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Energy Literacy

February 09, 2008

Book Review: Freedom From Oil, The I’s Have It


Freedom From Oil: How the Next President Can End the United States’ Oil Addiction, by David Sandalow, was free from the normal bounds of the few books in the new energy genre.  It was far from the traditional dry technical and policy wonk content that normally goes with this very complex and serious issue.  David Sandalow got out of the box and used his imagination to solve problems and write a book.  He created a "novel-approach" to describing the current energy predicament of the United States, and what the President would need to say and do to help the nation crawl out of its energy rut and get up to speed for a successful sprinting finish.

Sandalow takes a very innovative story telling approach mixing real facts and some fiction (although a very traditional political approach in Washington) to create a fascinating view from inside the White House, for which Sandalow has some experience.   The reader gets the close-up and personal inside scoop on the research, cooperation, collaboration, compromise, and political risk that it takes in Washington – just to write a speech – much less make new policy.  I grew up in Washington area and I have been following energy issues for the past 30 years. I still gained many insights, I was entertained, and I got some needed inspiration from Sandalow’s success in hitting the publishing mainstream with this topic.  Public energy illiteracy may be the biggest hurdle standing in the way of Sandalow’s vision for some shock and awe-inspiring Presidential leadership to solve our nation’s energy woes.

Sandalow accumulated and presented an innovative and sobering laundry list of solutions (which included ethanol, biofuels, E85, cellulosic ethanol, and flexible fuel vehicles)  the United States would have to implement to make progress towards ending the nation's oil addiction. Some books in the new energy genre pick a favorite technology and ride it hard (e.g., nuclear, hydrogen, fusion, etc.) and/or leave out the consumer or government in the equation. Sandalow throws everything at the problem including the one cleaning the kitchen sink.  Telecommuting, smart buildings/traffic/cars/consumers, diplomacy, domestic policy, batteries and biofuels, as well as un-plugging and plug-ins. In typical State of the Union fashion, Sandalow even throws in some bows from the House Chamber balcony by real life people working everyday to kick nation’s oil habit.  The footnotes are great, I found it to be a fun and fast read, and very informative. While the primaries are not over, I cast my vote -- David Sandalow for President[ial speech writer].

This book would make a great inaugural gift.

A few other Freedom from Oil book reviews.




Burl Haigwood

February 08, 2008

Book Review: Apollo’s Fire, a Rocky Start and Ending

Apollo’s Fire, Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy

Congressman Jay Inslee and Bracken Hendricks traded in their traditional Washingtonian politically correct handcuffs for some golden glove boxing.  The authors come out swinging against the status quo energy champion with every policy & technology combo they could muster.  In a Rocky-style fight of courage and conviction, Inslee and Hendricks showed Apollo Creed (i.e., fossil fuels) the way to retirement.  According to the story-line, the weak and old fossil fuel carbon–laden champion is washed up and clean energy is the new reigning champion of the nation’s fast emerging energy efficient economy.

From the beginning to the middle of the book I could not get the Rocky movie theme song out of my head.  I was too young to remember President Kennedy’s speech and later I was much more concerned with me going to Vietnam than men going to the moon.  Then in the middle of the book the Apollo’s Fire theme got me. The frequent Apollo moon mission analogies got me hooked on the feeling the excitement the nation must have been experiencing at the time and the swelling of pride all Americans must have had when they beat the bad guy to the moon.  The Apollo moon mission and Apollo clean energy vision are now much more synergistic.

The book is hard hitting, points fingers, and assigns blame – then it moves on.  Congressman Inslee and Bracken Hendricks provide the reader with some great context and perspectives, interesting analogies, and some funny one-liners that help the reader swallow this really serious problem.  They do not dwell on the past mistakes. The authors spend much more time invoking optimism and plans for our energy future. They give plenty of credit due to many of their colleagues on both sides of the isle.  Apollo’s Fire recognizes many of the high profile entrepreneurs that are helping to ignite the new clean energy economy as well as the average citizens that are playing a role in fanning that fire everyday.

Apollo’s Fire is realistic glimpse into our energy future. Although it was printed before the passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, both writings sound hauntingly familiar.  They have compiled over 300 footnotes that attack the old energy myths and blaze a research trail that validates the need for a future of new energy policies.  Ethanol, biofuels, and flexible fuel vehicles were all included in their policy and technology suggestions – with some caveats.

What's missing in the Apollo Moon vs. Apollo Energy mission?  What could be another compelling event the nation could celebrate and remember? Like the first man on the moon – maybe the nation could celebrate the last soldier coming out of Iraq.  That would be a true Rocky ending we could all enjoy.

Many have asked the question, how can we go to the moon in 10 years and not be able to reduce oil imports in 30 years? I do not recall anyone in America that didn’t want us to get to the moon, even the man on the moon looked welcoming.

What do you think is standing in the way of the Apollo Clean Energy Vision?