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Showing 1-10 of 30 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 47 reviews
on April 28, 2017
A thoroughly excellent description the problems Americans face in obtaining their petroleum supplies at manageable prices
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on December 2, 2011
First and foremost, this book is not a comprehensive critique analyzing why we hate oil companies. Whoever chose the title of the book has mislead you. Instead, it is a high level perspective describing energy production and security in the U.S.

Hofmeister's writing style and use of personal anecdotal experiences is engaging and smooth. The background information he relates is informative and supports many of his assertions. I found such elements useful. His discussion contrasting "political time" vs. "energy time" is particularly acute and sage. Also informative is his analysis concerning the popular notion of substituting "green energy" resources (e.g., solar, hydro, wind, biofuels) for more conventional forms of "brown energy" resources (coal, oil, gas, nuclear). He makes a strong arguement as to why green energy is not capable of substantially meeting energy gaps/needs now or in the near future. As such, Hofmeister makes a strong case for expanding our known and reliable forms of energy (e.g., coal, gas, oil, nuclear).

Hofmeister writes little in his book analyzing or investigating his title question "why we hate oil companies?". His analysis focuses principally on why oil (and other energy companies) can't produce more energy....and blames this squarely on our government. He provides examples that reflect poorly on Congress, the Executive Branch, and our federal court system. These examples do show our government's flaws with respect to addressing energy needs. As such, his summary answer to "why we hate the oil companies? is: "Because politicians have taught us to by using them as scapegoats for their own inability to lead and because the oil companies have been content, along with utilities, to sit it out under a rock, making money all the while. In fact, the energy companies and special interests are party to the whole mess, given their fealty to the extraordinary fragmentation that our system has created and thus deserve some of our disdain."

While some people may hate oil companies because they've not exercised much judgement when listening to various politicians, that answer falls well short of "why we hate the oil companies." Frankly, there are many reasons as to why people either hate or have contempt for oil companies. Some leading reasons include multiple large oil spills offshore America's coasts(e.g., Santa Barbara oil spill off California; the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico). Such spills adversely impact our coasts and disrupt our jobs and recreation. They soil and tar our wildlife, boats and beaches. Inland, oil companies activities have polluted our lands, contaminated our water supplies, and overall our living spaces. Time and again, oil companies have shown the public they cannot be trusted to follow best industry practices/guidelines, or to comply with federal laws and regulations. There are numerous examples showing intentional negligence, short cuts, and cost-cutting on the part of oil companies that resulted in oil spills (e.g., BP not pigging some of their pipelines on the North Slope for 10 years, though such was required, and resulting in the largest oil spill on Alaska's North Slope; BP's engineerning short cuts leading to the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico) or other environmental impacts that were adverse. Or how about the the outright dishonesty and deceit exhibited by oil companies responsible for oil spill catastrophies (e.g., the scrubbing of electronic communications between Exxon executives shortly after the Exxon Valdez started spilling oil into Prince William Sound). And of course, there are numerous cases whereby oil companies have subverted, obfuscated, or leveraged public officials/agencies to NOT adopt or drop certain requirements that would have improved safety for people and/or reduced hazards to our natural resources. For example, months before the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, oil companies (including BP and ExxonMobil) successfully lobbied the federal government to NOT adopt additional safety measures (used elsewhere in the world)to reduce risks associated with deepwater drilling operations.

It's worth noting that Hofmeister spends a lot of time finding fault chiefly with the various branches of the federal government (executive, legistlative, and judicial)and his solution is they must change (not industry). I found many of his accusations accurate and precise. For example, partisanship is hindering our advancement past certain bottlenecks on a number of problems facing our nation. What is missing from his book however, is a candid discussion addressing the oil companies or energy industries faults and how they might change to benefit our country. To his credit, Hofmeister accurately points out that the oil companies are in it for themselves (ok, that's capitalism) and it is government's role to manage outcomes in the interests of society. So Hofmeister faults the government for regulating the energy industries, inferring that government gets in the way of energy producers to the detriment of energy producers and society. However, because he fails to dig deeply to identify why we hate the oil companies, he also fails to address that the public and the government do not trust oil companies to "do the right thing" for society, but rather to will do what is right for the oil companies and their share holders. And because the government is supposed to represent the interests of the public, they MUST regulate oil companies and other energy industries. However, I agree with Hofmeister in that our government can and should be doing a better job making our energy both affordable and secure, all the while making energy companies fully accountable to society for environmental or social harm they may do.

Based upon my reading, Hofmeister's chief purpose for the book is to advance his idea of establishing a Federal Energy Resources System, much like our nation's Federal Reserve System overseeing the nation's financial sector. The Federal Reserve is independent within government in that "its monetary policy decisions do not have to be approved by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branches of government." Its authority is derived from statutes enacted by the U.S. Congress and the System is subject to congressional oversight. Hofmeister suggests replacing the present governmental regulatory system (a complex and encumbered web of federal agencies influenced by presidential and legislative politics, election cycles, and periodic tweeking by the judicial branch) with a Federal Energy Resources System. Such a system would likely absorb some federal agencies (e.g. BOEM, BESSE, NRC) in full and draw regulatory authority away from other federal agencies (e.g., EPA, NOAA/NMFS, FWS, BLM). The concept is intriqueing and with some merit, however, I have some strong reservations as to adopting such a system. For one, as I understand it's structure, it would distance its Board of Govenors from being truly accountable to the voting public. It would also substantively disrupt one of our government system's leading tenets, that being governmental checks and balances. Wrapping all energy and associated environmental issues (e.g., natural resources potentially impacted by energy projects) into one federal board headed by a single chairman might expedite energy decisions and projects, but it is ripe for abuse leading to environmental degredation and social injustices. Finally, the Board and its Chairman would also be vulnerable to being "captured" by various sectors or companies of the energy industries. When federal agencies are captured by the industry(s) they are responsible for regulating, they often minimize regulating the industry and public resources often suffer in one form or another. For example, the Minerals Management Service (a federal agency within the Dept. of Interior), was responsible for regulating the offshore oil industry. They were effectively "captured" by the offshore oil and gas industry, reduced government permitting and inspections that later contributed to BP's Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. Post Deepwater Horizon, the Minerals Management Service changed its name to BOEMRE and was then split into three different federal agencies to establish more checks and balances in regulating the offshore oil industry. Basically, my concern is that as proposed by Hofmeister, a Federal Energy Resources Board/System would have little accountability to the public (i.e., voters and taxpayers), be highly vulnerable to being captured by energy industry members, and be likely to make unbalanced decisions that benefit energy producers and are environmentally/socially destructive or harmful. The idea has merit, but needs more balance and vetting.

In all, I recommend reading Hofmeister's book, wherever you may fall in the spectrum of energy consumers. You will learn important information as to where we have been, where we are now, and where we might be in the future with respect to energy resources and security. Please note that Hofmeister poses a bleak energy forecast for our future (frankly overhyped and full of weak assumptions) that may/may not be accurate. I agree with him, that we as a nation must act thoughtfully and promptly to blaze a new path forward to power our nation's economy, and that it will involve blending energy resources (green and brown)to meet our energy needs and wants. Just read his book with a critical mind; challenge his assumptions, positions, and suggestions. And ask yourself "do you hate the oil companies? if so, why?"
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on June 28, 2010
I heard Mr. Hofmeister lecture at Florida State University and ordered his book since the local libraries didn't seem to be doing it. He makes a strong case for shoring up the "bridge" hydrocarbons and nuclear while we are going about setting up the "new" alternative energies and hydrogen fuel cells. The current utilities infrastructure is aging and no new nuclear or coal plants have been built since the 70's--the life expectancy of a utility plant is 50 yrs and the average age of our plants is 38 yrs and it takes about a decade to get a plant online - so in 10 yrs if we haven't done anything we will be facing brownouts and shortages - which all the "alternative energy sources" planned will not make up for. To get some consistent policies so companies can plan ahead, he suggests an "energy resources board" like the Federal Reserve Board - independent of political cycles and made up of experts-- to set policy and plan for the future phase-in of both alterantive and cleaner traditional energy sources. As a former president of Shell Oil, he testifies to the difficulty of getting new infrastructure (in his case a liquefied gas receiving station in LI Sound-an area that is coming up on its energy limits since Shoreham nuclear plant was denied in the 1970's) - there is a thicket of agency permits and rules both local and national that companies have to jump through and even then there is no assurance of getting something built - so they have largely given up. If his facts are right, then we should be paying attention, even though when he talks about preserving the "American lifestyle" I have to wonder just whose "American lifestyle" he wants to preserve, because I see an awful lot muscle trucks and living beyond one's means in the "American lifestyle" around here. Unfortunately I think his sound points will not resonate with folks who want a change because 1) his title doesn't express the thesis of his book - which should have been "why we will need coal, oil, and nuclear for the foreseeable future" - or "what we should be doing about the non-alternative energy sources while we are experimenting with the alternatives" and 2) his timing is awful - a book with that title coming out on the heels of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill-ouch. And using the Federal Reserve Board as a model for keeping us out of trouble??- the experts didn't do too good a job of that when they fueled the real estate bubble with their low interest rates, did they? Even he concedes it will probably take a series of energy crises in the coming decade to get energy policy de-politicized and moving ahead with a coherent plan. He does make a good point that other countries, including Canada, France, Germany and China, are already developing coherent plans for their transition from "non-OPEC oil". Look folks, we may hate the oil companies, but lets face it, these are the guys who know what it takes to realistically get us where we want (and need) to go and if they are telling us we're being un-realistic, we need to listen.
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on June 1, 2013
The author seems to be more interested in influencing the political powers to allow oil companies to operate with legislation to improve their profit margin. A good read but slanted towards the major oil companies and lacking a holistic world wide view of our future energy resources. However, John Hofmeister did an excellent job of running Shell.
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on April 5, 2017
Expect knowledge from and energy insider.
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on July 22, 2010
Mr. Hofmeister keeps what can be a dry subject very interesting, and most of it is really an easy and pleasurable read. Knowing his prior position at Shell gives him the "cred" to make factual statements where most can only give opinions. My only gripe is where he goes too far beyond his area of expertise and starts telling us how we should design our cities and towns. I bought a book by an oil expert about the difficult relationship between us and the oil companies, and that's what I want to read. That said, most of the book is well thought out and Mr. Hofmeister is a breath of fresh air, falling somewhere between the pro-business nuts and the environmental fanatics. Hopefully, this book might actually get an intelligent conversation going about energy in the country.
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on December 5, 2010
Its good to finally hear an informed opinion on the energy debate. The book delivers the straight story without the misguided emotion of the Greens, the vote pandering of the politicians or the profit above all else far right.
There are many facts in this book that we should all be aware of -- like the fact that "green energy" can't begin to satisfy our demand, or that we have been recklessly polluting the atmosphere green house gasses. And that our elected officials have done nothing to remedy the situation.
The book argues for a frank diologue between honest politicial and an educated electorate that results in a rational long term plan for energy supply and consumption.
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on July 2, 2010
John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil, predicts that unless we act now, within ten years this country will slide into an "energy abyss"

It's a scary prospect. According to Mr. Hofmeister, we will be confronted with much higher energy prices, electrical brownouts and blackouts, shortages of liquid fuels and stunted economic growth - not as temporary inconveniences, but as a way of life.

Mr. Hofmeister (for whom I had the honor of writing speeches when he was at Shell) sketches this grim scenario in his new book, Why We Hate the Oil Companies - Straight Talk From an Energy Insider. A political scientist as well as an energy executive, he is uniquely qualified to analyze our current energy policy quagmire and to suggest a way out.

According to Mr. Hofmeister, the crux of the problem is that energy executives and politicians live in different time zones. New supplies of oil are not brought to market by turning on a spigot. Permits must be acquired, regulations met, capital raised, pipelines and other infrastructure built and wells dug before a drop of new oil is produced. Consequently, energy executives must think in terms of decades.

Politicians, in contrast, think in terms of two-year election cycles. Often, they think no further than the next public opinion poll or the nightly news. Because they are obsessed with getting themselves re-elected, they pay little heed to the long-term consequences of the policies they champion in order to look good at any given moment.

Endless bickering between the politicians and the energy industry, fanned by extremists on what Mr. Hofmeister terms the "reckless right and the ludicrous left," hamstrings constructive efforts to meet America's long-term energy needs. So we continue to drift toward the energy abyss. Mr. Hofmeister points out that since the Arab oil embargo in the early 1970s, eight U.S. presidents and 18 U.S. Congresses have committed this country to "energy independence" and we haven't achieved it yet.

To break the policy gridlock, and to formulate realistic, long-term energy solutions for this country's future, Mr. Hofmeister puts forth what will likely strike many Americans as an impossibly radical solution. He proposes the creation of a Federal Energy Resources Board.

Modeled after the Federal Reserve Board, his proposed Federal Energy Resources Board (FERB) would consist of a board of governors appointed by the president for 14-year terms, subject to confirmation by the Senate. Also like the Fed, the FERB would be assisted by regional boards that would take account of the differing energy needs and resources of the different regions of the country.

Mr. Hofmeister admits that skeptics of big government are likely to "choke" on such a proposal. In reply, he notes that we already have massive government regulation of the energy sector, and it doesn't work. Why not try a big government solution that might succeed? Moreover, he sees no reason why private energy companies shouldn't continue to flourish under a Federal Energy Resources Board, just as private financial institutions flourish under the Fed.

Mr. Hofmeister is a realist. He understands that the energy sector is already under the control of a mass of federal and state regulatory agencies, and congressional and state legislature committees. He is aware that none of barons in charge of these fiefdoms will yield power willingly to the kind of super-authority that he has proposed. But he is convinced that a national grassroots movement could ultimately bring about such a change. Toward this end, he has founded the non-profit Citizens for Affordable Energy, based in Houston, Texas, [...].

The philosopher Nietzsche once said that when you stare into an abyss, the abyss stares back into you. John Hofmeister has taken a fearless look into America's energy abyss, and has come back with some tough, honest and sensible proposals to avert catastrophe. His book deserves widespread and thoughtful reading.
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on April 17, 2012
Interesting, informative and not what I expected. The author is a true expert on energy matters. Following an in depth analysis of how and why US energy policy is broken, he offers both a dire warning and a practical solution.

As head of Shell Oil the author was in a unique position to see different sides of the US energy policy debate. He relates what Shell wanted to achieve but also why they were not always sucessful.

For example, when Shell encountered unreasonable delays in a permit review process he digs into it to find out why, first hand. The answer is surprising. In another instance He finds out why Alaskan villagers were fighting against Shell.

This is an important book about a topic critical to the future of the US.
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on October 6, 2010
John Hofmeister is an energy expert. Based on his knowledge and experience, he presents an even-handed, objective and factual review of US energy policy, and the possible future roles of all the major sources of energy. He suggests a better plan for moving ahead with US energy policy. Educational, informative, no-holds-barred. Best comprehensive piece on energy I've ever read. Dr. Warren Wilhelm, President, Global Consulting Alliance.
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