Thursday, October 11, 2012

Book Review: “America Needs America's Energy: Creating Together the People's Energy Plan”

This summer I attended a discussion of a book by Mark Stansberry entitled America Needs America's Energy: Creating Together the People's Energy Plan at The Fund for American Studies in Washington DC. Given that DC is a regular stomping ground for many events on energy, I was not sure how this one would be different. Having read the book, I think it is quite timely and relevant. What is interesting about Stansberry’s book is that it is not just an overview of energy issues facing the U.S., replete with policy recommendations to high level officials, but he calls for Americans to take individual responsibility for their use of energy, to be better educated about the industry, and to get involved in crafting an energy plan for the country.
In Stansberry’s view, the ability for the U.S. to maintain its economic growth and standard of living (true for just about any other country in the world), it needs security of energy supplies, which cannot be achieved without a strategic energy plan that has been missing for decades. According to Stansberry, a national energy plan is long overdue to meet the demand, to secure supply, to more effectively and efficiently build energy infrastructure, to harness new technologies as well as to bridge the knowledge gap between energy users, policymakers and the industry. He provides a general overview of major energy sources used in the U.S. with their pros and cons and changes in supply and demand over the past few years. For those who work in the energy industry, most of the factual information in the book may not be too in-depth, but valuable nonetheless.
The most interesting part of the book for me was the chapter on “Energy Education,” where Stansberry’s take on the importance of a public-private partnership to educate ordinary people about their energy  use and to change their perception of the industry resonated strongly with what I have been thinking a lot lately. Without advocating the fossil fuel industry, it is worth remembering that it is unarguably an important part of our lives along with, hopefully, the growing share of renewable sources of energy. As Stansberry notes, “nothing moves without energy […] our quality of life is dependent upon the development of all forms of energy, as well as the conservation of our natural resources.” Without knowing, or more importantly appreciating, what aspects of our lives are touched, changed and improved by use of energy, nobody can truly value where and how it is obtained. In my view, Stansberry’s emphasis on starting “Your Personal Energy Journal 2012-2016” is a brilliant way to begin to understand your personal energy consumption and to create your personal energy plan in hopes to ultimately integrating the well-informed citizenry to discussion on creating a comprehensive, regional, state, and national energy plan. I know I will start using the charts on individual energy use provided in Stansberry’s book, and hopefully others will start, too.

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