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

Daniel Yergin. Penguin Press, $37.95 (804p) ISBN 978-1-59420-283-4
The romance with fossil fuels that the author chronicled in his 1993 Pulitzer-winning The Prize sours in this absorbing survey of the global energy industry and its environmental discontents. Yergin opens with an entertaining account of the last two decades of the oil-industry soap opera, recounting the chaos in the post-Soviet oil industry, the roller-coaster of oil price bubbles and collapses, and the impact of China's voracious appetite on energy markets. Enlivened with piquant historical background and profiles of major industry figures, Yergin's treatment is a canny analysis of terrain he understands well. (His debunking of peak oil anxieties is especially trenchant.) The book's second half examines the rise of global warming politics and the energy sources proposed as alternatives to carbon. Yergin's coverage is evenhanded, encyclopedic, and readable, but his mastery of these complex issues is less confident; his tour of renewables, from wind to cellulosic ethanol and algae, lacks depth and sometimes repeats boosterish claims, while his chapter on energy efficiency focuses more on green gadgetry than on lifestyle patterns. Yergin's perceptive, entertaining guide to the muddled quest for secure and sustainable energy lacks a systematic vision of how we might—or might not—get it. Photos. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/11/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
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