America's Energy Gamble: People, Economy, and Planet.

Date01 July 2023
AuthorFitzgerald, Timothy

America's Energy Gamble: People, Economy, and Planet. by Shanti Gamper-Rabindran. (Cambridge University Press, 2022). 526 pages, ISBN: 978-1-00-901801-2 paperback.

Shanti Gamper-Rabindran frames "America's Energy Gamble" in the opening pages as "blatant moves to help the oil and gas industry [that] will...entrench expanded extraction and deregulation for generations to come. The implications...are only exacerbated by the urgency with which the United States needs to transition away from fossil fuels." (p3) Irrespective of the validity of the conclusion from the predicate, the reader who agrees with the statement and perspective it takes is likely to agree with most or much of what follows. A reader seeking a deeper explanation of tradeoffs in energy policy or a broader perspective is likely to be disappointed.

The book focuses, at times quite shrilly, on domestic energy proposals and policies of the Trump Administration. In this sense a more descriptive title would have been "Trump's Energy Gamble." U.S. policy shifted sharply with the inauguration of Joe Biden, questioning the degree to which previous policies entrenched. Federal policy may well shift again with future executive changes. It is hardly surprising that the United States is a leading oil and gas producer--it has been for decades. It had also been the world's leading natural gas producer for a number of years before Donald Trump entered politics, and during his presidency broke a close race with Saudi Arabia and Russia to emerge as the top petroleum and liquids producer as well.

The book focuses on a characterized choice between oil and gas and green renewables, almost entirely avoiding issues around coal, nuclear, and hydropower. Its perspective on policy is uncomplicated treating every proposal or declaration equally regardless of how and where it started. It takes an outsider's view--Gamper-Rabindran seems to have no particular insight into the Trump Administration or federal policymaking. (1) These three characteristics make the book a very detailed repudiation of oil and gas boosterism of the Trump years but constrain insight and applicability beyond that historical period. The most descriptive possible title might be "Why Trump Oil and Gas Policies Were Misguided."

Rather than engaging with deeper issues or providing original analysis, the book spends 500+ pages castigating almost everything and anything the Trump Administration did or tried to do in the domestic oil and gas space. But there is no exploration of motives or objectives from the...

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