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In the past quarter century, increasing evidence of global warming along with seemingly unending political volatility in the Middle East has transformed energy policy into one of the most pressing issues in the U.S. This is primarily because of American reliance on petroleum, which has been its most important source of energy for roughly a century. After 1945, of course, this dependence became increasingly problematic. As American sources dried up, the U.S. came to rely on unstable oil-rich regimes in the Middle East to fuel its massive auto fleet. Policymakers recognized the extent of the problem, but it proved very difficult to wean American consumers off of foreign-produced fossil fuels. In the last decade, however, the discovery of new sources of natural gas and petroleum in North America along with advances in alternative fuel technology have radically altered the energy landscape--and the politics surrounding it. Michael Levi'sPaydirtis about these two revolutions in U.S. energy--one in 'old' energy (oil, gas, coal) and one in 'new energy' (wind, solar, biofuels, efficiency)--and the intense clash that they have produced. Roughly a half century ago, worries about oil shortages produced an initial a wave of attempts to develop alternative energy sources, and concerns about global warming as well as new technological breakthroughs have intensified such efforts. On the other hand, domestic exploration in the past decade has yielded massive new fields of gas and oil, and the American fossil fuel industry has boomed. Not surprisingly, lobbyists for each approach see the other as an adversary, and condemn their opposites in stridently moralistic terms. Yet as Levi shows, the inevitable clash between the two has been overblown, at least as a matter of substance (though certainly not politics). He argues that for at least the next two decades, a smart strategy will carefully blend and exploit the best of old and new energy alike. Through a comprehensive overview of the rapidly evolving energy economy, Levi not challenges conventional wisdom on the left and right alike. In a way that no other author has done, he also helps readers understand how energy fits into the big questions facing American society in the years ahead.
Michael Levi is the David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment at the Council on Foreign Relations. The author of the book On Nuclear Terrorism, he has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, WIRED, Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, Slate, and other publications. He is a frequent advisor to government and business, and a regular guest on major television and radio. He lives in New York.