AMERICA'S ENERGY: Reports from The Nation on 100 Years of Struggles for the Democratic Control of Our Resources by Robert--Ed. Engler

AMERICA'S ENERGY: Reports from The Nation on 100 Years of Struggles for the Democratic Control of Our Resources

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An anthology of critical writings pertaining to energy sources--coal, electric power, oil, nuclear power, ""alternatives""--culled from the last 61 years of The Nation. The titular mention of 100 years presumably refers to the Nation's inception in 1865; but, as Robert Engler (Politics of Oil, The Brotherhood of Oil) points out in his introduction, the early Nation was very cool toward investigations of, notably, the Standard Oil trust. Since the 1920s, however--for external and internal reasons that Engler, unfortunately, doesn't touch upon--the magazine has published many punchy analytical reports on energy-related issues, from Muscle Shoals to shale oil, by the crusaders (George Norris, Judson King, Stuart Chase, Fiorello La Guardia), the sages (Leo Szilard, Norbert Weiner, Jacob Bronowski, E. F. Schumacher), and its own distinguished watchdogs: I. F. Stone, Robert Sherrill, Fred Cook, Carey McWilliams, Penny Lernoux. The hundred-plus here are grouped by energy-source, with the result that the groupings are heterogeneous--combining articles on public vs. private power, environmental despoliation, health and safety, etc.--save in the case of the largest category, oil, which is usefully broken down. More clearly detrimental is the absence of headnotes--to identify the authors, put the events in context, and generally alert readers to the significance of the piece. (Engler's cursory introductions to the sections, and the skimpy notes on authors following the index, are no substitute.) Still, there are some exceptional pieces here, and none without interest. Among the most prophetic: I. F. Stone's 1944 warning against dependence on Arab oil (which foresaw not only why it would someday cease to be ""very cheap,"" but the enormous cost of ""defending the sea and air routes over which it must travel""). Among the best of recent date: Bruce Johansen's fix on what the Indians have to lose from the uranium on their lands and John Shattuck's inquiry into the civil-liberties inroads of nuclear-power development. The collection is a valuable source, then, for a 60-year political perspective on energy problems, if not what it might have been as a documentary history.

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 1980
Publisher: Pantheon