Monday, April 1, 2013

"US Energy Policy and the Pursuit of Failure"

That's the title of the new book by my dear friend and frequent collaborator Peter Z. Grossman, Professor of Economics at Butler University. Yesterday, Peter hand-delivered my own copy of the book, which is published by Cambridge.

I'm far too biased to provide an objective review of the book, which I've read in draft. But it is a very important book, which canvasses the history of US energy policy and offers a novel political-economic theory, which Peter calls the "do-something syndrome" to explain why Congress and the White House often respond to perceived energy "crises" with ineffective, sometimes downright silly, legislative and regulatory proposals.

But don't just take my word for it. Consider the advanced praise for the book by some very prominent social scientists:

U.S. Energy Policy and the Pursuit of Failure is exactly the kind of analysis that more economists should do. It brings in political transaction costs to explain how policies can go astray, endure, and reduce welfare. Given the plethora of policy recommendations for climate change mitigation, economists should take pause and be careful in what they call for.”
– Gary Libecap, Distinguished Professor, Corporate Environmental Management, University of California, Santa Barbara
“I’ve been engaged with U.S. energy policy since 1973, and with climate-change policy since 1979, and this new book corresponds to my experience wherever I have strong memories, and adds greatly to my historical knowledge. My only disappointment was its brief discussion of policy toward global warming, but then I realized that there has not been significant U.S. policy toward global warming! It is well organized, comprehensive, and well written – I recommend it.”
– Thomas C. Schelling, Nobel Laureate, Harvard and University of Maryland, Emeritus
“For four decades, politicians have promised a solution to the ‘energy crisis’ that will bring Americans ‘energy independence.’ Fusion, wind, solar, switch grass, or algae, the salvation technologies have changed but the promises remain the same and broken. In this important and entertaining book, Peter Grossman documents the history of energy policy failure. Most importantly, Professor Grossman explains why policy has failed. Crisis-mentality thinking has promoted quick fixes and single-shot ‘solutions’ that ignore market and technology realities. What we need is not a solution in the style of the Manhattan Project but stable rules that support basic research while leaving plenty of scope for American entrepreneurship and innovation. Professor Grossman’s careful history and insightful analysis is the key guide to a more modest but more successful energy policy.”
– Alex Tabarrok, Director, Center for Study of Public Choice and Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at the Mercatus Center, George Mason University
“Peter Grossman’s definitive documentation of the failures of energy policy is a must-read for every policy analyst.”
– Murray Weidenbaum, Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor, Washington University, St. Louis, and former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, 1981–1982

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