Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Summer Reading One

(Since I'll be "on vacation" this week at a family reunion and Model T tour in Wisconsin , I thought I'd share some thoughts on recent books I've enjoyed. Not "at the beach" summer reading, more like at the airport, on airplanes, and in hotel room reading.)

Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence by Robert Bryce should be required reading for politicians, pundits, and everyone else who likes to pop off about energy prices (which means 99.97% of the public. Bryce lays out the cold, hard facts of America's energy realities without pulling any punches or partisan pandering. In fact, Bryce directs equal amounts of venom at both Democrats and Republicans for either not understanding these realities or willfully choosing to ignore them to further their own political agendas.

Among well-researched and documents realities that Bryce explores:

- Like it or not, we will be dependent on oil and gas for most of of energy needs for the next thirty to fifty years.

- Existing alternative energy sources are nowhere near capable of providing the amount of energy America needs today or in the future. Bryce is a little more positive about the possibilities of solar power, but has little faith in the ability of wind power to make any appreciable contribution.

- Without expanding nuclear power production, America will not be able to keep up with future growth in demand for electricity.

- The idea that America could ever become truly "energy independent" is not only a pipe dream, it's something that makes no sense in today's economically interdependent world.

- Oil, gas, and more and more other sources of energy are now traded in global markets. To pretend that America alone can control and direct these energy markets is foolish and short-sighted.

- Ethanol is essentially a scam designed to funnel money to farmers and producers. Ethanol is not the answer for America and the notion that is has been for Brazil is mostly a myth.

- Whether you believe in anthopogenic global warming or not (Bryce seems to be agnostic on the matter), the costs to restructure our economy to meet the daunting carbon reduction goals far outweigh whatever benefits we may achieve. Bryce suggests that we accept whatever global warming man is causing as a cost of the global economic growth that is improving the lives of millions of people and take steps to mitigate the impacts of it.

Finally, in some ways Bryce's suggestions for international energy policy remind me of Thomas P.M. Barnett's approach to diplomacy. He suggests that the US learn to live with the fact that we don't necessarily like many of the countries upon whom we rely on for energy. But we don't have to like them to do business with them. And the more business we do and the more interconnected we become and the more these nations become part of the global web of nations, it would be far less likely that they would want to do anything to disrupt or limit supply since that wouldn't be in anyone's interest. Not sure if I buy in to this completely, but it is a more realistic approach than many being touted today.

1 comment:

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