NS Book Review: A DECLARATION OF ENERGY INDEPENDENCE: HOW FREEDOM FROM FOREIGN OIL CAN IMPROVE NATIONAL SECURITY, OUR ECONOMY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

A DECLARATION OF ENERGY INDEPENDENCE: HOW FREEDOM FROM FOREIGN OIL CAN IMPROVE NATIONAL SECURITY, OUR ECONOMY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

 - A Nuclear Street Book Review by Randy Brich -

Part history book, part energy policy blueprint and part futuristic tome, Jay Hakes explains how the US got into its current energy situation and proposes some rather inventive ways to get out of it.  Beginning with Nixon every recent president has vowed to make America energy independent and, as Hakes points out:

…American dependence on foreign oil at current levels (60 percent of total consumption) constitutes a grave security and economic risk with greater consequences than the war in Iraq.

Hakes focuses on the importance of Executive Branch leadership, not surprising considering his resume. He is a former political science professor at New Orleans University and alumnus of the Carter Administration, having served as assistant secretary of the Interior Department under Cecil Andrus.  He was also Clinton’s head of the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration during most of the 1990’s.

With this background, Hakes knits together the various strands of energy policy garnered from each recent administration into a work of historical significance.  The details are sobering. But like they say, hindsight is 20:20 and A Declaration of Energy Independence: How Freedom From Foreign Oil Can Improve National Security, Our Economy, and The Environment provides an ample serving.   

Equally compelling as the threat to national security is the specter of global warming as Hakes predictably observes:

A United Nations panel of scientists reports that the planet is warming, due mainly to the combustion of fossil fuels. 

Although coal and nuclear generate about 50 and 20 percent, respectively, of the nation’s electricity Hakes unsurprisingly discounts both of these technologies’ future ability to solve our energy dilemma.  He maintains that burning coal releases carbon dioxide which causes global warming and that nuclear energy creates a nearly unsolvable waste problem.  He continues noting that Yucca Mountain isn’t safe enough and opts for research into deep crystalline rock disposal.  He further notes, albeit rather simplistically, that reprocessing is fraught with proliferation risks and concludes it is  too dangerous to implement. 

Arguing the need to develop other sources of energy, Hakes details a seven point program he claims is integral to achieving energy independence.  His solutions span the gamut from enlisting existing methods to shooting for the moon and include:

• Store massive emergency reserves – enlarge the Strategic Petroleum Reserve
• Drive the car of the future – significantly improve mileage
• Bring alternative fuels to market – primarily ethanol and biodiesel
• Plug into an electric future – develop plug-in electric vehicles
• Adopt energy taxes liberals and conservatives can like – both cap and trade and a new gas tax
• Make energy conservation a patriotic duty – reduce, reuse, reclaim, recycle and redesign
• Throw some Hail Marys – find a new source (algae) for biodiesel.

After reviewing the history of energy policy and discussing the alternatives, Hakes ominously concludes:

…dealing with oil dependence and global warming will require accepting some short-term pain, taking on powerful organizations with vested interests, and hammering out international pacts where all parties do not get exactly what they want. It may be, in the end, a universal regard for grandchildren that turns stalled negotiations into successful agreements.

As an account of the history of the lack of a meaningful national energy policy, this book does its job.  However, as an account of how to achieve energy independence, this book leaves the astute reader wanting something more realistic.

Jay Hakes
A DECLARATION OF ENERGY INDEPENDENCE: HOW FREEDOM FROM FOREIGN OIL CAN IMPROVE NATIONAL SECURITY, OUR ECONOMY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT
252 pp. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. $27.95 (2008)
978-0-470-26763-9

Randy BrichAbout Randy Brich
Randy graduated from South Dakota State University in 1978 with a M.S. in Biology.  After developing the State of South Dakota’s environmental radiological monitoring program, he became a Health Physicist with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, eventually transferring to the Department of Energy where he specialized in environmental monitoring, worker protection, waste cleanup and systems biology.  Later in his career he published a multi-sport adventure guide book and became a regular contributor to The Entertainer Newspaper’s Great Outdoor section. 

Since then he has retired from the federal government and, after taking time out to build an energy efficient house near the Missouri River, has formed Diamond B Communications LLC.  Diamond B Communications LLC uses a multimedia approach to explain complex energy resource issues to technical and non-technical audiences.  He also guides for Dakota Bike Tours, the Relaxed Adventure Company, offering tours of the Badlands National Park, the Black Hills and Devils Tower National Monument.

If you have questions, comments, or know of a book that you think Randy should review Email Randy Brich>> randy@nuclearstreet.com

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