A Declaration of Energy Independence, by ABC (Hardcover, 2008)|
(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you
want a hardcopy)
Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
Have you ever wondered why 80% of the cars in Europe
have standard transmissions while 80% in the USA have automatics? While
that question does not appear in this book, the answer does.
Jay Hakes is, by training and experience, a
researcher and data cruncher. Given Hakes' background, I was surprised
to find the text was so readable. I had expected wordy prose in passive
voice, but it's not that at all. He presented a huge amount of
information in the fairly tight space of 230 pages, and yet kept the
Hakes uses his special qualifications to build the
foundation for recommendations that are right on target. He also uses
these qualifications to build the (strong) case for following those
recommendations. While many people are in denial that there's an energy
problem, the reality is we do have one. We also have a closely related
pollution problem, largely from the same causes.
This book has one glaring flaw that I will discuss
in detail at the end of this review. I don't want to start off
discussing it because this book is, on the whole, an excellent work that
provides a dose of reality and reason that is badly needed among our
misrepresentatives in Congress as they go about their usual job of
making poor public policy.
One of Hakes' core philosophies is that there is
no silver bullet that will solve our energy problem. It's a complex
problem with a myriad of causes. It requires a myriad of solutions.
One of those solutions is waste reduction. We can
slash energy demand by simply being less wasteful. This doesn't mean
extremist measures such as turning thermostats down to 55 DegrF in the
winter, as recommended by Jimmy Carter. Other, more reasonable measures
can cut energy demands significantly. Hakes provides an excellent
overview of such measures. I won't list them here.
Millions of individuals and businesses are already
implementing these (and other) measures to varying extents. There are
economic and other pressures to make this happen. But even with waste
reduction measures being increasingly adopted on a voluntary basis,
there is plenty of room for improvement in this area--without becoming
severe about it.
Hakes doesn't harp on conservation (buzzword today
is "efficiency") as "the solution." Nor does he present some complex,
integrated program or claim that only government or only the market can
do the job. Instead, he presents several solutions that draw on
government and the private sector, acting in their proper roles. Hakes
is not a self-proclaimed expert with a personal agenda to push. Instead,
he's produced a timely work of research that is, with the exceptions
noted here, authoritative and well-substantiated.
So, what's actually in this book? It consists of
three parts and fifteen chapters.
Part One consists of seven chapters, and it
explains why our lack of energy independence is a problem. The first
chapter explains how we got to the not very good position we find
ourselves in now. Chapter Two shows how we won our energy independence
in the late 1970s. Chapter 3 explains how we lost it again. I appreciate
this particular sequence of chapters, as it builds the proper foundation
for what follows.
Chapter 4 discusses the huge cost we pay
militarily. What Hakes didn't point out is the USA spends more on its
military than the next nine nations combined. Which explains
quite a bit about why we are now the poorest nation in history, saddled
with a debt approaching $10 trillion.
Chapter 5 doesn't belong in the book. I provide a
detailed excoriation of it at the end of this review.
Chapter 6 explains, correctly, why "market
solutions" alone cannot solve our energy problems. Chapter 7 explains
why liberals and conservatives can come together on it. That's the
horizontal plane of the political arena. The vertical plane, which Hakes
doesn't mention, consists of the statists and the libertarians (not
referring to the Libertarian Party). Hakes correctly explains the proper
role of government in helping to solve the energy dependence problem.
Part Two consists of another seven
chapters, each of which describes a path to energy independence. I won't
list the actual recommendations, because doing so is a bit like
revealing the plot of a movie before the other person has seen it. I
will say the prevailing technical literature supports the economics and
feasibility of his recommendations (some tweaking may be required).
Part Three consists of Chapter 15. Here,
Hakes discusses what he feels we need from public policy makers and from
voters. But he errs in advising people to make energy an election issue.
If you look at the history of elections in the USA, you will see we
really have a single-party system. No matter which arm of the
Demopublican Party gets "elected," we still end up with massive
over-regulation, egregious overspending, and wars. So, you don't have
the power of choice at the ballot (at least, not on the federal level
where the big money is in play). Your only power there is the power of
objection, and to exercise that power you cannot vote Republican or
To get our misrepresentatives in Congress involved
in good public policy related to energy (or anything else), you have
reach their actual employers: the special interest groups that hire the
lobbyists. You may not personally be able to afford a $10,000 seat at a
fund-raising dinner that gives you an audience with your
misrepresentatives, but as a consumer you can lobby those who pay the
lobbyists. You can vote with your dollars, for example, in buying a
fuel-efficient car instead of an SUV and then send a letter
(explaining your choice) to Public Relations at the auto companies you
didn't buy from. That's just one example of the power you can wield to
Unfortunately, Hakes doesn't take this reality
into account when he talks about public policy. That doesn't change the
technical accuracy of his research or his recommendations. If he could
wave a magic wand and make his recommendations simply happen, I'd be all
Hakes and Global Warming
While most of the book reflects thorough research
and reasoned analysis, Hakes does have the religion of "global warming."
When he's writing in the throes of religious fervor, all reason leaves
him--and I mean that literally. While the rest of the book carefully
builds arguments and backs statements with facts, "global warming" is
presented as a self-evident truth that only infidels do not accept.
Hakes devotes an entire chapter (Chapter 5) to
this particular theology and yet the few facts supporting it are
cherry-picked and he spews a few discredited statements such as those
about "consensus of scientists." Rather than
excising the material (which is unnecessary to the main points of the
book), he defends this "faith-based" viewpoint by asserting such things
as we don't really need the data and people pick on Al Gore instead of
listening to his message (which, based on Al's behavior, is "waste as
much as you can").
A huge danger in spreading this particular
religion is it sets the stage for the carbon tax scheme, which will
divert smart minds away from focusing on the problems of efficiency to
focusing on how to game the new tax scheme. This diversion of rare
resources is one of the big problems we have right now with that mess we
call the Federal Income Tax (the tax code consists of 64,000 pages of
absurdity). Anyone wishing to exacerbate our existing problems will find
this new scheme very helpful.
Here are some facts not mentioned by Hakes:
- Remember the August 2006 heat wave that
killed so many people in Europe
and the USA? We saw that heat wave coming, and not because of carbon
dioxide levels. We knew it was coming because we could see a solar
flare that was 50 earth diameters in size (the sun rotates,
so we see some anomalies before we are in their path).
That's an enormous amount of energy. Anything man can do is
insignificant compared to that.
The sun so dwarfs the earth that if you were
to use a basketball to represent the sun, you would not be able to
see the earth with the unaided eye (unless you can see something
only 1 millionth the size of that ball). A little variation of the
sun causes a lot of variation here (and on Mars). Energy from the
sun reaches us in only 8 seconds.
- Mars has shown warming signs similar to our
own (yes, we do have warming--but also cooling). Read
about Mars warming, and you will see this. What do Mars and Earth
have in common? Hint: it's not SUVs.
- We have had record cold at both of our poles
in recent years. Just this year, the military had to cancel a
training exercise due to record low temperatures. Last year,
icebreakers opened an Antarctic migratory channel (the size of
Texas, if I recall) that had
inexplicably frozen over--biologists said failure to do so would
have caused massive kill-offs of Antarctic life. Why doesn't Hakes mention such things in
his proselytizing and explain them away? It appears we have more
weather cycling between extremes, rather than global warming or, as
some assert, an impending ice age. Since contradictory data
can support either claim, maybe another theory makes more
- I read that 80% of the record high
temperatures over the past two centuries occurred before
1950, but couldn't trace that back to an authoritative source.
What's a fact is that 1,000 years before the invention of the SUV
Greenland was actually green and didn't have ice--much warmer than
today. The remains of the grass huts are still there. And a mile
under today's glacier are the remains of a lush forest.
- Carbon in the air does not explain why we are
seeing volcanic activity under the ice at both poles or why the
poles themselves are moving (you can find the pole movement history
- Using core samples, we have found past eras
with markedly lower carbon and markedly higher temperatures. What's
the correlation between carbon and temperature?
Hakes refers reverently to the infamous Rio
conference on environmental issues, with no mention of the enormous
piles of waste that conference generated or the fact that Al Gore chose
a chartered jet instead of saving fuel and flying commercial like
everyone else. Gore's motivation has nothing to do with "saving the
planet" and everything to do with sating the outsized ego of Al Gore
(and, of course, adding even more millions of dollars to his millions of
dollars of net worth).
Hakes tries to nullify any objection to Al Gore by
remarking that people like to hate Al Gore and so don't listen to him.
No, we hate Al Gore precisely because we have listened to him and
are downright sick of his blatant and voluminous lies. In 2006, Gore
inflicted the world with a fraudumentary that should have been
named, "It's Inconvenient for Me to Tell the Truth." Various analysts
have produced rebuttals identifying 40+ errors of fact or outright
falsehoods. That's hardly a work of nonfiction.
From a June, 2008 issue of The Week:
"Al Gore's energy consumption at his spacious Tennessee home rose 10 percent
in 2007, despite the installation of solar panels and more efficient light
bulbs. Gore still consumes 50% more electricity every month than the average
American does in a year."
Looks like Al doesn't believe his own spiel. Who should know better than Al himself
that he's peddling absolute nonsense?
He's telling us this in no uncertain terms, which is rather sporting of him. Hakes should forget about global warming, and we
should all forget about Al Gore. We do not need these "ignore the data"
theories or "make Al Gore rich" programs to drive home the point that we
need to be better stewards of our resources.
I say this as a person who, unlike Al Gore, has a
negative carbon foot print (yep, I absorb more carbon than I release).
I've been on the "save energy" bandwagon since I was a little kid.
That's because my parents realized money doesn't grow on trees. They
were taught Depression era economics as kids, and they passed that
thinking on to their kids. Waste not, want not. I have so structured my
energy-conscious life that I buy gasoline only once every six weeks
despite living in a Midwestern suburb with no mass transit.