, grassroots initiatives and potentially game-changing inventions are informing the energy debate in this Presidential Election year, and redefining America’s quest for greater energy independence." It was completed and hit the air before Hurricane Sandy, but the energy issues illuminated by that disaster (blackouts, gas shortage, grid failure, backup power failure at hospitals) further underscore the urgency.

Chadwick and a team of reporters do this through a series of "intimate, human-scale stories," traveling to the energy frontier of the Arctic Ocean, to Pennsylvania’s natural gas-rich “Marcellus Shale” region where the national “fracking” controversy runs deep, and a university lab in Colorado where a female scientist is building a battery that aspires to be the “Holy Grail of green technology.”

“Energy and climate are such big stories – there is a reason that both campaigns often talk about the economy, jobs and energy all tied together,” says Alex. “It’s easy to get overwhelmed by how big these topics are. What BURN tries to do is tell smaller stories that provide insight into how people’s lives are changed by the energy choices they and others around them make. ‘The Power of One’ is about how individuals can make a difference, even in something so globally immense as energy.”

The website for the series is here, and includes all sorts of compelling side stories, like this photo-essay about a mobile home community torn apart by a shale gas project: the Riverdale mobile home park, which once sat on the banks of the Susquehanna River in north-central Pennsylvania.

"Earlier this year, all the Riverdale trailer families were evicted to make room for a pump station and pipeline that would move Susquehanna water to fracking sites elsewhere in the state."

Alex visited Riverdale with freelance photographer and Pennsylvania resident Lynn Johnson, who works on assignment for National Geographic. Two of Lynn's images, below.

Deb Eck, with her twin daughters, works long hours managing a retail store. She became a reluctant movement leader. (Lynn Johnson)

The new owners erected chain link fencing around what was becoming adisputed construction zone. The fence separated residents who remained from those who had become their advocates. (Lynn Johnson)

Images at top of post, L-R: Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, Getty Images; A burn-off from a fracking site illuminates the Pennsylvania sky, photo by Les Stone; part of a wind farm in Gratiot County, Michigan, photo by Scott Carrier.