Discussing Energy Economics on the Internet

An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming, by Nigel Lawson; Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence, by Robert Bryce

Posted by Fereidoon P. Sioshansi on the May 22nd, 2008
An Appeal to Reason - Nigel Lawson

Most of the time, competent people write technical books because they have done research on a topic and are convinced they have something compelling to say. Occasionally, however, one comes across an author who has written a book mostly because of a sense of frustration about what others have written and/or what the politicians, the public and the press appear to be preoccupied with which runs against their strongly held views. These two books fall in this category – both are worth a read even if one does not agree with all their arguments or conclusions.

Lord Lawson, a former British energy secretary, a former chancellor of the exchequer and a former journalist, admits that he is not an atmospheric scientist but points out, correctly, that neither are countless others including Al Gore, who are outspoken on the subject, often without adequate qualifications. His main argument is that the science of global climate change is far from perfect, projections of alarmists including Sir Nicholas Stern, now Lord Stern, are far gloomier than justified by the facts, and the current political over-reaction to reduce carbon emissions as proposed in Europe unwarranted.

His short book, An Appeal to Reason, is cleverly written, engaging, and repeats and expands on all the known criticisms that have been made by other climate skeptics. In this sense, it may come across as convincing to those who also distrust the global climate establishment, particularly the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), who deserves some criticism for its own established orthodoxies and perceived bureaucratic inflexibilities. For those who have heard the arguments of the skeptics before, however, Lord Lawson offers little new evidence that would convert climate change believers.

Gusher of Lies - Robert BryceRobert Bryce appears equally frustrated by hearing politicians talk about energy independence, American or otherwise. In Gusher of Lies, he calls it hogwash and worse, and says instead of energy independence we should be talking and thinking about energy interdependence: Net importers like the US should focus on exporting what we have in abundance – without indicating what that may be.

He is not fond of alternative fuels, and especially scornful when it comes to ethanol, calling it “the largest scam in our nation’s history.” Nor does he think much about current efforts to reduce global carbon emissions, pointing out, correctly, that without getting China and other developing countries on board, such efforts would be futile.

Bryce cannot be faulted for making fun of energy independence as an overused and empty political cliché. But he fails to show how a major economy such as the US should prepare for a future fraught with potentially dwindling secure supplies of oil and most likely rising prices. Should we rely on more nuclear energy, renewables, energy conservation, clean coal or a combination? Gusher of Lies offers little, and that may be its greatest failing.

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