Book Review – Coming Clean

Joanna Schroeder

coming-cleanCome Clean America! This week I read “Coming Clean: Breaking America’s Addiction to Oil and Coal by Micheal Brune. I’m going to come clean for a moment and let you know that Brune is the Executive Director of the Rainforest Action Network and the book was published by Sierra Club Books. Ironically, last week I read Green Inc., and many organizations mentioned in this book, including Brune’s own, were called out by MacDonald for ethical and moral issues.

As controversy is a great prerequisite for fodder, I’ll point out that Brune is a huge advocate of global warming. He writes, “Let me be blunt: if we only take individual action and do nothing else to save our climate, we’re probably cooked. We need to aim higher by changing corporate America and challenging our political leaders.”

Brune highlights several issues in the book including Big Oil; King Coal; how banks are funding global climate change; how to jump-start Detroit; wind and solar; and as always one of my favorites, biofuels, which Brune calls agrofuels. I rarely read an energy book where the author is truly up to speed on biofuels and Brune is no exception. Like most everyone, he hates corn ethanol and writes that biofuels may have an important role to play if they meet five criteria. They must:

  1. 1. reduce greenhouse gases
  2. 2. not displace food crops and threaten food security for the world’s poor
  3. 3. uphold the integrity of critical ecosystems, particularly in tropical forests
  4. 4. strengthen the human rights of community farmers and indigenous people
  5. 5. should be developed only as part of a broader strategy to reduce fuel consumption and redesign mobility

    Brune laments the rapidity of growth in the agrofuels industry and cautions that if things don’t slow down we could be developing the recipe for disaster. “It would be wise to put a global moratorium on the expansion of the industry until we can get it right, seeking input from the stakeholders that would be most affected by agrofuels development.”

    While I see his point, and agree that his five issues are important, I ultimately disagree that we are on the path of disaster with our current biofuels initiatives. Our continued use of fossil fuels and our excuses as to why our current options won’t work will not help us get America to where it needs to be.

    One last note. One of the great elements of this book is that in each chapter Brune gives the readers “Take Action” resources- enough to get people engaged but not so much that a person could become overwhelmed. This is a great tool for those who are passionate about sustainability. If you read the book for this reason only, it would be worth it.

    To read this book or any other book I review, click here.

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