Ending the United States’ addiction to oil is a topic that can be dealt with in traditional methods. Research papers have been written about the subject and textbook style “how-to” books offering a myriad of solutions are available for browsing. David Sandolow chooses a different method in his book Freedom from Oil.
Instead of just presenting a problem and proposing solutions, Sandalow lets the reader experience a month long correspondence and dialog between the hypothetical President of the United States and top White House advisers. That format keeps the reader interested in the topic and is not boring or cut and dry.
Senator Richard G. Lugar, in his foreword to the book, summarizes the threats to our national security caused by our oil dependence. These include vulnerability of supply, increasing demand and thus increasing cost, using energy supplies as leverage against one’s enemies, transfer of money to authoritarian regimes, climate change and extreme financial hardships of developing countries to pay for energy supply. To achieve this oil independence requires a single minded national focus, covering many if not all areas of our country’s society. The good news is that oil independence can be achieved and ways of doing this are addressed in the book. Like many good things, the benefits may not be seen immediately, but they will be worth the investment and patience.
The books starts by posing the problem in the form of a memo written by the President to his or her top advisers which gives a time-line for feedback and suggestions on how to end the nations dependence on oil. The President wants to deliver a speech to the American people in one month. The first hypothetical response is a warning to be prepared for political failure. Another provides ten basic facts about oil. The next one explains four national security threats. Several others explain other effects of oil on different areas of life, such as economic, environmental and so on. A big problem is a lack of substitutes for oil.
Throughout the book, the key points are summarized as what appear to be hand-written notes from the President. There are also biographies of several people who are actively trying to reduce our oil dependence and these take the form of “newspaper articles”.
Part two presents solutions. Use of plug-in hybrids is first. There are pros and cons to this solution listed in this “memo”. Another part of the solution is the use of biofuels. Another suggestion involves changing the ethanol tax credit and repealing the ethanol tariff. There is also the need to increase fuel efficiency and consider changes to the taxes on gasoline. Other areas looked at are clean coal and hydrogen use. Other parts of the solution include smart growth, promoting work from home policies and supporting mass transit over highway building.
Part three is called Decision. It shows the government taking the lead by transforming it’s own fleet of vehicles into more earth friendly vehicles and encouraging the auto-makers to produce more and encouraging the American consumer to demand more earth friendly autos mainly through tax incentives and tax code changes. It also encourages government funding of research programs and implementation of other policies designed to change our use of energy.
The book is copyright 2008, and while the information is timely, it could not address the spike in oil prices during 2008, followed by their sharp decline and continued fluctuation. Perhaps a revised version could address that aspect.