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Extraordinary Author Daniel Yergin, Gives Us a Gift with THE QUEST - 5 Fabulous STARS,
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This review is from: The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World (Hardcover)
We all live fast paced and complex lives. If you are a reader then the key choice you must master is what to read. There is simply too much out there, and you cannot absorb it all. Every now and then a book comes along which is the equivalent of a precious diamond. It is so full of information, presented in such an interesting way that you can't bring yourself to put it down. You couple this characteristic with an author who is a major thinker and what you have when you put it all together is a 1 in a 100 type book. This is a book that changes everything we know about energy.
This is Daniel Yergin
Daniel Yergin is such an author, and this is such a book. It has now been two decades since the he turned the world upside down with his Pulitzer Prize winning "The Prize - The Epic Quest for Oil". To have read it is to understand the world. Its monumental impact affected our economy and Wall Street. In the last few years it became apparent that The Prize needed a badly needed update, not just a chapter added. Instead of completely revamping The Prize, Yergin did one better, he chose to write on the world of energy in general and then incorporate revisions from his previous writings which were necessary. This brings us to "The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World".
We live in world that currently creates $65 trillion per year in gross production of goods and services. Our country does close to $15 trillion of this production, while Europe as a whole does slightly more. Within 20 years the world is expected to produce $130 trillion, that's a doubling in just 2 decades. Now here's the problem as laid out in the book. Yergin clearly spells out that in the developed world today we use about 14 barrels of oil per person per year. In the developing countries we use about 3 barrels per person per year. What are we going to do when gross world production goes from $65 trillion to $130 trillion; energy needs must expand along with economic production?
Oil, coal, and natural gas currently provide 80% of the world's energy needs. It is the thesis of the book that these three sources of energy combined, cannot suffice to answer our energy needs. Yes there is more of each of these sources than previously thought available. As an example, today we produce 5 times the amount of oil than we did in 1957, a remarkable increase, but what is coming down the pike is a need to expand energy to extraordinary levels.
The Book's Organization
This is a relatively long book composed of 711 pages of narrative without a boring sentence in the entire book. It reads fast in spite of its length. There are 16 pages of bibliography and this bibliography is a useful one if you want to explore this topic further. You will then find 34 pages of footnotes, and I like the footnotes being in the back of the book in this case, as opposed to the end of the chapters as you see in other books. Yergin has given us six parts to ponder in this story of how we will solve our energy problems.
PART I - The New World of Oil
It is in this chapter that the author covers the return of Russia as an energy power. The world is a changing place and Russia has become an energy powerhouse with its abundant oil and gas resources. Yergin also covers the war in Iraq and the rise of China in this part. China's needs will eclipse our own as their economy continues to rapidly expand. The beauty of a book like this is that you are not only learning about the energy world, but the world in general. It is a fascinating journey as we find out about the emerging superpowers and whether or not America can continue to hold onto economic dominance in a rapidly changing world.
PART II - Securing the Supply
There's more than one reason why America spends close to $800 billion on defense spending. You have to keep the sea lanes safe for oil and energy transport. Without world trade, America would rapidly sink into a depression since international trade makes up 25% of our Gross Domestic product. In this section the author gives you a thorough survey of what it means to run out of energy including oil and natural gas.
PART III - The ELECTRIC Age
The book makes clear that we may be living in the post industrial age, or the information society, but in terms of energy we are still living in the OBSOLETE Fossil Age, and it has to change. The Electric age is coming to an end, and in this section Yergin tells us the pros and cons of what is coming. You are not getting theories from talking heads. This is the preeminent expert on oil and energy in the world today. Corporations and governments pay a fortune to consult with the author with regard to what he thinks is coming next.
PART IV - Climate and Carbon
Is there glacial change? Is the earth getting warmer? What is the effect of climate change on man's need for more energy? Where will it come from and can we afford it? Is the internal combustion engine now more than a century old reaching the end of its operational efficiency? Must we go another way? The average SUV weighs 5000 pounds and is being driven around town half the time by soccer moms driving alone? How much longer can we keep the whole process going, and is it changing right before our eyes?
PART V - New Energies
Yes, there are new sources of energy coming. We are going to see wind turbines everywhere, but there is also a 5th source of energy coming. Perhaps it is already here and that is EFFICIENCY. We must get more out of the energy we already have. When Exxon moves oil crude from a pipeline to tanker there is less than one teaspoon of oil that is lost in the process. We must become more efficient as a society and as a world, and we must close the conservation gap, which we haven't even begun to tackle yet.
PART VI - Road to the Future
How interesting that in the last part of this book the author chooses to deal with what he calls carbohydrate man, and the great electric car experiment. Would you believe that only about 20% of the energy that comes out of the internal combustion engine is efficiently used in the running of a car. The rest comes out of the muffler into the air as heat and lost energy. With electric cars, the efficiency approaches 85%? Batteries are still too heavy however, and they do not last as long as they should. We haven't even discussed how costly they are to replace. Nevertheless, the electric car is in our future, and this book tells you the whole story.
You are going to love this book, all 700 plus pages of it. Nobody tells a more exciting story than Daniel Yergin. To win a Pulitzer Prize you must grip the reader's attention and never let go from beginning to end, and that is precisely what we have here. It is a non-fiction book that reads like a spy thriller and a reader can't expect more from a book, especially one on the topic of energy.
I urge you to read anything this man writes. It is rare that Yergin publishes and everything he says has power and relevance attached to it. My only reading wish is to find more books in the same class as "The Quest". Such books are rare unfortunately, and when you find them, we have to let our friends and other readers know. I thank you for reading this review.
Richard C. Stoyeck
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 24, 2011 8:17:49 AM PDT
If the book is as good as the review I will be happy. Thank you for the excellent review. Made me buy the book.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 25, 2011 2:20:48 PM PDT
Gibson Anderson Jr. says:
Could this review be by someone who was paid to write it? Or by someone with some vested interest in sales of the book such as the publisher. It is is strangely detailed and positive and reads like no other reviews. But maybe I'm cynical and the reviewer REALLY liked the book.
Posted on Sep 27, 2011 5:13:06 PM PDT
A. Jogalekar says:
The book sounds interesting but you should read the review published in this week's (Sep 22) Nature by Vaclav Smil. The review says that the book overwhelmingly focuses on oil; other energy sources and especially coal (which supplied more energy in the twentieth century than oil) are relegated to barely one or two pages. If true this is highly disappointing and seems to greatly diminish the value of the book.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 2, 2011 12:12:27 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 2, 2011 12:13:14 PM PDT
Lyn Robie says:
In response to Gibson Anderson Jr. above:
That was my thought exactly. Just a bit too polished and gung ho. I tend to ignore the work of copywriters and paid hacks.
Posted on Oct 5, 2011 1:59:14 PM PDT
jasson merritt says:
The guy has over 200 in depth reviews on record on a variety of books. Doesn't strike me as a paid shill.
Posted on Oct 16, 2011 8:28:09 AM PDT
David H. Tallent says:
I find it confusing that we are facing the end of the age of electricity yet electric cars are the future of personal transportation.
Posted on Jan 27, 2012 6:07:34 PM PST
W. Segen says:
"When Exxon moves oil crude from a pipeline to tanker there is less than one teaspoon of oil that is lost in the process." That is sooo cute. Can't believe he said that. He probably wishes he hadn't mentioned it. The cultures, the towns, the families that 'got in the way'. Give me a break! There was Law that said tankers had to be double hulled. Exxon ignored that and went bottom line. Then after the Valdez hit Bligh Reef they got busy. Not too long after, they advertised 2 ships in 1, a double hulled innovation that would guarantee environmental security. Let's face it, until it runs out, oil will rule. Unless........
Posted on Jun 22, 2012 11:07:29 AM PDT
R. Kirby says:
If the book is really so superficial as to assert (as this reviewer says) that electric cars are 80% efficient while gas cars are only 20% efficient, then this book is not so hot. Anyone should know that electric generators are not very efficient either, which is why cars have been run directly with gasoline instead of electricity. The combined ineffciency is still worse than a directly gas-powered car. Also, until ALL electricity is produced without coal, all additional electricity used by electric cars can be assumed to be produced with coal (because it's in addition to other uses). There goes the "green" argument for electric cars too.
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