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Book Review: "We Don’t Need Any Foreign Oil"

Reviewed by John C. Robinson ~

"We Don’t Need Any Foreign Oil" By Frederic Leder, Ph.D. • HJP Publishing, 2011

For the average American, knowledge about energy is based largely on comments and complaints heard at the gas pump, newspaper editorial submissions, and politically-biased commentary on television and the radio. Generally, none of this is factual and/or is based upon and reflecting some vested interest of the false pundit. This book represents a rare opportunity to read a short summary of our entire energy picture, complete and to the point, and written with the neophyte or lay person in mind — but is also filled with easy-to-understand facts that even an energy-knowledgeable person will enjoy. One can become a conversationalist in one of the hottest topics of today and the future by simply reading this compact, logical and pedagogic presentation of “energy.” One can also be encouraged that our energy future is not so bleak if the right steps are taken.
This book represents for the author, Dr. Leder, a condensed version of many years as professor and engineer/scientist and manager involved with the extraction and utilization of energy from most every conceivable source of energy on earth. He can expertly speak as an insider, particularly in all areas of petroleum and natural gas exploration, production, processing and refining, and utilization; he has held important positions with several major U.S. oil, and oil-related, companies.  During the past decade, his requested discussions of energy on television and for interested groups of people has lead to a considerable collection of notes and investigations into the history and future of energy on planet Earth. After encouragement and requests, he has arrived at this very condensed book, which is amazingly complete for the lay person and even for a scientist, such as I; it covers the history of energy from the simple Newcomen heat engine up to breeder nuclear reactors. The author has avoided oversights, by his scientific approach, and has nicely intertwined politics with science and natural resources and global needs (past, present and future).
As the title suggests, the book is about a plan for making America independent of foreign oil. “Foreign,” as used by the author, is meant to primarily emphasize countries “unfriendly” to America. As presented, the plan covers a 20-year time and is a hybrid approach; it utilizes many energy sources, including coal, oil and natural gas from wells, oil from shale and tar sands, nuclear, hydroelectric, biomass, and other renewable sources (wind, solar, geothermal, etc.). The achievement of the book’s title must include Government’s (a worrisome prospect) help in dealings among states and environmentalists, and financial involvement in four key areas of industrial and academic energy research, viz., 1) completion of the uranium fuel cycle in breeder reactors, 2) energy storage, especially of a form amenable to transportation vehicles, 3) further development of catalysts for the conversion of coal to diesel fuel, and 4) large-scale (now limited and uneconomic) energy sources like solar, wind, geothermal, ocean thermal gradients and currents, etc. Sensible and easily understood discussions about these areas of energy supply are given. Leder also believes much more Government support of research in solar activity and greenhouse gases’ true effects on Earth temperatures, both desirable and undesirable, is needed.
Dr. Leder considers out-of-control population expansion to ultimately have dire consequences, especially in control of greenhouse gases and loss of fertile farmlands; with the achievement of his plans for energy independence, America would suffer less that other areas of the world from energy shortages. Unless international cooperation is established, he forewarns that we’ll likely have to live with the climatic consequences indefinitely.
Chapter 8 gives an excellent review and summary of the titular energy independence to be achieved in America. Tables 4-7 in Ch. 8 clearly summarize the book’s scheme for achieving the ostensible energy independence over a 20-year time period. The author admits that his scheme is just a suggested pathway to energy self-sufficiency and that the volatile energy sciences likely could change in the next 20 years, thus yielding potential improvements (or even problems) for the plan. But, importantly, even without major breakthroughs, the ostensible achievement of energy independence can be done. The estimated cost of the plan is on the order of $580 billion over a period of 20 years — a very reasonable cost and challenging benchmark for modifications in the scheme. An added benefit of the completion of Leder’s scheme would be an ongoing 25%-increased (from present rates) production of energy with only a 10% increase on carbon dioxide (CO2). There also potentially would be more than a million new jobs created by the plan.

John C. Robinson, Ph.D. is a geophysicist/engineer. The author of this book, Dr. Frederick Leder, is a regular contributor to the Jewish Ledger.

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