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The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World Paperback – Bargain Price, September 26, 2012
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About the Author
DANIEL B. YERGIN is one of the most influential voices on energy in the world and a highly respected authority on international politics and economics. Dr. Yergin received the Pulitzer Prize for The Prize, which became a number one bestseller. He received the United States Energy Award for “lifelong achievements in energy and the promotion of international understanding.” He is the chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates. His other books include Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy; Russia 2010; and Shattered Peace.
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Top customer reviews
The author starts with the fall of the soviet union and how, among other things, low oil prices was a cause of economic strain given Russia's dependence on oil exports for foreign currency. The author describes the geology and political landscape of eastern Russia and the oil resources of the various former soviet states. The author discusses things like the petro state and discusses how Venezuela came to where it is today. The author discusses the Iraq war and the oil politics of the 90s and how the Asian crisis catalyzed consolidation in the global petro space as oil price collapse combined with growing engineering complexity required larger petro companies. The author then discusses how a decade later China growth changed the trajectory of demand substantially while supply remained relatively inelastic. In reading the first section one gets a sense of how the supply and demand side of oil have formed through time.
The author moves on then to the challenges of dealing with inelastic supply with growing demand. The scramble for oil resources was a real concern as resources seemed to be depleting while new oil supplies were becoming harder and harder to come by. The author discusses the growth of gas states like Qatar which was relatively unknown and came to be an extremely important energy player as it developed its gas field and became a huge LNG exporter. The author discusses how natural gas has become a major ingredient in power generation due to the cheap cost of turbine construction as well as relatively low emission content.
The author then discusses electricity and its history. He details things like the battle between Edisons DC and Tesla's AC adopted by Westinghouse. The history is really interesting and the author then discusses the growth of electricity demand and how the Nuclear reactor became a strong candidate for electricity supply. The author goes through the uranium purification process and how different purities of uranium isotopes lead to different chain reactions.
The author also discusses climate change and the carbon imprint of mankind. He discusses the history of the scientific investigation of the carbon cycle and is always careful to properly give the reader the background on how the fields evolved. The author then discusses last century and how the growing appreciation of the potential for climate change and how greenhouse gases could impact the ecosystem became a key political issue. The author discusses Rio and Kyoto for example and discusses different economic solutions considered for dealing with emissions. In particular cap and trade is discussed for SO2 and carbon taxes as well. The author gives the reader some economic theory and in particular Coase's insight that cap and trade is more economically efficient than taxation. The author discusses the challenges at the global level in which domestic politics prevent global solutions and apportioning blame is difficult given the legacy issues of carbon emissions being almost solely from developed markets.
The author then gives the reader and overview of the renewable space. The author discusses wind and solar and how the photo electric effect that Einstein won the Nobel prize for is at the heart of the photovoltaic effect needed for solar panels. The engineering history of solar is given as well as an understanding of how uncompetitive it was compared to regularly generated electricity. The author then gets in to how energy efficiency is an incredibly important part of the puzzle and regulatory standards over time have substantially improved our energy efficiency in things like autos.
The author then moves on to discussing the new age of electric vehicles. Which as the author highlights isn't so new and was an idea that goes back over 100 years. The author gives the background of the combustion engine and the growth of the US and European auto businesses. One learns of how the current auto landscape came to be and the new directions it is taking with companies like Tesla leading the charge in EV's. The author also notes the change in user demand from light trucks to the prius and now to EVs as gas and politics have evolved.
The quest is a great read as one gets an overview of so much of the energy landscape and all of the demand factors and supply factors and competing interests. Through reading it one gets a sense of the directions we might take in the future, the complexity of all of the driving factors and the lack of singular solutions to the growing need of more electricity pitted against the concerns for the environment. Its very enjoyable to read and informative throughout, Highly recommended
But the invaluable contribution of this book is in highlighting many of the challenges with the energy alternatives in such a way that it could ignite the entrepreneural energies of young scientists who may have the energies to come up with solutions. Solving a huge problem in one area of energy which really doesn't have the potential to supply energy on a major scale is nice. But solving obstacles to major advances in energy production (environmental breakthroughs, capacity, energy storage, transmission & distribution) could be game changers! Such research could end up powering nations and new industries. The individual or teams that can solve the problems around purifying or reusing return fracking fluids containing high levels of salts will and should end up fabulously wealthy because this will provide an alternative to high pressure injection wells that currently are the only realistic option for disposal. And deep high pressure injections wells were first identified as sources of localized tremors in some geologically active areas going back to the 1960s when they were being used throughout the country to dispose of some hazardous wastes.
The author believes we have an adequate supply of oil and he lays out his reasoning. While I was a believer in Peak oil before reading the book, I now can see why we likely have enough for a long time. Not forever perhaps. But a long time. The reason? New and expanding technology that makes finding the oil and getting it easier and more reliable and, more importantly, possible.
And what about the future? "What are the prospects for the future? One answer is drawn from an analysis using a database that includes 70,000 oil fields and 4.7 million individual wells, combined with existing production and 350 new projects. The conclusion is that the world is clearly not running out of oil. Far from it. The estimates for the world's total stock of oil keep growing. The world has produced about 1 trillion barrels of oil since the start of the industry in the nineteenth century. Currently, it is thought that there are at least 5 trillion barrels of petroleum resources, of which 1.4 trillion is sufficiently developed and technically and economically accessible to count as proved plus probable reserves. Based upon current and prospective plans, it appears the world liquid production capacity should grow from about 93 million barrels per day in 2010 to about 110 mbd by 2030. This is about a 20 percent increase."
-- Susanna K. Hutcheson