The Book to Read on “Freedom from Oil”

freedomfromoil.gifFor years, I have been looking for a good, readable book on the oil problem and its solution — just as I’d been looking for a good book on clean technology. Well, I found the Clean Tech book in August, and now I’ve found the oil book.

It is Freedom from Oil by Brookings scholar and White House veteran, David Sandalow. It is an unqualified success — cleverly told as a series of policy memos from the Cabinet of a near-future President, who begins the book by telling his staff:

“I plan to deliver an address from the Oval Office one month from today. The topic will be oil dependence.”

In the breathless narrative that follows, you learn the stripped-down facts about oil dependency plus the growing strategic and environmental danger posed by oil dependency– AND key solutions like plug-in hybrids and revised CAFE standards (as well as stories of fascinating figures in the oil game). You get a “unique window into the White House at work” from a former assistant secretary of state and senior director on the National Security Council staff.

Sandalow’s President ultimately offers an aggressive plan to free the country from oil dependence, which includes:

  • Offering for the federal government to buy 30,000 plug-in hybrids at an $8,000 premium
  • Offering an $8000 consumer tax credit for purchasers of the first million plug-ins, and a $4000 rebate for purchasers of the second million.
  • Legislation to retool US auto factories and assume some auto industry health costs.
  • Replacing CAFE standards with Fuel Reduction and Energy Efficiency (FREEdom) standards
  • A low-carbon fuel standard
  • A major shift in federal funding from new road construction to mass transit.
  • To pay for all this, a 50-cent-a-gallon gas tax phased in over 5 years, with excess revenues used to lower personal income taxes.

I should note that Sandalow is a friend and former Clinton Administration colleague, that I reviewed a couple of chapters of his book prepublication, and that he cites me extensively in his debunking of hydrogen. But you know that I have no compunction about railing against misguided writing (see here and here).

If you are looking for one book to read on the oil problem and its solution, get Freedom from Oil.

6 Responses to The Book to Read on “Freedom from Oil”

  1. John McCormick says:

    Sounds great.

    The Treasury will write off $8 billion in tax credits for the first million plug-ins. Then send out $4 billion in rebates for the next million plug-in purchases. And, it will pay $240 million to purchase 30,000 plug-ins.

    2,030,000 plug-in purchases at a cost of $12.240 billion to tax payers over 2,3 or 4 years. Where are the votes for that outlay in a pay-go Congress?

    There is another aspect to his proposal. It is called federal debt. Sorry to raise this mundane issue but these ideas are cheap until we have to find a way to pay for them.

  2. Joe says:


    Thanks for the comment, the plan IS paid for — I added a bullet to make that clear.

    BTW, ending our addiction to oil will not be cheap or politically easy — if it were, we would have made much more progress already. Sandalow lays out a technically viable strategy — the job of a great leader is to make it become politically feasible. The book has many memos on the political difficulty of achieving all this.

  3. John McCormick says:

    Joe, thank you for that information. This could work!

  4. miqcie says:

    In terms of making things politically feasible, what incentives would you suggest we offer to oil and natural gas companies?

  5. jcwinnie says:

    The book begins by a near-future President telling his staff: “I plan to deliver an address from the Oval Office one month from today. The topic will be oil dependence.”

    I assume that it is in the Fantasy / Science Fiction section of the bookstore?

  6. kwolph says:

    I have not had a chance to the read the book yet but am curious to learn more about FREEdom standards. I did a quick google search but did not come up with much information. Could anyone enlighten me?

    I do know the potential improvement of CAFE and RES standards that are currently be proposed in Congress. discusses ACEEE’s goal for new CAFE standards is to lower the United State’s oil dependency by 2.5 Billion barrels per day in 2030. It also goes into the ACEEE conclusion that an effective Renewable Energy Standard plan is predicted to save in annual energy efficiency by 40 Billion kWH of electricity by 2020.

    If you are curious and want to learn more, check out And please leave a link if anyone has information about FREEdom. Thanks!