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You have already heard much more than you would like about the presidential campaign in the United States. Believe me, we Americans have, too.
I know. I really know. You have already heard much more than you would like about the presidential campaign in the United States. Believe me, we Americans have, too.
The sort of verbal incontinence that afflicts American politicians in the run-up to elections can drive a perfectly sound mind around the bend. Not only is the diatribe unending, it is often confusing. As any good American politician would be, the current crop is adroit at changing stances, major and minor, depending on the direction that the wind of public opinion might currently be blowing. In fact, just over the last weekend, the Democrats flip-flopped from vowing to sustain the ban on offshore drilling on certain areas of the US continental shelf to vowing to support lifting of the ban. Conviction or expediency? It appears to be a moot point among the politicians.
As off-putting as the politicians and the process can become as the elections grow near, more vexing, and much more irritating, are the boatloads of political pundits who crawl out of the woodwork, both conservative and liberal. Turn on any radio or television in America today and, chances are, you will fall afoul of a pundit telling you exactly what a thief this candidate is or what a dunderhead that candidate is. Most have the intellectual capacity of a turnip coupled with the tenacity of a cougar. You can imagine how invigorating it is, then, to find a political pundit whose views are reasonable and practical, especially on the hottest issue of the campaign — energy prices and energy security.
It was with some trepidation that I picked up my review copy of A Declaration of Energy Independence by Jay Hakes (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2008), especially when I noted that he is currently head of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Another pundit, more diatribe thought I. Wrong, I was, as Yoda might say. Hakes has managed to put together a convincing argument for rational action on a large number of fronts as the solution to high energy prices and questions of US energy security. In doing so, he has also extended the argument to management of energy consumption and greenhouse emissions worldwide. His solutions include driving less through increased use of mass transit and ride sharing, expansion of drilling for offshore oil and gas, pushing ahead on advanced and alternative energy programs, suspension of filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (done) but only until the crisis subsides, and a number of other initiatives, all with the aim of cutting consumption while increasing all available supplies of energy. In other words, Hakes calls for rational use of all available remedies to get us through the crisis. As a solution, it should work even though in places (such as the major role buildings play in energy consumption and waste) it is overly simplistic. In other areas, Hakes attacks popular misconceptions head-on as when he identifies hydrogen as a non-viable energy option for the foreseeable future. As a Democrat (I assume, since he was head of the Energy Information Administration at the US Department of Energy during the Clinton administration and is now head of Carter’s library and museum), Hakes has the temerity to defend “big oil,” as the public increasingly calls us. At one point, Hakes notes, “But accusations that oil companies illegally ignore antitrust laws and fix prices have produced scant evidence to support them over the years.” A bit later, he asks his readers, “Shouldn’t energy prices rise and fall according to the balance of supply and demand, as do, for instance, agricultural products? Shouldn’t energy companies be allowed to pass on to consumers the added costs of, for instance, new environmental technology?” You bet Jay. If you get a chance to read Hakes’ book, I think you will find it an outpost of sanity in the mostly absurd babble surrounding the “energy crisis.”