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The End of Energy

The Unmaking of America's Environment, Security, and Independence

Michael J. Graetz

Publication Year: 2011

Forty years of energy incompetence: villains, failures of leadership, and missed opportunities.

Published by: The MIT Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-8

It remains a basic fact of American life that, despite forty years of political fulminating, global conflict, and ever-increasing environmental awareness, most of us still take energy for granted. We take for granted that when we come home at night and flip on the light switch, the bulb will illuminate. We assume that when we turn up the thermostat, the heat will come on. ...

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1. A “New Economic Policy”

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pp. 9-20

If you turned on your television set at 9:00 p.m. on Sunday evening, August 15, 1971, as millions of Americans did every week to follow the travails of the Cartwright family in the enormously popular Western Bonanza , you might have been surprised to see the somber visage of Richard M. Nixon, the thirty-seventh president of the United States. Nixon had come down ...

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2. Losing Control over Oil

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pp. 21-40

If our government and the public at large had been lulled into apathy during the 1950s and 1960s by plentiful oil at cheap and stable prices, the illusion that such conditions would last forever was shattered on October 20, 1973. It was on that day that the Arab oil-producing states declared a Soviet-supplied Egypt and Syria had launched surprise Yom Kippur ...

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3. The Environment Moves Front and Center

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pp. 41-60

It has become commonplace — even though no one fully believes it — to date the emergence of the modern environmental movement from April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day. John Steele Gordon, writing in American Heritage magazine nearly twenty-five years later, described that day as “ one of the most remarkable happenings in the history of democracy. ” “ Fully ...

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4. No More Nuclear

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pp. 61-78

At four in the morning of March 28, 1979, unit 2 of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (TMI-2) shut down. The power plant, located in the middle of the Susquehanna River, stood 10 miles from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the state capital. A valve that controlled the fl ow of water that cooled the reactor had failed to close, allowing a large amount of water ...

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5. The Changing Face of Coal

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pp. 79-96

In a country still reacting to the 1973 Arab oil embargo, many policymakers regarded coal (along with nuclear power) as the nation ’ s energy savior. In contrast to price controls on oil, Richard Nixon released all controls on the price of coal in March 1974. The United States was the “ Saudi Arabia of coal, ” and coal had become, in Gerald Ford ’ s words, our “ ace in the ...

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6. Natural Gas and the Ability to Price

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pp. 97-116

It was sunny, but a freezing and blustery 28 ° F that felt like 13 ° F with the wind chill on January 20, 1977, as Jimmy Carter, having just been sworn in as president, walked from the capitol toward the White House, holding hands with his wife, Rosalyn, and his daughter, Amy. The bone-chilling cold was not surprising that January afternoon; the winter had been far colder ...

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7. The Quest for Alternatives and to Conserve

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pp. 117-136

May 3, 1978, was a Wednesday and pouring rain, but to Jimmy Carter it was Sun Day. The bare-headed president refused the offer of an umbrella as he laid out his vision of a sun-powered nation at the Solar Energy Research Institute atop South Table Mountain in Golden, Colorado — a town that is sunny about 330 days a year. “ We know it works, ” Carter said, ...

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8. A Crisis of Confidence

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pp. 137-146

All of Jimmy Carter ’ s efforts to encourage conservation and alternative energy did little to halt the crisis he faced in the summer of 1979. Inflation in the United States was then running at 14 percent. The nation was reeling from gasoline shortages and a wildcat insurrection by truckers frustrated by fuel shortages and high prices. Gas lines and odd – even day rationing ...

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9. The End of an Era

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pp. 147-154

When it came to energy policy, the differences between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter were stark. They reflected not only their disparate policy preferences, but also their fundamental dispute over the proper role for the federal government. Energy had been the centerpiece of Carter ’ s domestic presidential agenda. He had pushed to transform our nation ’ s ...

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10. Climate Change, a Game Changer

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pp. 155-178

On December 10, 2007, former vice president Al Gore stopped briefly on the long red carpet leading up the steps to Oslo ’ s city hall. He nodded, smiled, then waved to the cheering crowd gathered on the streets circling the building. Gore — who had won the popular vote for the U.S. presidency in 2000 but lost to George W. Bush in the electoral college after a ...

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11. Shock to Trance

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pp. 179-196

On November 17, 2008, the second Sunday after his election, Barack Obama sat down for an interview with Steve Kroft of CBS ’ s 60 Minutes . Kroft When the price of oil was $147 a barrel, there were a lot of spirited and profitable discussions that were held on energy independence; now Kroft Doing something about energy, is it less important now that . . . ? ...

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12. The Invisible Hand?

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pp. 197-216

Before the 1970s, the federal government played only a bit part in regulating energy policymaking. The most important agencies were state entities, such as the Oklahoma Commerce Commission and the Texas Railroad Commission, which had the power to regulate oil production in their states. Their job was largely to manage abundance. In effect, they limited ...

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13 Government for the People?

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pp. 217-248

In 2009 and 2010, the most significant energy legislation in a generation was being debated in Congress. Hundreds if not thousands of interest groups from business, the environmental movement, organized labor, and citizen action committees, together with all their lobbyists, jammed the halls of the Capitol to press their case for myriad different policies and ...

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14. Disaster in the Gulf

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pp. 249-164

On the evening of June 15, 2010, Barack Obama delivered his first Oval Office address to the nation. Surrounded by flags and pictures of his family, President Obama began, “ On April 20th, an explosion ripped through [the] BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, about 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Eleven workers lost their lives. Seventeen others were injured. ...

Key Energy Data

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pp. 165-270


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pp. 271-278

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Bibliographic Essay

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pp. 279-354

The description of oil’s “journey” from well to automobile was based on conversations with oil company personnel and a number of documents describing and analyzing different stages of the oil supply chain.
In general, see Lisa Margonelli, Oil on the Brain: Petroleum’s Long, Strange Trip to Your Tank (Louisville, KY: Broadway Press, 2008), which provides a nice overview of...


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pp. 355-370

E-ISBN-13: 9780262295611
E-ISBN-10: 026229561X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262015677
Print-ISBN-10: 0262015676

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: 5 figures
Publication Year: 2011