I read Michael Klare's book: Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum and I think that, in diagnosing the problem, it is quite valuable. It makes its points well and without over-reaching the ample evidence it provides. If for no other reason, it is worth reading to gain a widely researched and historically embedded conception of ideas that have become common knowledge, but are rarely rigorously defended. The discussion of geopolitics, in terms of Russia, China, and the United States, was less well-worn territory than that covered by the rest of the book. Doubtless, it shall be interesting to see what develops between them in the decades ahead.

In my view, this book really falls down in the last chapter, where it is most overtly prescriptive. Suddenly the science gets extremely faulty - regarding the production of alternative fuels, for example. Any intelligent person should be able to see why a statement such as: "since hydrogen is the most plentiful element in the known universe, its supply is limitless" rather misses the point. Many of the considerations in the early chapters just vanish. Yes, the ideas proposed are good. What isn't proposed is any viable plan to achieve them.

It would be impossible for a volume of 200 pages to solve the global petroleum question, but Klare does nobody any favours by saying that the solution is obvious. The big thing Klare misses is the simple economic fact that price and demand are related. He projects oil demand out into the future, then spends half the book wondering where that amount will come from. The fact is, as oil gets scarcer, it will necessarily get dearer. Temporary subsidies can only delay that. It is simply wrong to assert that demand will evolve regardless of the situation on the supply side.

In the last chapter, suddenly, there is unqualified talk of climate change and biomass fuel. Somewhere, a lot of rigour in argumentation was lost. Where previous chapters cite the American love of SUVs even when oil is expensive as proof that price doesn't matter, Klare lauds his gasoline tax as a mechanism for reducing demand.

All told, Klare's book is not a bad use of three hours. Still, it is not a thing to be read uncritically.

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