The Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity, and the Battle for America's Future

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The United States is in the throes of two unfolding energy revolutions, and partisans—convinced that only their side holds the key to American prosperity, security, and safety —are battling over which side should prevail.

In The Power Surge, Michael Levi takes readers inside these revolutions to find out what's really happening—and which side is right. From the back roads of Ohio where old friends are warring over fracking, to the wilds of Colorado where speculators are chasing ...

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The Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity, and the Battle for America's Future

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The United States is in the throes of two unfolding energy revolutions, and partisans—convinced that only their side holds the key to American prosperity, security, and safety —are battling over which side should prevail.

In The Power Surge, Michael Levi takes readers inside these revolutions to find out what's really happening—and which side is right. From the back roads of Ohio where old friends are warring over fracking, to the wilds of Colorado where speculators are chasing the holy grail of oil, he shows how oil and gas production, after decades in decline, are being propelled upward by new technologies and high prices, prompting predictions of an economic renaissance and energy independence within sight. He also visits California eco-startups developing game-changing technologies and Midwest manufacturers betting on a new energy future, showing how more efficient cars and trucks are increasingly dominating the road and costs for renewable energy have plummeted, leading many to herald a future that moves beyond fossil fuels and saves the planet.

Armed with on-the-ground lessons, and drawing on insights from economics, politics, international relations and climate science, The Power Surge takes on the big claims made by both sides in the fight over American energy, explaining why the purists are often wrong. Both revolutions in American energy, Levi argues, offer big opportunities for the country to strengthen its economy, bolster its security, and protect the environment. The Power Surge shows how to seize those opportunities with a new strategy that blends the best of old and new energy while avoiding the real dangers that each one poses.

Sweeping in scope, provocative yet thoughtful, The Power Surge is necessary reading for anyone who wants to understand the changes roiling American energy, and what they mean for our future.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Levi (On Nuclear Terrorism), a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, surveys the changing landscape of U.S. energy production. Well-worn political battles in the energy wars over policies to boost supply or curb demand of oil and gas, he thinks, no longer make sense. Based on site visits and packed with perspective, Levi ably covers fracking, climate change, fuel-efficient electric cars, and clean energy. He reviews the promise of plentiful natural gas and the potential of what he says are now expensive alternative energies. Observing reduced public fear of nuclear energy and “rising concerns about climate change,” Levi avoids partisanship and “greenthink” utopianism, relying on facts and data to make his case. He outlines current “energy revolutions” that could free the nation from oil dependence, reviewing substantial changes in geopolitics since the traumatic oil shortages of the 1970s. He is generally optimistic about the coming decades, while admitting the imprecision of forecasts and “wildcards facing the future of U.S. energy—peak oil, major war, deglobalization, a stalled economic recovery, and surprisingly high climate sensitivity.” Readers seeking to understand America’s energy policies and prospects will welcome this even-handed, smart, and accessible book on a topic of incomparable economic importance. Agent: Geri Thoma, the Markson Thoma Literary Agency. (May)
From the Publisher

"All revolutions need their storytellers. So it is surprising that America's energy revolution of the past few years has not had a serious scribe before now.... In The Power Surge Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations takes an excellent first stab at making sense of America's new energy resources.... The book's main strength is the clarity with which the author explains the development of shale exploitation and assesses the implications of the shale boom." --The Economist

"An authoritative new book." --Joe Nocera, New York Times

"The Power Surge is just fabulous." --Tom Keene, Bloomberg

"Michael Levi's The Power Surge is a welcome relief to melodramatic debates over energy. With a calm voice and an eye for detail, Levi makes the case for a more realistic scenario: renewable energy and fossil fuels are set to share the stage for decades to come.... Levi touches on many ways the energy boom may impact other issues, including climate change, foreign policy and even the dynamics within small communities.... [T]here is a wealth of detail and insights, delivered in a clear prose...." --Kevin Begos, Associated Press

"Levi... is a smart, pragmatic observer of the energy wars.... He knows how to cut through specious arguments on both sides of the energy-and-climate debate while keeping in target the bigger challenges facing the U.S. and the world... [The Power Surge] is one of the best analyses of the amazing changes taking place in the energy sphere today, touching on everything from fracking to climate change to the Keystone XL pipeline debate." --Bryan Walsh, Time

"Levi, a senior fellow for energy and environment at the Council on Foreign Relations and one of the country's most pragmatic energy experts, combines a researcher's analytical detachment with a journalist's flair for on-the-ground storytelling to take ordinary readers into the impassioned and often ideologically warped debate over how best to keep the nation -- and the world -- industrious, comfortable, mobile and well lighted...For anyone keen to explore and understand all of the potential combinations and outcomes of our energy wars, The Power Surge provides a compelling and timely primer. " --Tom Zeller Jr., Huffington Post

"Michael Levi's new book, The Power Surge, is very likely to be one of the best things you'll read about the ongoing oil and gas boom in the United States . . . The book is filled with detailed on-the-ground reporting and carefully reasoned observations about how the oil and gas uptick could have all sorts of unexpected impacts on everything from U.S. foreign policy to climate change to transportation. And it works remarkably well: There were dozens of places that forced me to completely reconsider what I thought I knew about energy markets." --Brad Plumer, Washington Post

"A boom in oil and gas production, coupled with the sliding cost of renewable energy, offers the United States a chance to curb reliance on foreign fuels and boost economic growth. Levi's book The Power Surge makes a persuasive case that Democrats and Republicans can at least avoid mutual sabotage . . . Appeals for bipartisanship are often quixotic. Levi, however, manages to avoid sounding utopian . . . Levi's myth-busting is exactly what the U.S. energy debate needs." --Christopher Swann, Reuters

"Recommended . . . [An] engaging and illuminating book." --David Biello, Scientific American

"A detailed, clear-eyed look at the radical transformations taking place in America's energy landscape, The Power Surge shifts from fracking to the Keystone XL pipeline to the future of renewables with thoughtful analysis and vivid storytelling." --The Week

"A highly readable account of a complex topic. Abandoning polarization, it opens the door to further scientific conversations to consider the possibilities of consensus on energy development strategies -- a discourse desperately needed if we are to overcome political inertia. Levi demonstrates great breadth of knowledge and engagement with policies." --Science

"[We] highly recommend picking up The Power Surge." --Rob Wile, Business Insider

"This book gives you [a] strategy, gives you a game plan, and it gives you critical insights . . . Everybody, I encourage you strongly to buy this book . . . Buy this book. It's awesome." --Marc Lamont Hill, Huffington Post

"Storytelling and interviews mix with more detailed analysis throughout the book, which helps keep the reader engaged... Levi adeptly unpacks the most widespread claims regarding increased US oil production's economic impacts. [He] maintains a no nonsense, unbiased approach and readily calls out exaggerations made by groups on either side of a given issue... The climate change discussion really excels..."--Jared Anderson, Breaking Energy

"[A] breakthrough book." --Perry Smith, Augusta Chronicle

"[A]n illuminating account." --Reihan Salam, National Review

"It is far from easy to find a specialized, high-quality book, aimed at a particular audience but written in simple language, with a strong journalistic flavor, that is clearly intelligible to the average reader. Yet Michael Levi has written just such a work... Anyone with an interest in this subject, so essential to our lives, would be well-advised to read Levi, since, as Daniel Yergin puts it, he 'captures the turning point in the energy situation in America and the world.' Levi masterfully provides practical examples, linking them to the general trend..." --Oil

"In The Power Surge, Michael Levi captures the emerging turning point in America's energy situation. Combining thoughtful analysis and balanced independent judgment with vivid on-the-ground reporting, Levi delivers both a timely field guide to today's fervent energy debates and compelling insight into the evolving mix of options that is shaping tomorrow's energy world." --Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World and of The Prize

"Michael Levi has given us a rare gift: a sensible, substantive book that is so well-written it's fun to read. The Power Surge argues persuasively that we must move beyond false choices between clean energy and traditional fuels, and instead aggressively pursue both in new ways. And along the way, it introduces colorful characters and rigorously examines why our energy future is crucial to our economic one. With this book, Levi cements his growing reputation as one of the nation's leading thinkers on energy."--Peter Orszag, Vice-Chairman, Citigroup and former Director of the Office of Management and Budget

"The Power Surge packs big ideas into a concise and illuminating package to make a powerfully persuasive case for America's embracing an all-of-the above energy future. Michael Levi cuts through vast barriers of suspicion and ideology to find common interests where the stakeholders do not. The shale gas boom and renewables revolution together promise a U.S. energy trifecta, for the economy, security, and the environment, a future that offers new reasons for Americans to unite."--William K. Reilly, former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator and co-chair of the President's BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Commission

"Energy will energize our economy and our political debates over the next few years as never before. Michael Levi's important book should be carefully considered by anyone who cares about our energy future and that means anyone who cares about our economic future."--Lawrence H. Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus, Harvard University, and former Secretary of the Treasury

"The Power Surge is a sweeping account and incisive examination of today's profound global energy developments and the inextricably related political and environmental challenges."--Frederick W. Smith, Chairman & CEO, FedEx Corporation

"[P]acked with perspective . . . Readers seeking to understand America's energy policies and prospects will welcome this even-handed, smart, and accessible book on a topic of incomparable economic importance." --Publishers Weekly

"Calm, reasoned and balanced, presenting arguments and evidence, not wish lists and beliefs." --Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
How far-reaching transformations in United States energy sources and production techniques may be affecting the country and world. Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow for energy and the environment Levi (On Nuclear Terrorism, 2009) discusses the significance of what happened between September and December 2008, when the government's energy forecasters began projecting a significant reduction in energy imports. In a broad-based approach, the author demonstrates how they were reflecting the surfacing of two technological tendencies that had been under way for several years. Since fuel reserves were laid down in geological time and the existence of shale-based reserves is well-known, extraction potentials involve both pricing and the technology needed for recovery, and horizontal drilling and the fracturing of the shale beds (fracking) have provided the means--all while international prices have increased. Levi addresses the arguments of environmentalist opponents while underlining the significance of what some consider to be "the energy equivalent of the Berlin Wall coming down," with very large gains expected in the years ahead. He traces on-the-ground effects in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where the lives of local citizens are being transformed, for both good and bad, and addresses international issues as well--e.g, Russia's gas supply policy to Europe. Levi also takes up the question of global warming, and he provides useful summaries of efforts to develop hybrid and electric cars, comparing their energy costs with their traditional counterpart. He reviews the power generation of different technologies, and his history of peak-oil scares, first noted in 1909, is particularly interesting. Calm, reasoned and balanced, presenting arguments and evidence, not wish lists and beliefs.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199986163
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2013
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,498,225
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Levi is the David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Table of Contents

1. The Battle for the Future of American Energy
2. "The Barbarians Are at the Door"
3. Energy Independence on the Horizon
4. "Game Over"
5. The Car of the Future
6. "Win, Win, Win, Win"
7. Wild Cards
8. The Energy Opportunity

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 10, 2013

    Excellent book!

    Excellent book!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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