America’s energy discussions contain “far too much religion and far too little science,” writes the author, who carefully, gleefully throttles the meaningless rhetoric driving the cry for energy independence.
Energy Tribune managing editor and Texas Observer contributor Bryce (Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, America’s Superstate, 2004, etc.) offers mostly convincing arguments that don’t require an advanced degree to follow. Our nation is hungry for energy, he notes. Our energy is dominated by oil, no alternative comes close to it in cost and efficiency, and none will for decades to come. We haven’t produced enough oil for our needs for half a century; we no longer can, nor ever will again. Bryce starts by systematically debunking grandiose claims made for alternative energy sources. Corn ethanol is his bête noire, a subsidized hoax on the American taxpayer that could never meet more than a fraction of our energy needs. Cellulosic ethanol and coal-to-liquid are both way down the road, he declares; wind and solar, his personal favorites, are fractional producers. In a voice ardent and beseeching, Bryce urges Americans to educate themselves about the world’s biggest enterprise, to have at least a modest grasp of thermodynamics, to rationally assess the costs and potential benefits of available resources. That last step includes taking a realistic look at the above alternative fuels, as well as nuclear energy, coal and algae-based biodiesel. A meaningful energy policy requires taking in hand the economic, political and military shenanigans that beset it: cleaning out the pork barrels, engaging rather than bullying the global community, sinking the neocon agenda. For all his research, stark realism and common sense, Bryce can occasionally be crudely nearsighted, as when he dismisses concerns about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore drilling to supply but a year of Florida’s gas needs.
High-order muckraking and an excellent primer for addressing the real question: How are we going to handle energy interdependence?