Energy, Convenient Solutions

Non-Fiction - General
380 Pages
Reviewed on 07/16/2011
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Stefan Vucak for Readers' Favorite

In Energy, Convenient Solutions, the book recaps problems with use of fossil fuels, diminishing oil reserves, an increasing price for what remains and the impact on America and the world. The book provides a lot of social commentary and makes dire predictions on the damaging effects of existing energy sources, such as oil and coal. There are lengthy sections where the author presents personal views on the American political system as the cause of many problems, global warming and what is perceived as public hatred of Big Oil. In Section II, many pages are devoted to telling the reader what the book is NOT about, which can be happily skipped without missing anything.

The book cites discovery of the giant Bakken oil field in the United States as a quick source of fuel, but forgets that the objective is to inform the reader what mechanisms exist to stop using oil! After a lengthy discourse into current energy sources: coal, gas, nuclear being the principal ones, the book lists using biofuels, solar, wind, wave and geothermal as alternatives. Correctly, severe problems are also identified associated with using these alternatives, which is lack of infrastructure to bring power from these sources to population centers, and high cost of these emerging technologies. However, by the time the reader gets to the end of the book, nothing is presented to ‘solve our energy crisis in just a few years, a decade at most.' There are no ‘convenient solutions.'

The book states that most world oil fields have peaked and production is falling. Although debatable, the book overlooks the fact that vast gas reserves have been identified world over that will take up the shortfall in oil. It was suggested that future cars will be electric. Fine, but how will electricity be generated and at what cost, especially if coal and oil powered stations are phased out? Despite identifying serious food production problems by switching to biofuels, the author keeps returning to this as one of his solutions.

The author uses Ireland ‘as a prime example of what can happen when government frees businesses and entrepreneurs from oppressive controls and taxes’. But this very deregulation has destroyed Ireland through institutional greed. The author states: Myth: Government must make rules to protect us from business. But he neglects to note that financial deregulation during Reagan, Clinton and Bush eras has led to the world financial crisis. The author’s world view of current economics, industry and political intransigence reflects what many people believe, his remedies are idealistic, suitable for an Utopian society, but hardly practical in today’s short-term profit oriented reality.

Howard Johnson has obviously researched his book well, summarized the current world dependence on fossil fuels, while making predictions on what might happen unless economies everywhere switch to alternate energy sources. His style is fluid, eminently readable and he writes with passion. For those seeking a lightweight snapshot into energy problems, this book is worth reading.