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Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of ""Energy Independence""

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Everybody is talking about "energy independence." But is it really achievable? Is it actually even desirable? In this controversial, meticulously researched book, Robert Bryce exposes the false promises behind the rhetoric while blasting nearly everybody— Republicans, Democrats, environmentalists, and war-mongering neoconservatives—for misleading voters about our energy ne Everybody is talking about "energy independence." But is it really achievable? Is it actually even desirable? In this controversial, meticulously researched book, Robert Bryce exposes the false promises behind the rhetoric while blasting nearly everybody— Republicans, Democrats, environmentalists, and war-mongering neoconservatives—for misleading voters about our energy needs.Gusher of Lies explains why the idea of energy independence appeals to voters while also showing that renewable sources like wind and solar cannot meet America's growing energy demand. Along the way, Bryce eviscerates the ethanol scam. Whether the issue is cost, water consumption, or food prices, corn ethanol is one of the longest-running robberies ever perpetrated on American taxpayers. Consumers concerned about peak oil and the future of global energy supplies need to understand that energy security depends on embracing free markets and the realities of interdependence. Gusher of Lies is illuminating, vital reading.


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Everybody is talking about "energy independence." But is it really achievable? Is it actually even desirable? In this controversial, meticulously researched book, Robert Bryce exposes the false promises behind the rhetoric while blasting nearly everybody— Republicans, Democrats, environmentalists, and war-mongering neoconservatives—for misleading voters about our energy ne Everybody is talking about "energy independence." But is it really achievable? Is it actually even desirable? In this controversial, meticulously researched book, Robert Bryce exposes the false promises behind the rhetoric while blasting nearly everybody— Republicans, Democrats, environmentalists, and war-mongering neoconservatives—for misleading voters about our energy needs.Gusher of Lies explains why the idea of energy independence appeals to voters while also showing that renewable sources like wind and solar cannot meet America's growing energy demand. Along the way, Bryce eviscerates the ethanol scam. Whether the issue is cost, water consumption, or food prices, corn ethanol is one of the longest-running robberies ever perpetrated on American taxpayers. Consumers concerned about peak oil and the future of global energy supplies need to understand that energy security depends on embracing free markets and the realities of interdependence. Gusher of Lies is illuminating, vital reading.

30 review for Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of ""Energy Independence""

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Littrell

    Central thesis absolutely correct plus many sharp observations Science writer Robert Bryce is a fellow at the Institute for Energy Research, which (for what you may want to make of it), is characterized (by The Center for Media and Democracy) as advocating “positions on environmental issues which happen to suit the energy industry: climate change denial, claims that conventional energy sources are virtually limitless, and the deregulation of utilities.” However that may appear, I want to say that Central thesis absolutely correct plus many sharp observations Science writer Robert Bryce is a fellow at the Institute for Energy Research, which (for what you may want to make of it), is characterized (by The Center for Media and Democracy) as advocating “positions on environmental issues which happen to suit the energy industry: climate change denial, claims that conventional energy sources are virtually limitless, and the deregulation of utilities.” However that may appear, I want to say that Gusher of Lies is an outstanding book that is utterly convincing in its central thesis, namely that we will not, and should not, become energy independent. In fact, virtually no country on earth is likely to become energy independent. In today’s globally interconnected world such a goal is simply a foolish pipe dream and/or a politician’s blather to a largely ignorant populace. Having said this, I want to caution both you and myself by noting that Bryce is a member of the school of economics that celebrates the late Julian Simon who famously espoused a belief in endless resources and unlimited population growth made possible by scientific and technological progress. Furthermore, Bryce quotes favorably and uses graphs from the book The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy (2005) by Peter W. Huber, and Mark P. Mills. Bryce even reprises one of their glittering (and misleading) pronouncements, to wit: “As energy use rises, people get richer.” (p. 19) This Panglossian slogan is backwards as is evident with a little reflection, such as realizing that you can’t get the energy to run a factory or a household or a vehicle without paying for it first. Bryce shows he realizes this when he quotes Fatih Birol, Chief Economist for the Paris-based International Energy Agency: “We cannot simply sit back and wait for the world’s poorest regions to become sufficiently rich to afford modern energy services….Access to energy is a prerequisite to human development.” (p. 262) Or more directly, there’s this from page 41: “The average American can afford to consume the equivalent of nearly 3 gallons of oil products per day because residents of the U.S. are among the wealthiest citizens on the planet. For comparison, the average Pakistani uses just 0.08 gallons of oil per day, not because that Pakistani doesn’t want to use more oil; it’s that he or she can’t afford to.” Also disconcerting to this reader is the mantra “More Efficiency, More Fuel” (title of Chapter 11). Bryce argues that what has happened historically is that the more efficient we have gotten, the more fuel we ended up using. True. But had we not gotten more efficient, we would have either used even more fuel or gotten less in return. The mantra is called the “Jevons paradox” in economics and really isn’t a paradox. What happens is that “In addition to reducing the amount needed for a given output, improved efficiency lowers the cost of using a resource--which increases demand” (to quote Wikipedia). I would add that efficiency of manufacture leads to lower production costs which leads to cheaper goods which leads to more people being able to afford them which leads to more manufacturing, etc. This incidentally is a kind of pyramid scheme that will eventually crash. Neocons and unlimited growth advocates will of course not be around to experience the crash, so they needn’t worry, but our grandchildren might. What Bryce does in an engaging and incisive style is to make abundantly clear that no matter what we do we are not going to become “energy independent.” Furthermore, if somehow we did become energy independent, we would regret it. Bryce spells out in exacting detail just how nothing, but nothing, is going to replace our dependence on fossil fuels, not until those fuels run out, simply because nothing else—solar, wind, biomass, ethanol, nuclear, etc.—is anywhere near as efficient as an energy source. “Efficient” means in terms of price, in terms of not polluting the environment, in terms of abundance and availability. Bryce shows that the use of ethanol, for example, as a replacement for gasoline would require the cultivation of more cropland than we have, along with prohibitive amounts of water to grow and process the biomass. Surprisingly he argues that such a nearly impossible endeavor would also lead to more pollution. We would regret our energy independence because the price in terms of our ability to influence and trade with the world would be greatly diminished. We would simply dethrone ourselves as the leading economic and political power on the planet. (We’d still have our nukes, of course.) We would lower our standard of living and to no purpose since we do not need energy independence for national security reasons (as the neocons and Bush would have us believe). By the way, one of the nice things that Bryce does is debunk the Bush administration’s fear-mongering about a supposed link between terrorism and our appetite for oil and natural gas. Only the tiniest percentage of the billions we spend on importing fossil fuels goes (indirectly) to terrorists. Most of their money comes from the drug trade, extortion, kidnapping for ransom, smuggling, and other illegal activities. What is a bit off-putting about this book (especially for those who do not read all the way through) is that Bryce seems to denigrate not only every sort of energy source other than fossil fuels, but even seems to make fun of conservation. It isn’t until Chapter 21, “A Few Suggestions,” that he admits that alternate sources of energy and conservation (including perhaps even wearing Jimmy Carter’s cardigan) should supplement oil, coal, and natural gas. Two salient quotes: “[W]e likely have no choice but to adapt to the changing global climate for the simple reason that curbing carbon dioxide emissions to any significant degree appears hopeless.” (p. 268) “[T]he real risk to America’s security and prosperity isn’t terrorism. Instead the danger comes, largely, from the war on terrorism.” (p. 266) --Dennis Littrell, author of “The World Is Not as We Think It Is”

  2. 4 out of 5

    Don

    Want a good primer on the energy situation? Read this book. The chapter on Ethanol alone is worth the read. Anyone that does not know what is covered in this book should keep quiet about our energy problems. After you have read "Gusher of Lies" you will be educated on this important topic. Good job Robert Bryce!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    This is a nicely done polemic. I'm sympathetic to any writer who attempts to challenge the norm, especially when it comes to national comfort, cherished myths, etc. I like the softer, narrative versions of polemics better, such as Orwell's Animal Farm, or Steinbecks The Grapes of Wrath, etc. The author wins my heart right off by zeroing in on politicians who are the most susceptible of all in promising comfort (energy independence) in return for votes-power I assume. Bryce's Introduction is titl This is a nicely done polemic. I'm sympathetic to any writer who attempts to challenge the norm, especially when it comes to national comfort, cherished myths, etc. I like the softer, narrative versions of polemics better, such as Orwell's Animal Farm, or Steinbecks The Grapes of Wrath, etc. The author wins my heart right off by zeroing in on politicians who are the most susceptible of all in promising comfort (energy independence) in return for votes-power I assume. Bryce's Introduction is titled, "The Persistent Delusion" and then jumps in to why Americans yearn for energy independence - to separate ourselves from the need to buy oil from middle east despots and the entanglements and dilemmas that entails, as well as going on blithely with our usage patterns. He describes independence from those nasty anti-American oil producers as a new "Maginot Line" strategy, similar to the misplaced faith in France of a shield or fortress as WWII approached. He describes the scope of our imports, what it would take to substitute them in the form of alternative energy sources and conservation programs. Then notes that by the way, while we import 60% of our oil needs, we import 80% of our semiconductors, and a list of minerals, etc that are 90-100% imported. And most resources we want - not to mention China and India - will also be increasingly searching for. There is a lot of solid technical chapters on alternative energy sources, such as nuclear (positive), solar (positive), wind (negative), with especially harsh commentary on ethanol that has turned the Midwest into a carbohydrate farm kept afloat with massive subsidies that have mainly gone to agribusinesses, ignoring the skyrocketing use of water not to mention the high fossil fuel use to grow and process the alternative fuel, all the international distortions from tortilla riots and palm plantations development, etc. He describes the economics used to justify this fuel as Corn Ethanol's Enron Accounting. His point is that the US is on the wrong path. If we engage the globalizing world with the recognition that we are interdependent, a new framework of working on more just governance in countries "cursed" with large oil reserves, and nurtured resource valuation and use, will ultimately be more positive engagement. We will be less likely to ignore the dilemma of buying resources from anti-American nations, and more likely to accept that we must engage in all manners of supporting and building a sustainable world of trade and commerce.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Excellent, excellent book. I would give this book to anyone who told me about "Energy Independence." Look at your clothes, they are probably from China, Indonesia, Pakistan, etc. Your car is probably from Ohio, Japan, Mexico, etc combined. That's not a problem, that's globalization. It is also a reflection of specialization, and should be lauded not lambasted. Those who push for alternatives, of the current stock, have no concept of the energy market that we currently function in. Nor do they ha Excellent, excellent book. I would give this book to anyone who told me about "Energy Independence." Look at your clothes, they are probably from China, Indonesia, Pakistan, etc. Your car is probably from Ohio, Japan, Mexico, etc combined. That's not a problem, that's globalization. It is also a reflection of specialization, and should be lauded not lambasted. Those who push for alternatives, of the current stock, have no concept of the energy market that we currently function in. Nor do they have a concept of basic science. Why someone would trade Exxon for ADM is beyond me. We should be doing things to make the petroleum market more efficient. We should be drilling and exploring, and not shutting off areas with pointless environmental debates. Yes the environment is important, but so is the economy. Now, we must strike a balance. Should we be researching new fuels and technology. Of course. Should we throw away an entire infrastructure for an unobtainable goal? No way. It's complicated. However, it is more complicated than Bryce gives credit for in the international arena. I would hazard readers to take the comments on international relations with a grain of salt.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Have to say a big thanks to Lara for recommending this book. Wow. I really enjoyed this one. It's a pretty eye-opening look into the idea of 'energy independence'. What the term actually means, the political usage, and the ultimate absurdity of it. I think the most educational part of the book for me was the corn ethanol scam, because that's really what it is. A scam. It's amazing what we as taxpayers are shelling out billions of dollars for. I am not going to do an exhaustive review here, because Have to say a big thanks to Lara for recommending this book. Wow. I really enjoyed this one. It's a pretty eye-opening look into the idea of 'energy independence'. What the term actually means, the political usage, and the ultimate absurdity of it. I think the most educational part of the book for me was the corn ethanol scam, because that's really what it is. A scam. It's amazing what we as taxpayers are shelling out billions of dollars for. I am not going to do an exhaustive review here, because he makes all of the points a lot better than I can but as someone working in the energy business I can say that I learned a great deal about my own industry and how amazingly stupid our government can be when it decides to dabble in the free market economy. I also really liked one small aside in the book he wrote to specifically refute Thomas Friedman, writer of The World Is Flat. I had read this book a little while back and it seemed to be a lot of BS, but I could not quite figure out why. He made some rational arguments, but it was all a little nebulous to me. Now I get it!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rod

    Bryce makes the case stated in the subtitle. Along the way, he thoroughly debunks the hyperbole associated with alternative energy. Corn ethanol, for example, is essentially a scam, requiring as much energy to produce as it yields. Its presence in the US economy is due only to the political clout of farm giant Archer Daniel Midlands, and associated politicians and lobbyists. Solar arraies similarly don't offer a solution-- energy density is just too low. Hard to understand how many of our elites Bryce makes the case stated in the subtitle. Along the way, he thoroughly debunks the hyperbole associated with alternative energy. Corn ethanol, for example, is essentially a scam, requiring as much energy to produce as it yields. Its presence in the US economy is due only to the political clout of farm giant Archer Daniel Midlands, and associated politicians and lobbyists. Solar arraies similarly don't offer a solution-- energy density is just too low. Hard to understand how many of our elites just can't do simple arithmetic. The good news is that energy independence really doesn't matter. In today's interdependent world, every country lacks many required resources and must acquire them elsewhere. This is not a bad thing. One defect in the book is that the author apparently suffers from a mild case of Bush Derangement Syndrome. He tries to build a case that Bush invaded Iraq with the intent of taking over the oil supply. Hard to justify since Saddam was willing to sell us oil at $10 a barrel during the First Gulf War!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Adrian Hart

    One of the best books I've read this year. The author puts forth a compelling argument why American energy independence is at best a pipe dream, and even if it were possible, it would do nothing to stop international terrorism or global warming. It also devotes an entire section to the discussion of alternative energy sources (including a fairly lengthy chapter on ethanol and biofuels, the single longest chapter in the book by a long shot), concluding that at the present time the human race does One of the best books I've read this year. The author puts forth a compelling argument why American energy independence is at best a pipe dream, and even if it were possible, it would do nothing to stop international terrorism or global warming. It also devotes an entire section to the discussion of alternative energy sources (including a fairly lengthy chapter on ethanol and biofuels, the single longest chapter in the book by a long shot), concluding that at the present time the human race doesn't have the technology to produce alternative fuels cheaply enough to be financially viable, and our ability to meet current (and ever-increasing) demand with alternative energy is still decades away. Throughout the book, Mr. Bryce does a fantastic job of deconstructing the political rhetoric surrounding energy independence, and exposing it for the hot air that it is. I would declare this book a must-read, regardless of your political leanings

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

    This is a must read in order to provide balance in one's understanding of the energy situation in the U.S. This author does a well documented job of debunking the rhetoric and downright falsehoods surrounding the issues of energy supply and its alternatives and oil independence. It is clear to me that our government and its leaders are misleading the public on the subject of energy independence in order to push their agendas. We are wasting billions in subsidies to industries that do nothing to This is a must read in order to provide balance in one's understanding of the energy situation in the U.S. This author does a well documented job of debunking the rhetoric and downright falsehoods surrounding the issues of energy supply and its alternatives and oil independence. It is clear to me that our government and its leaders are misleading the public on the subject of energy independence in order to push their agendas. We are wasting billions in subsidies to industries that do nothing to reduce the cost of energy in the overall cost picture. After reading this book it is clear to me that we must promote nuclear energy for electrical generation and extend the availability of oil for motor vehicles. Drilling for gas and oil in the U.S. must be promoted as a means to contribute to future supply in an interdependent global marketplace.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Howard Olsen

    Ignore the dramaqueen title and you will find a sober look at American energy policy and the recurrent calls for "energy independence." Bryce's message is that America should seek energy diversity, not independence (what happened to free trade?). That means expanded American drilling/exploration, ramped up nukes, and an admission on the part of American Greens that their preferred energy sources are no match for the power available in a barrel of oil. That also means an end to ethanol subsidies, Ignore the dramaqueen title and you will find a sober look at American energy policy and the recurrent calls for "energy independence." Bryce's message is that America should seek energy diversity, not independence (what happened to free trade?). That means expanded American drilling/exploration, ramped up nukes, and an admission on the part of American Greens that their preferred energy sources are no match for the power available in a barrel of oil. That also means an end to ethanol subsidies, the subject of Bryce's longest and most scathing chapter. Energy is a complex subject, made more baroque by the emotions and Neo-Ludditism that marks much of the nation's energy dialogue. Bryce does a great job sorting facts from fiction and misinformation. You can learn a lot from this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marcus

    I read the first ~150/200 pages of this book before we moved and I had to return it to the library, but even that much was enough to completely change the way I view the global energy situation and the popular quest for "energy independence." Especially during elections when it seems every candidate has a plan for energy independence, this book is an eye-opener. It has solid factual evidence (as well as a lot of interesting speculation and analysis) on the current energy situation and why energy I read the first ~150/200 pages of this book before we moved and I had to return it to the library, but even that much was enough to completely change the way I view the global energy situation and the popular quest for "energy independence." Especially during elections when it seems every candidate has a plan for energy independence, this book is an eye-opener. It has solid factual evidence (as well as a lot of interesting speculation and analysis) on the current energy situation and why energy independence is essentially an impossible, and possibly undesirable, goal in the near future (50/60 years).

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Incredible. I thought I was educated on the oil industry and alternative fuel. Boy, was I wrong! This book explores the legitimacy of energy independence and the cold, hard truth about US and its relationship with the Middle East. Although the book depressed me a bit and made me angry, it was eye-opening. A definite must read for everyone. I have read two of Robert Bryce's previous books, Cronies and Pipe Dreams, which were also great, especially Pipe Dreams about the Enron debacle. Bryce uses c Incredible. I thought I was educated on the oil industry and alternative fuel. Boy, was I wrong! This book explores the legitimacy of energy independence and the cold, hard truth about US and its relationship with the Middle East. Although the book depressed me a bit and made me angry, it was eye-opening. A definite must read for everyone. I have read two of Robert Bryce's previous books, Cronies and Pipe Dreams, which were also great, especially Pipe Dreams about the Enron debacle. Bryce uses credible sources and sides with neither the right or the left.

  12. 4 out of 5

    David

    A good book dispelling the often politicized idea of energy independence. I would say I have a slightly differing opinion and I think he fails to make a serious case regarding the economic implications of our current energy independence, but he clearly points out that globalization of energy markets is a good thing. Also thoroughly discusses the idiocy of using ethanol as a fuel source - it's about time someone did. Covers a number of interesting topics and is worth a read - though get it from th A good book dispelling the often politicized idea of energy independence. I would say I have a slightly differing opinion and I think he fails to make a serious case regarding the economic implications of our current energy independence, but he clearly points out that globalization of energy markets is a good thing. Also thoroughly discusses the idiocy of using ethanol as a fuel source - it's about time someone did. Covers a number of interesting topics and is worth a read - though get it from the library, don't buy it like i did.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David

    Meh. An interesting take on energy politics, and a level of detail that's cool, but there are some giant holes in his arguments. It was good to hear the critiques that people have towards various forms of alternative energy, but the idea that we have no viable alternative to oil seemed based on unnecessarily sketchy math. All he ever did was point out how existing technology wouldn't scale sufficiently by itself, when no one's proposing an all-wind or all-ethanol approach to anything.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lara

    This is a must read in today's energy crisis environment. There is no quick fix and new technologies that are going to make a real difference in our dependence on oil form overseas are not on the horizon. A well research and thought out book. The information is at times a little scary, but well worth reading. It pays to become informed during times such as these.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    This book should be required reading for anyone who uses the term "energy independence" or touts ethanol as an alternative to gasoline. This book doesn't have a political slant - just the facts, and they're amazing.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Converse

    Densely referenced book on U.S. energy sources, consumption, sources, and future prospects. Concludes that alternative fuels (biomass, solar, wind, etc.) will contribute little to energy supplies & that government should have less involvement with the energy market Densely referenced book on U.S. energy sources, consumption, sources, and future prospects. Concludes that alternative fuels (biomass, solar, wind, etc.) will contribute little to energy supplies & that government should have less involvement with the energy market

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Roach

    I read this book because I disagreed with the title and theory. He makes a lot of good points, but the book already needs to be updated for our current situation. He did open my eyes to a lot of good points of why it makes sense to have a global energy market instead of living in our own bubble.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    You have to be in the mood for some good public policy nonfiction surrounding energy policy. This guy knows his stuff. He does let a little sarcasm creep in, but the entire thing still feels very objective. Note the date: the book is ~7 years old. But I still learned a ton.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

    Adding ethanol to gasoline increases auto emissions - increasing ground-level ozone. So, in addition to increasing the cost of fuel and food, it's increasing pollution that is known to cause damage to lung tissue. Besides Archer, Daniels, Midland, who thinks this is a good idea?

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    The factual information was certainly interesting, but I don't agree with all the author's suggestions, as many of them still entailed certain types of government interference. Also, this is one of those books that is probably better to read than to listen to.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Anton Manyak

    Very powerful book. Well reasoned/argued with lots of statistics and information. I don't completely agree with his solutions (some of them are too right for me)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Katie Kenig

    This is one that was selected by my book club and I ended up not finishing it, because it put me to sleep.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    Having trouble getting past chapter 3. Seems to be spiraling around same story/argument. Plus it's depressing. Sort of like when I watched www.storyofstuff.com Having trouble getting past chapter 3. Seems to be spiraling around same story/argument. Plus it's depressing. Sort of like when I watched www.storyofstuff.com

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rowdy

    A must read for anyone interested or involved with the Energy Debate.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Doug J.

    This book real opened my eyes to the myth of biofuel, and namely ethanol. I didn't realize what a rip-off the ethanol lobby is and how much its costing in food prices and air quality.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jason Arant

    This book is a total eye opener about the dishonesty of the debate over energy on both sides of the political aisle.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey St.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Devon Cimini

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joe Bressler

  30. 4 out of 5

    C

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