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on September 6, 2012
First rate book on our current need for a national energy policy that makes sense.
Dr. Hakes has captured the data and explains it in a way that we all can understand and take action. Jim Tait, former Florida State Energy Director.
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on January 14, 2013
Jay Hakes was the Head of the Energy Information Administration at the U.S. Department of Energy under President Bill Clinton for eight years and currently oversees the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.

Hakes begins by recounting the last 40 years of energy policy, from oil embargoes, to President Carter's plan to get America off of foreign oil to (as Hakes portrays it) the failure to follow up on the aforementioned plan by Carter's presidential successors. Basically, throughout this recent-history lesson, Hakes portrays the plans laid out by Carter (and some of those by President Ford) as a missed opportunity, one that should have been seized upon but wasn't. This recounting is interesting and thorough and, a quibble here or there aside, contains valuable background for the proposals that Hakes offers in the second part of the book.

As Hakes explains, though, there is a problem with implementing necessarily long-term energy plans:

"There are several valuable lessons from this forgotten story of regaining energy independence. First, there are no quick fixes, byt there are fixes. It generally takes at least two to six years for positive effects of federal legislation to have much impact (and longer for investments in research and development). Any politician who promises immediate results is porbably going to make things worse.

Second, there are no silver bullets for winning energy independence, but there is plenty of silver buckshot. Some trumpeted solutions to the energy crisis, such as making liquid transportation fuels from coal, played no role at all. Even the larges contributors could not turn around a major trend by themselves. Those who want to wage "the moral equivalent of war" must attack on many fronts.

There is one problem with winning a war. People soon want to settle back to life as usual, and complacency sets in. After losing energy independence in 1970, it took America a dozen years to regain it. It would take 17 years to lose it."

But Hakes proceeds to give it a try, though only after taking the Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush administrations to task for letting Carter's plans slip away. However, Hakes thought the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 "will likely be seen as an important turning point and the end of a 26-year era of energy complacency." Well, maybe, but Hakes also explains that there are some partisan blinders that need to be removed before any hope of progress can realistically be felt.

On the Left, Hakes explains, many "rule out most sources of energy." Coal, oil, nuclear, windmills and dams all have been rhetorically shot down by the environmental left. And while acute arguments against each form of energy may "make sense" on their own, "In combination," Hakes writes, "they create an almost impossible situation." He states that "the ideology of the Left often castigates any increases in energy prices" believing that big business is gouging consumers. Hakes believes that "price increases are often best explained by the normal fluctuations of commodity markets or added costs." In summary, Hakes writes of the Left that "Both the insistence that energy prices should never rise and the demonization of major corporations often provide excuses for avoiding tough decisions about energy."

On the Right, Hakes explains that ideologues "tend to abhor any government action that raises energy prices or slows economic growth." Further, "this...shut the door on most new government measures to protect the environment or national security interests." He also accuses the Right of "sloppy thinking about free markets" when they don't "recognize the external costs of fossil fuels--the costs to national security, the economy, and the environment not included in retail prices." He also accuses conservatives of selective memory in that they overstate the effect that deregulation and more effective distribution had on energy prices without recognizing the government policies, most put in place by President Carter, "that promoted conservation and fuel-shifting away from oil."

Hakes also thinks the Right "tend to dismiss ideas they do not like with the simple assertion they were advanced by someone they do not like." He offers Al Gore as an object lesson, but here he manifestly overreaches and is guilty of a reductionism all his own. The arguments against Al Gore and his Inconvenient Truth are much deeper than personal animosity. But perhaps Hakes is dismissing them because he doesn't like many on the ideological Right?

The last third of the book contains a series of chapters devoted to various solutions: we should increase our emergency reserves, develop the "car of the future", alternative fuels, "an electric future", implement acceptable energy taxes, "make energy conservation a patriotic duty" and "throw some Hail Marys." All and all, Hakes has several good ideas, many of which have been discussed by others and some of which are likely to be acted upon.

He concludes with an exhortation for both politicians and voters to take his suggestions (or others) and implement them fully. Yet, the same problem remains: even if we begin to implement these policies--and they begin to work--will we be able to keep our collective eyes on the ball long enough to see it all through? Hakes thinks we can if we accept it as a patriotic duty. That all depends on exactly how much we're asked to do for our country.
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on August 17, 2008
The energy crisis is upon us and shows no signs of long term relief. Face it, $3.00 a gallon gas will only exist in stories we tell our children and grandchildren. The question of how we went from abundance to bust is complex. Often we're just as much to blame as the oil companies and OPEC. No one explains this better than Jay Hakes, the former head of the US Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration. Mr. Hakes has written a highly readable book entitled "A Declaration of Energy Independence" which outlines not only how we got were we are but perhaps more importantly, what to do about it. If you're looking for answers about what we can do about the energy crisis, start with this book.
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on November 4, 2008
Outstanding book that needs to be read by the administration and congress. It tells in clear and very readable language what is happening today in our country's energy problems. Written by an author with a wealth of experience in the field, it states clearly what actions need to be taken by our leaders and that we must push them to act, especially congress (presidents can lead but congress really makes change or no change happen).

I especially like his intelligent comments on his "Seven economically and politically viable paths to energy independence". The chapter on "Make Energy Conservation a patriotic duty" is a call to action for all of us and one we need to get leaders at the state and national level to help us make happen.

A well-written book that can be quickly read but you will find yourself going back to reread many pertinent areas.
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on July 11, 2008
Jay Hake's new book, "A Declaration of Energy Independence" is a must read for the extensive and multifaceted insights offered.

He has a keen grasp of the history of the interplay of world energy demand, and the the political and economic forces that constrain the formation of a constructive energy policy.

His extensive hands on experience in the evolution of US energy policy brings insights to the difficulty of political solutions. He offers thoughtful proposals of politically feasible solutions.

There is a concise and cogent treatment in the chapter titled "Fossil Fuels and Global Warming: A Dangerous Experiment with the Planet."
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VINE VOICEon July 30, 2008
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 narrative flowing.

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 Democrat.

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 effect change.

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 for it.

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 sense?

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 online).

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.
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on December 2, 2008
I was very impressed by the objective way this book gives the reader a good understanding of energy policy over the past 60+ years and what we can do to help our dependence on foreign oil. Mr. Hakes covers the politics with fairness and balance and presents the issues without bias. If only outr leaders would listen to half of this, we would be so much beter off and on our way to enery independence.
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on February 1, 2009
Every American should read "A Declaration of Energy Independence: How Freedom from Foreign Oil Can Improve National Security, Our Economy, and the Environment" by Jay Hakes.

I believe this book will become the defining introduction to the subject/issue of energy independence.

Ron Bengtson
Founder
[...]
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