My readers may be wondering why I’ve not posted any new blogs in recent weeks. The principal reason is that I’ve been devoting a good chunk of my time to writing a book. It is a book on the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy as I’ve experienced it since I first got interested in energy issues in 1969. In its present third draft (I expect there will be more) it includes 15 chapters with the following tentative titles:
Chapter 1: The New England years – how it all got started
Chapter 2: Working on the Staff of the U.S. Senate
Chapter 3: The 1973 Oil Embargo and Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE)
Chapter 4: Joining the Executive Branch and leading the Domestic Policy Review of Solar Energy
Chapter 5: Post-DPR Period and the Reagan-Bush41 Years
Chapter 6: Clinton-Gore Years (Part 1 of 3)
Chapter 7: Clinton-Gore Years (Part 2 of 3)
Chapter 8: Clinton-Gore Years (Part 3 of 3)
Chapter 9: Clean Energy at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta
Chapter 10: Cooperating With Other Countries on Renewable Energy Development
Chapter 11: George W. Bush-Dick Cheney Years
Chapter 12: The Obama Administration – Final Years in Government
Chapter 13: Summarizing and Today’s Renewable Energy Situation
Chapter 14: Looking Ahead to Our Energy Future
Chapter 15: The Importance of Energy Policy to the Energy Transition
I also include here the draft Preface to give you a better idea of what will be in the book:
Why another book on energy? It is not a book on the details of energ technologies – my contributions on that score have appeared in the many posts I have published on my blog web site http://www.lapsedphysicist.org. This book is motivated by the need to understand the global energy transition that is finally
getting underway. It will literally change the way the world operates, given energy͛s central role in society. This book will also fill a gap in public understanding of how this transition came about.
Important target audiences are the young people who will inherit the transition and shape its future. It is important to know where we came from as we decide where to go. Other target audiences are those in government who currently shape our public policies, and my family members, colleagues, and friends who lived through many of the times and events discussed in the book and who contributed in various ways to the transition.
The transition has been long in coming. It validates my long-held belief and that of many others that the world energy system must undergo an inevitable transition from heavy dependence on fossil fuels following the advent of the industrial revolution in the 1800s to an emerging energy system that will rely increasingly on renewable energy. The second decade of the 21st century has seen the beginnings of this transition, which is now unfolding at an accelerating, even
dizzying, pace. It did not come easily, especially in the United States where traditional energy industries argued that renewable energy was too expensive and unable to meet U.S. energy needs, and politicians dependent on energy industry contributions supported the status quo through legislative inaction. It was a shortsighted approach that has hurt the U.S. economy by allowing other countries to take the lead and reap the related job and economic growth benefits.
My contributions in this book will be to add to the history of the early years of this transition, help explain why the U.S. took the so long to start moving toward a clean energy economy, and reflect on the steps toward and importance of this
transition. These contributions reflect my having been a major participant in that transition from its earliest days in the 1970s through the first decade of the 21st century. To borrow a phrase I came across recently in a book review, the book will
offer “an intimate, novelistic sense of what it was like to be there͛. It will reflect my personal experiences and observations from when I first began to educate myself about energy efficiency and renewable energy starting in 1969, and then my move to Washington, DC in 1974 to learn about how our federal government was handling these issues. What started out as a one-year leave of absence from my academic position as a young physics professor, via a fellowship to work with Congress, turned out to be a life-changing event that turned me into that most dreaded of terms, a ͚bureaucrat͛. Hopefully, by the time you complete your reading of this book, you will see that not all bureaucrats are the usual caricatures presented by the press and bemoaned by so many of our Congressional
representatives and fellow citizens. In fact, after an active Washington, DC career of 38 years (I retired in 2012) in both branches of the federal government and
their offspring, the National Academies of Sciences, I can say with conviction that without the dedicated public servants I worked with and encountered throughout those 38 years our federal government would not work as well as it does. As in all
human activities there are always some who disappoint, but the vast majority of public servants in my opinion are dedicated to doing their jobs well and making a difference. You hear the horror stories about government in the press, but what you don͛t hear are the quiet stories of long hours spent trying to responsibly implement our laws, carry out complicated programs, and advance the national interest.
This book, a highly personal memoir, will describe how I first got interested in energy issues, my early experiences in New England as the national debate on nuclear power got underway, my moving to Washington in 1974 to work as a Congressional Fellow and Staff Scientist for the U.S. Senate Commerce
Committee, my move in 1978 to the newly formed Department of Energy (DOE) as a political appointee in the Carter Administration, my time in the 1980s at the
National Academies of Sciences, and my subsequent return in 1991 to the Executive Branch to serve in various senior positions at DOE. It͛’s been an exciting
ride that has left some important marks on energy policy and development along the way. It will also describe my late-career pioneering efforts to describe the critical linkage between energy and water issues which is today attracting
considerable attention. Hopefully, this book will offer some unique history and insights that will be of benefit to those who will come after me, and help explain how this transition, which will serve as a positive legacy to future generations,
This book is dedicated to my wife who has had to patiently listen to me talk about energy issues and the inevitable transition for more than thirty years, and to my
children and grandchildren and their peers who will inherit the energy systems we helped create.
I will also be returning to blogging by analyzing the energy positions of the U.S. presidential candidates who are still competing for their political party’s nomination – Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for the Democrats and Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich for the Republicans.