The Path of Least Resistance Essay

The Path of Least Resistance Essay

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The path that the United States took to become the largest consumer of power in the world was one largely chosen by market forces and government intervention. The role of culture on the use of energy is negligible in comparison with the influences of economic and political factors. The choices to adopt several new methods to produce energy were caused by the backing that these energies had in creating wealth or saving money for those who used the new energy and by the backing of the government through direct and indirect subsidies. One can examine the transitions to coal, oil, nuclear power, and current transitions toward green energy in order to see that the market forces are the dominant factor in dramatic increase of energy consumption in the United States.
Coal was the cutting edge of energy generation before any other source was extensively used. Wood, wind, water, and muscle power provided nearly all of the energy before the widespread adoption of coal. The greater energy density of coal provides a greater efficiency than these other methods of generating power; combine that greater efficiency with its ease of transportation and coal easily becomes the fuel of a nation. In its early days, coal was mined and consumed in England, a country short on wood and usable water power. This shortage in other areas left a gap that the relatively cheap coal could fill. Coal allowed for industry and manufacturing to grow and produce profits greater than almost any other industry. Coal gained its popularity mainly because it had an economic value in that it provided energy in quantities and in locations that were unobtainable and unreachable for the other energy sources at the time. This start in England led to momentum in ta...


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...ercame this view and made consumption of new energy sources rise. The United States became the foremost user of energy in the world because the free market economy and the government subsidies of energy made the path of energy consumption the one most easily taken.



Bibliography

Freese, Barbara. Coal, A Human History. New York: Penguin Books, 2003
Gutfreund, Owen D. 20th-Century Sprawl, Highways and the Reshaping of the American Landscape, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Madrigal, Alex. Powering the Dream, The History and Promise of Green Technology. New York: Da Capo Press, 2011.
Nye, David, Consuming Power, A Social History of American Energies. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1998.
Walker, J. Samuel. Three Mile Island. Berkley: University of California Press, 2004.
Yergin, Daniel. The Prize, the Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power. New York: Free Press, 1991.

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