January 16, 2012


Michael J. Graetz, The End of Energy: The Unmaking of America's Environment, Security, and Independence (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England: MIT Press, 2011) (From the bookjacket: "It remains a basic fact of American life that, despite forty years of political fulminating, global conflict, and ever-increasing environmental awareness, most of us still take energy for granted. We take for granted that when we come home at night and flip on the light switch, the bulb will illuminate. We assume that when we turn up the thermostat, the heat will come on. And however acutely aware we may be of the price per gallon we pay, we take it as something close to a right of citizenship that when we drive an automobile up to one of the more than 100,000 gas stations in the United States, there will be fuel for our cars and trucks in the tanks beneath the asphalt. Without gasoline, the country would not run, and so there is gasoline, and barring extraordinary circumstances, there is plenty of it." Id. at 1. "For most of the twentieth century, . . . [w]e produced domestically the oil we used. And importing the relatively small quantities we sometimes needed to top off our domestic supply was far less complex as a technical and logistical matter--and given the remnants of colonialism, a much less tense geopolitical matter. That was another time. The decade that changed all that was the 1970s. It was then that the journey become the problem. Energy in America has never been the same since." "This book is about the problems, policies, and politics of energy in America, beginning with the crises of the 1970s, the varied responses to which continue to shape our current predicaments. It is about he major forms of energy--oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, hydro, solar, and wind--and how our government's attempts to control and decontrol, subsidize and command, legislate and repeal over the past four decades have produced a system and economy of energy production and consumption that fails to well serve our needs or those of our environment. The book is, then, in one sense a story of failure, but a story from which a great deal may be learned about how our democratic society might go about making better decisions for its energy future." Id. at 6. "It is inescapable that the risks of climate change from greenhouse gas emissions are real. It is also inescapable that we do not and cannot know with precision exactly what will happen or when it will occur. But we would be foolish not to take action to insure against the risks we face. After a detailed and careful review of the science and the climate change debate, The Economist concluded: 'The fact that the uncertainties allow you to construct a relatively benign future does not allow you to ignore futures in which climate change is large, and in some of which is very dangerous indeed. The doubters are right that uncertainties are rife in climate science. They are wrong when they present that as a reason for inaction.' " Id. at 158. This is a highly recommended historical perspective on American energy policy.).