The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World

The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World

by Daniel Yergin

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Quest 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Daniel Yergin's The Quest is likely to become the standard introduction to energy in classrooms, boardrooms, and living rooms across America. It is a valuable primer for the educated reader that simply wants to learn more about energy, and an excellent refresher for those already familiar with the field. The Quest begins with a survey of the recent evolution of the world of oil. Yergin has an unparalleled understanding of the significance of historical events and turning points for the modern industry. He narrates and analyzes the collapse of the Soviet Union, Asian Financial Crisis, Hugo Chavez's "Bolivarian Revolution," and China's surge in energy demand together with other critical junctures for world oil markets. Yergin shows how the fortunes of nations and the global economy rise and fall with the price of oil. He then moves on to the topic of energy security -- how hurricanes, crisis in the Persian Gulf, heatwaves, earthquakes and unexpected technical failures can have cascading social consequences. The Quest then branches out beyond oil -- providing a history of the modern electrical system and a survey of some of the major choices confronting policymakers and industry leaders today. Its analysis of nuclear power is timely -- especially in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Understanding oil and the world of electricity is essential for understanding the second half of the book -- which focuses on climate change and renewable energy. Yergin's Quest offers an illuminating history of the science and of climate change and the policy reaction to climate change. The story commingles a familiar cast of characters (Margret Thatcher, Al Gore, Dwight D. Eisenhower) with a less well known group of scientists, policy entrepreneurs, eccentrics and environmental leaders. Finally, The Quest chronicles the "mini-histories" of emerging energy fields -- wind power, solar electricity, etc. He shows how they are changing the economics, geopolitics, and carbon profile of our energy system. Each vignette has a hint of the drama that Yergin brought to the oil sector in his Pulitzer Prize winning volume The Prize. There are two areas that bothered me about The Quest. First, it is very long. Fortunately, one does not have to read The Quest serially to enjoy its individual sections. Second, Yergin is reluctant to take the energy industry to task for its intransigence and irresponsibility on environmental issues. (For a biting critique of the energy industry see Naomi Oreskes "Merchants of Doubt." A more measured book is Spencer Weart's excellent volume "The Discovery of Global Warming.") Despite these shortcomings, The Quest is an unparalleled resource for understanding the modern energy world. Given its scope, it is actually a fairly concise introduction to our energy future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rarely do I write reviews of books I read, movies I watch, restaurants I eat at, etc. Although I occasionally read reviews prior to purchasing, I felt the need to post one for this book. The professional reviews I read were all good so I thought I should give it a read. The book did not disappoint. My background is not in the energy industry but I understand that in the world we live in is changing and that there are 3 cornerstones to that change: energy, security, and innovation. Dan Yergin writes about all three in such an easy-to-read way that I found myself turning page after page (full disclosure: I would not categorize myself as an avid or fast reader). So I would say for the average person, this is a must read. I was assigned to read "The Prize" about 5 years ago and was blown away. Not the dull, boring, history lesson one would expect. Yergin's writing style and deep/respected knowledge of the oil and energy industry allows the average reader such as myself to learn and absorb through the stories he tells. The Quest is no different. A must read if you are interested in learning how we got here and where the world is going.
NatGivens More than 1 year ago
We just know that oil makes the world go round, value of money crash and the nations warring with each other. However, in this book we shall see the significance of its history, where it began and its alternatives. A very informative book for adults.
nbmars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Daniel Yergin won the Pulitzer Prize for his first book, The Prize, a comprehensive history of the discovery and development of oil in the Middle East and the struggle for its control and exploitation. In The Quest, he broadens his scope to cover the search for and use of all forms of energy in the modern world. Any form of energy that can boil water, push a piston, or spin a turbine theoretically can be converted into useful mechanical and/or electrical energy. Consequently, the use and economics of petroleum, natural gas, coal, water power, shale oil or gas, bio-fuels, batteries, ethanol, geothermal, wind, tides, and solar and nuclear power are all inter-related. Yergin comprehensively covers those interrelationships without ever sounding bookish, pedantic, or dull. He also discusses important secondary issues such as safety, security of supply, pollution, and climate change associated with each form of energy. In addition, he limns the history, geography, and politics surrounding each source of energy, interspersed with biographical tidbits of some of the principal actors involved. Three fundamental questions shape the discussion of each source of energy: (1) sufficiency of supply in light of the growth of the world¿s economies; (2) security of the supply; and (3) environmental concerns. The discussion the sufficiency of supply of petroleum goes by the term ¿peak oil,¿ the idea that at some point in time -- a point we may have already passed -- we will have reached the maximum rate of extraction of petroleum (other non-renewable commodities may also have peaks), and from that point on, the cost of oil will rise in economically stressful ways, forcing significant changes in the structure of our economy. Yergin points out that despite numerous dire predictions of ¿experts¿ that we are running out of oil, frequent new discoveries have guaranteed the world will have plenty of oil for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, since the bulk of that oil comes from the Middle East, Russia, Nigeria, and Venezuela (places that are to varying degrees unstable and unfriendly to the United States), the security of the supply is more of an issue than its sufficiency. Moreover, the combustion of petroleum products produces large amounts of carbon dioxide, a ¿greenhouse gas,¿ which most scientists agree has severe consequences in the form of climate change. Nuclear energy is virtually limitless, but disasters like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima Daiichi have shown that it presents significant long-term safety issues. North America, China, and Europe have extensive supplies of coal, but its use produces even more carbon dioxide than the use of oil. Yergin emphasizes the importance of sound governmental policies in the development of new sources of energy. Through a well-designed system of incentives and subsidies, Brazil has become almost energy self sufficient through the use of ethanol as a gasoline substitute. France and Germany have used clever pricing strategies to encourage the development of wind and solar power. Wind and solar power have become more economical in the past decade, but they are both subject to interruption and are still not as cheap as petroleum or natural gas. However, the United States and some European countries have integrated wind and solar power into their electrical grid, where they serve as useful supplements to oil, natural gas, or coal. Nonetheless, neither is likely to supplant fossil fuels. Perhaps the biggest ¿source¿ of new energy in the near future is improved efficiency, that is, using less energy to perform the same amount of work. Yergin points out that the most effective way to enhance efficiency in the automobile industry would be to impose a significant tax on gasoline (as is common in Europe). However, no American politician appears brave enough to suggest such a solution. Instead, we have imposed mandatory increases in the mileage of the auto fleet. That approach ha
bezoar44 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a disappointment. It displays lots of information, but minimal vision, and almost no discussion of the future.In 1991, Daniel Yergin published The Prize, a history and analysis of the oil industry that won the Pullitzer Prize and has been required reading for anyone working on energy issues for the last two decades. For most of that time, Yergin himself has been the US media's go-to analyst on energy issues from his perch as director of Cambridge Energy Research Associates. In one respect, the Quest complements and updates the Prize, examining the evolution of virtually all energy sources over the last two decades. But, as others have noted, because it has such a broad focus, it has less narrative coherence than the earlier book, and reads more as a useful primer on the recent politics and policy of each energy type. For all its information, the book has a problem at its core: it fails to address the fundamental unsustainability of our energy system. That's most notable in two places -- Yergin's dismissive discussion of peak oil, and his chapters on climate change. Peak oil is the idea that at some point in time -- a point we may have already passed -- we will have reached the maximum rate of extraction of petroleum (other non-renewable commodities may also have peaks), and from that point on, the cost of oil will rise in economically stressful ways, forcing significant changes in the structure of our economy and the way energy is used. Yergin attacks straw -man versions of peak oil, simply declining to engage with the nuanced and analytical versions of peak oil that have emerged over the last five years. He asserts that innovation and substitution -- particularly with such unconventional fuel sources as tar sands and shale gas -- will sustain our economy for the indefinite future: "things do not stand still. With the passage of time, the unconventionals become, in all their variety, one of the pillars of the world's future petroleum supply." This ignores both the increasing environmental damage that is required to access these resources, and the declining return on energy invested, both factors that create significant economic drag.Yergin's failure on climate change is more complicated. He acknowledges the scientific reality of global warming and offers a detailed history of climate science and international climate negotiations. He is almost completely silent on the role fossil fuel industries have played, through massive expenditures on misinformation and pseudoscience, in clouding understanding of climate change in the United States and preventing domestic political action. Given the importance of the United States in the international system, that's quite an omission. More frustratingly, Yergin's narrative only looks backwards -- he quotes historical figures (the IPCC; James Hansen) saying that we need to limit carbon emissions, but the Quest takes no stand of its own on the future trajectory of climate change in a business-as-usual scenario, or what that would mean for world civilization or specific economies. This bloodless foundation means that his subsequent discussion of alternative energy isn't motivated by any real urgency to achieve climate sustainability; instead, it's a parade of inventors and venture capitalists, and the focus of that section is the struggle for wind, solar, and other sources to achieve financial success.Ultimately, these shortcomings may reflect Yergin's personality -- he may be more oriented towards the past than the future, so if it isn't history yet, it didn't go in the book. Still, he's clearly a bright guy, and should be able to see and describe the future more clearly than this. I suspect the book has really suffered from Yergin's role as a preeminent voice of industry -- it reflects the same complacency with the unsustainable status quo as the fossil fuel companies Yergin advises, because the author either can't or won't look beyond that. That deep inadeq
atortorice001 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't think I read a review of this book that hasn't used the word âÂÂmagisterialâÂÂ. It's a sort of 700 page Readers Digest survey of all things energy, past and present and future. A pretty significant portion of the book is given over to the subject of climate change, renewable energy, and alternatives to oil. If you are the type that likes to get into arguments about energy policy, buy this book. you'll have a veritable arsenal of facts and analysis with which to shoot holes in stupid ideas about energy. Highly recommended.
TomMcAndrew More than 1 year ago
This is a most timely successor to Daniel Yergin's earlier book on energy, "The Prize". Anyone concerned about our energy future should not hesitate to read "The Quest".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The best way to learn the history and probable future of energy for the population of the world and how it will impact all of us.
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willyvan More than 1 year ago
This remarkable book covers the whole subject of energy, its history, science, economics and politics. Yergin examines oil, coal, gas (both conventional and unconventional), nuclear power, climate change, the electric age, new energies, and roads to the future. He notes, “In a carbon-conscious world, nuclear power’s great advantages are not only the traditional ones of fuel diversification and self-sufficiency. It is also the only large-scale, well-established, broadly deployable source of electric generation currently available that is carbon free.” US nuclear plants require a licence from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate. These licences were originally granted for 40 years. In 1995 the end of the 40 years was coming into view for many plants. Without extensions, US nuclear supply would have shut down. In the mid-1980s, the USA’s nuclear plants worked at only about 55 per cent of their capacity. Now they work at more than 90 per cent of capacity. Yergin points out, “The operating record of the nuclear industry had clearly improved, and substantially so. In fact, companies were coming to the commission to request permission for power upgrades, above what had been their maximum output, because of their increased efficiency. In support of license extension, the NRC launched a crucial new initiative to update the safety system that governed the industry, using new tools and capabilities.” So the Commission extended licences for another 20 years. Germany’s nuclear plants supply a quarter of its electricity. In 2010 a new law extended their life by another 12 years. By contrast, here in Britain, the EU Large Combustion Plant Directive will force the closure of 9.8 gigawatts of oil- and coal-fired generation – 12 per cent of our total capacity - by the end of 2013. The fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, issued in 2007, said that the Himalayas’ glaciers, including the Gangroti which feeds the river Ganges, would vanish by 2035, ‘if not sooner’. By contrast, India’s Environment Ministry said that the Gangroti was ‘practically at a standstill’. It turned out that the 2035 date was from a 1999 phone interview with a scientist who later denied ever giving any date! In 1979 President Carter forecast that 20 per cent of US energy would come from solar power by 2000. But by 2010, renewables accounted for just 8 per cent of US energy supply: 1.5 per cent from solar and wind, 6.5 per cent from hydropower and biomass. The fifth fuel is often said to be energy efficiency. A fine example is Japan’s 1998 Top Runner programme which finds the most efficient appliance of its kind, then requires that all such appliances exceed the efficiency of that ‘Top Runner’ by a specified date – as a result, TV sets, for example, improved by 26 per cent between 1997 and 2003. It is not always possible to be self-sufficient economically, particularly for energy sources, but it is possible to be independent, that is, as self-reliant as possible, dependent on no one supplier, by using a diversified range of sources - oil, gas, coal, renewables and nuclear. To rebuild Britain, we need more R&D, consistent, long-term thinking planning and investment, and security and sustainability of energy.
JMarsd More than 1 year ago
The book is good not necessarily groundbreaking but good with a lot of info in it, almost too much. I'd recommend it with 4 stars but do think there are a lot of excess words for something that could have been made in point in a lot less. There are parts that are just cumbersome. Still worth it.
harriettzayac More than 1 year ago
I did not like the book that much maybe because the plot is kind of confusing and some of the characters were not that interesting.