A Declaration of Energy Independence
America and its energy future
By Steven Martinovich
Although gas prices have relented in recent weeks, the energy issue remains a front boiler issue in the American election campaign. Befitting that America hasn't had a coherent energy policy in decades, if ever, the response has been all over the map. The political left has been calling for a Carter-esque plan which sees increased conservation, funding for alternative sources of energy, and a weaning off oil is the engine of the economy. On the right, there are calls for increased domestic drilling for oil, opposition to government intervention and weariness to explore conventional energy alternatives.
Into this debate enters Jay Hakes with A Declaration of Energy Independence: How Freedom from Foreign Oil Can Improve National Security, Our Economy, and the Environment, an effort which attempts to straddle the ideological fence with a plan to make the United States energy independent for strategic, economic and environmental reasons. Unfortunately Hakes embarks on his ambitious quest burdened by a number of assumptions which ultimately destroy his efforts.
Hakes opens A Declaration of Energy Independence with an exploration of past American energy policy, one that sees him sympathetic to the Carter "legacy", one that saw a remarkable amount of money spent on alternative energy programs with little to show for it. He has fewer kind words to say about the next few presidents and eventually comes to the conclusion that the 2003 war in Iraq was essentially about oil.
Though he proclaims a bipartisan approach to energy policy the key to his agenda is government action and prescription – essentially a return to Jimmy Carter's energy policies of the 1970s. He calls for taxes on energy, likely heavy and sustained judging by his program, including a $2 a gallon gas tax phased in over ten years, and conservation – a "patriotic duty". He all but argues government should tell Americans what sort of cars they should drive, and heavy investments should be made in alternative energy. Instead of considering hydrogen and synfuels, Hakes believes the U.S. should pursue increased use of ethanol and biofuels – apparently oblivious to the effect it's already having on world food prices.
Incredibly, Hakes managed to write an entire book on American energy policy and failed to mention domestic oil drilling. Nowhere does ANWR or the Bakken Formation even merit a passing mention, nor the untold and largely untapped reserves sitting off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Given that the world sits on untapped reserves which could last as long as a century before being exhausted, it's hard to believe that it could play no role in the far future. It's difficult to believe that someone could pen a book arguing independence from foreign oil without even mentioning the rich reserves that the United States sits on unless it was on ideological grounds alone.
For an effort proclaiming an unbiased and open approach to the subject matter, A Declaration of Energy Independence simply accepts anthropogenic climate change as a given, declaring that the science has been "settled", undoubtedly a surprise to the tens of thousands of scientists who profoundly disagree. Unfortunately, Hakes often makes blithe statements with little supporting evidence or underlying methodology throughout his book, whether on climate change to the value of alternative energy like solar or wind.
Hakes is indeed correct that the United States does need a coherent energy policy and elements of his plan certainly do merit some consideration. Conservation, for example, hardly hamstrung the American economy during the late 1970s and early 80s. Other approaches, such as alternative fuels, have shown little promise of displacing the primacy of oil any time soon due to cost, efficiency and logistics. The fact that oil doesn't even have a role in Hakes' future makes his efforts to craft an energy policy we can all agree on wholly unrealistic.
Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.
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