The Crisis in Energy Policy

The Crisis in Energy Policy, by John M. Deutch, Harvard University Press, €22.50, $24.95.

John Deutch has worked for 35 years on energy matters, as a government official, a university scholar and an advisor to industry. He has one embarrassing admission: the failure of US energy policy. The facts do not entirely support his views, in particular with regard to the US dependence on imported liquid fuels. Between 2005-12, the share of imported oil fell from 60 percent to 45, due to the surge of new domestic production and a decline in consumption. Deutch reminds us that President Carter’s aim in establishing the Department of Energy (DOE) was to manage the energy program and formulate a national energy policy, but that: “Few would deny that the DOE has not come close to achieving these objectives.” Carter, pressured by the first oil crisis, proved himself both a visionary and efficient in his judgment and methodology. Using detailed proposals, he would work with Congress to enact comprehensive energy legislation. During the Reagan years, Congress revoked most of the provisions of this legislation. President Obama, Deutch observes, has taken a different approach. Rather than present Congress with a framework for climate change, “he has asked Congress to craft legislation. Delegating an issue that has such complex technical, economic and political aspects, is equivalent to shouting ‘jump ball’,” comments Deutch. Inevitably, it had to result in faulty, inadequate legislation – or none. This proved to be the case, as climate legislation has fallen short during Obama’s first mandate. To learn more and understand the subject more deeply, read Deutch’s short book. It will certainly be worth the energy you put in.