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The False Promise of Green Energy Hardcover – Feb 16 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Cato Institute (Feb. 16 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935308416
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935308416
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.9 x 24 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 590 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #644,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
44 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Funny, Factual, Correct, but Unsatisfying Feb. 12 2011
By Dan - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It's too bad that I couldn't give this book 4.5/5 stars, because I am really close to loving this book. The authors legitimately point out the litany of errors, and their consequences, in the "scientific" green energy/green job reports. So many examples from the book could be cited, like the comedy/tragedy surrounding the multitude of definitions or the inadequacy of input-output models. Their points are made in a really sarcastically funny way too, like the "we have the technology to put a man on the moon, but you don't see lunar tourism" passage.

There was hardly much in here that I think can be debated on a factual basis. Of course, agreement on facts never prevented disagreement on policy. Since its from the CATO Institute, obviously I know to expect the "free market is better than anything else we have" viewpoint. But the authors never really attack the argument that negative externalities requires government involvement to internalize costs. This, of course, is the intellectual defense to all the sham research they have criticized. They come close to it, by asking (quite pejoratively) "if green activists think people are too dumb to realize energy savings". I would say that behavioral economics has shown that many people act as if they are "satisficing" not optimizing. Maybe that's just a semantic argument, but I think its a legitimate argument nonetheless. Secondly, that pejorative dismissal misses the point having external costs. That is, its not that people are "too dumb", its that they are causing damage to other elements of the economy. We are both a network and a bunch of atoms.

The book attacks any practical policy implementations that try to address externalities (or just collect rents) and justly so in my opinion. But it still left me wanting more, like what should be done. They mention the X-Prize tournaments. However, I think it is debatable whether such competitive incentives are always best. Sometimes R&D works best by collaborating without expectation of profit sharing. After all, science was invented by people driven for the sake of knowledge alone. Increasing competition might stop some unions from being developed. Of course, it might not. Regardless of where you fall in that debate, it seems unlikely that government tournaments are going to solve the energy/environmental tradeoffs. So much is riding on technological breakthroughs, that profits from the free markets seems like a pretty good prize.

Anyway... definitely buy the book and you will enjoy it. Facts will be useful for the upcoming election. However, it does not ultimately provide any solutions to the environmental/economic situation we face.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Good analysis, but who is the audience? April 19 2011
By William Whipple III - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One line of attack on the "green energy" agenda is to question its primary rationale, namely the theory that catastrophic global warming will result unless human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are drastically reduced.

This book tackles a different question: Assuming that global warming due to carbon emissions might be a problem, is the green energy agenda well designed to achieve the environmental and economic benefits that have been attributed to it?

The authors are four academics (three being economists and/or attorneys) who describe themselves as "professional skeptics." And they do a workmanlike job of questioning the logic and integrity of green energy from various angles.

Having followed the debate about this subject, I was familiar with many of the points. The technical feasibility of a rapid transition to solar and wind power has been vastly exaggerated, while the cost estimates are correspondingly understated. Some environmentalists view nuclear power as "green" because it has the potential of reducing carbon emissions, while others will oppose it to their dying breath. There are numerous environmental objections to the government-supported ethanol program. There is no common definition of the green jobs that are promised, and forecasts are typically expressed on a gross basis (without subtracting jobs that would be eliminated, e.g., in the fossil fuel industries and in industrial operations that would leave the country as the result of higher US energy costs.) Some analysts would count jobs in regulatory compliance areas as a benefit, when they actually represent an economic cost. Claims that green jobs will necessarily provide highly paid, agreeable employment are not credible. Barring the creation of trade barriers, most wind power or solar power equipment would be produced in Asia or Europe versus the US. Etc.

It is nice to have an authoritative source to cite, with a logically organized series of chapters and a handy dandy index. And some of the conceptual points are novel, e.g., demonstration of selective optimism about technological progress in the future (assumed for green energy operations, ignored for traditional energy operations), and repeated demonstration of the Baptist and bootleggers syndrome (people with very different objectives closing ranks to support Sunday closing laws). It is amazing how ready green energy advocates are to trade the taken-for-granted benefits of a free market economy for their vision of what life on earth should be like (e.g., small pastoral communities, locally grown food, no more Wal-Mart).

However, who is the audience? For right wing think tanks and academics, the book is preaching to the converted. Left wing think tanks and academics will not read it. Corporate employees will tend to do whatever suits their own interests.

The authors suggest that the general public could use the book as a source of green energy questions (30 questions are listed in the concluding chapter) for candidates for elective office, but I doubt this will work. The material is too involved, diverse and sophisticated for the average reader to absorb and remember. Also, direct contact between the voters and politicians on policy issues is increasingly infrequent, and written communications from voters are recapped without much reflection on the content unless the sender is seen as potential source of campaign cash.

So if green energy is indeed an expensive, ill-conceived experiment in social engineering, as the authors argue, I think a simpler, more straightforward formulation of the issue would be needed to combat it.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Interesting book but you have to know how to read it March 28 2012
By Mr. R. Baal - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is from the Cato people so you should know where they are starting from. As long as you realise this its an OK read. Much of the information is very USA centric and as such if you are from outside you should be careful about reading USA examples into your own country.

Cato is very disingenuous at times. They complain that the Green lobby uses best case examples to push their ideas while at the same time Cato uses very carefully contrived worst case examples to shoot them down. Examples of this are in the chapter on public transport where only one traffic flow is considered rater than all the traffic flows that the system would carry. On the same chapter they complain that feeder busses don't work because they don't match the passenger load, ignoring that you can in practice change the size of the bus to match the traffic flow. In their examples it seems all cars carry 4 people and all are going to the same destination from the same departure point.

Its like this throughout the whole book, the answer is the motor car now what is your question?

They could have done much better, still if you can get it cheap or from a library its worth a read just don't take things to much to heart.
Think before you shut down all those power plants Aug. 16 2014
By David L. Olson - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A biased but convincing (to me) view that radical efforts to cut all carbon emission immediately is impossible and counterproductive. This is a politically charged issue and one should look at both extremes. This treatment is pretty balanced in my view, but I am sure a significant minority in the US (including Barack Obama) would disagree. That's not a negative.
interesting arguments, well done research March 19 2013
By Panos S. - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
it is an excellent book, must read for everyone that is involved in politics as well as climate change and energy issues. Unfortunately these views are not as publicized as they should.