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US Energy Policy and the Pursuit of Failure Paperback – May 24, 2013
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Butler University economist Peter Z. Grossman offers a splendid, clearly written, masterly, wide-ranging analysis of these [energy] policy failures. His book is must reading for anyone concerned with energy policy and worth the attention of those with broader concerns about expansive government.- Richard L. Gordon, Regulation
Energy Book of the Year...Combining amazing detail, sparkling prose, and sound theory, Grossman fully exposes the mockery of a sham of our farcical "energy crisis" mentality stretching all the way back to the Nixon years. The book is over 350 pages of closely argued material, but not a single one of them drags. - Steven Hayward, powerlineblog.com
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to inquire deeply into U.S. economic history since the 1970s. - Kennedy Maize, Power
[I]mportant and sobering...with much insight about today's debate - Robert L. Bradley, Jr. masterresource.org
"Over the decades, many journalists and academics have chronicled the myriad misadventures of U.S. energy policy, but few have done it as thoroughly or as well as Butler University economist Peter Grossman does in his essential book, US Energy Policy and the Pursuit of Failure... With US Energy Policy and the Pursuit of Failure, Peter Grossman has revealed himself to be the preeminent historian of American energy policy." --Robert Bryce, National Review Online.
'U.S. Energy Policy and the Pursuit of Failure is exactly the kind of analysis that more economists should do. It brings in political transaction costs to explain how policies can go astray, endure, and reduce welfare. Given the plethora of policy recommendations for climate change mitigation, economists should take pause and be careful in what they call for.' Gary Libecap, University of California, Santa Barbara
'For four decades, politicians have promised a solution to the 'energy crisis' that will bring Americans 'energy independence'. Fusion, wind, solar, switch grass, or algae, the salvation technologies have changed but the promises remain the same and broken. In this important and entertaining book, Peter Grossman documents the history of energy policy failure. Most importantly, [he] explains why policy has failed. Crisis-mentality thinking has promoted quick fixes and single-shot 'solutions' that ignore market and technology realities. What we need is not a solution in the style of the Manhattan project but stable rules that support basic research while leaving plenty of scope for American entrepreneurship and innovation. Professor Grossman's careful history and insightful analysis is the key guide to a more modest but a more successful energy policy.' Alex Tabarrok, Director, Center for Study of Public Choice, and Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics, George Mason University
'Peter Grossman's definitive documentation of the failures of energy policy is a must-read for every policy analyst.' Murray Weidenbaum, Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor, Washington University, St Louis, and former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors during the Reagan Administration
U.S. Energy Policy and the Pursuit of Failure is about the serial failures of U.S. energy policy, failures that have been extraordinarily wasteful, with little learned by policy makers in the process. Congresses and presidential administrations have repeatedly backed failed policies because they promise solutions that in reality they do not and cannot provide, but that are politically expedient, even if the chances of practical success are close to zero.
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Top Customer Reviews
But the book is meant to be much more than a narrative history. Rather, Professor Grossman's aims: (1) to show that throughout this period U.S. energy policy often did more harm than good, (2) to explain why the policy process produced such perverse outcomes, and (3) to sketch recommendations that would lead to better results in the future.
Pursuit of Failure succeeds completely in the first of these three analytic tasks. Professor Grossman shows that, just as Hayek warned, government has repeatedly flunked the informational challenges implied by large-scale central planning of energy. Its track record in forecasting oil and gas prices has been abysmal. And the oil and gas allocation controls of the 1970s were catastrophic. The book also crushingly debunks claims that state-run "Apollo Programs" can transform energy technology.
Professor Grossman is also largely convincing in explaining why so many U.S. energy policies have gone so badly astray. The book notes that public policies that are ostensibly meant to correct market failures are themselves invariably imperfect. Flawed policy measures emerge, as political economists have long argued, because both formal and informal institutions preclude the adoption of better ones.
It is only with respect to the third analytic challenge, prescribing improvements, where I am left wondering if Pursuit of Failure has not fallen somewhat short of the book's otherwise very high standard. While Professor Grossman offers eleven principles for improving energy policy, they can largely be subsumed under a single theme. It is that energy policy needs to become far more modest than it has been. That is, policy should trust more to markets. It should eschew hubristic Apollo Projects. It should choose measurable goals. It should avoid subsidies meant to commercialize technologies, and so forth. I could not agree more. Yet, these principles can be effective only if energy policy makers adopt them. And the latter remain in thrall to the same perverse incentives that Professor Grossman has described. Perhaps, then, we should embrace the goal of a more humble energy policy while (like Professor Grossman himself) expecting that government, absent institutional change, will produce more of the same foolish policies.
In sum, Energy Policy and the Pursuit of Failure astutely applies lessons derived from institutional economics and political economy to current issues of energy policy. Professor Grossman has written a balanced and thoughtful book that will be of value to both the energy policy experts and the general reader.
This time, I was rewarded virtually paragraph by paragraph (especially in chapter 2) with insights that were of immediate, practical use in my field of work; which is “energy efficiency” and “clean energy” policy analyses. While these subjects were not directly covered in this book in the same depth as biofuels (for example), they could easily be the perfect poster children for the failures Dr. Grossman so thoroughly describes.