Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World
Selected by The New York Times Book Review as a Notable Book of the Year
In this gripping account of the quest for the energy that our world needs, Daniel Yergin continues the riveting story begun in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Prize. A master storyteller as well as a leading energy expert, Yergin shows us how energy is an engine of global political and economic change. It is a story that spans the energies on which our civilization has been built and the new energies that are competing to replace them. From the jammed streets of Beijing to the shores of the Caspian Sea, from the conflicts in the Mideast to Capitol Hill and Silicon Valley, Yergin takes us into the decisions that are shaping our future.
The drama of oil-the struggle for access, the battle for control, the insecurity of supply, the consequences of use, its impact on the global economy, and the geopolitics that dominate it-continues to profoundly affect our world.. Yergin tells the inside stories of the oil market and the surge in oil prices, the race to control the resources of the former Soviet empire, and the massive mergers that transformed the landscape of world oil. He tackles the toughest questions: Will we run out of oil? Are China and the United States destined to come into conflict over oil? How will a turbulent Middle East affect the future of oil supply?
Yergin also reveals the surprising and sometimes tumultuous history of nuclear and coal, electricity, and the "shale gale" of natural gas, and how each fits into the larger marketplace. He brings climate change into unique perspective by offering an unprecedented history of how the field of climate study went from the concern of a handful of nineteenth- century scientists preoccupied with a new Ice Age into one of the most significant issues of our times.
He leads us through the rebirth of renewable energies and explores the distinctive stories of wind, solar, and biofuels. He offers a perspective on the return of the electric car, which some are betting will be necessary for a growing global economy.
The Quest presents an extraordinary range of characters and dramatic stories that illustrate the principles that will shape a robust and flexible energy security system for the decades to come. Energy is humbling in its scope, but our future requires that we deeply understand this global quest that is truly reshaping our world.
They happened at the same time, halfway around the globe from each other. They both shook the world.
On March 11, 2011, at 2:46 in the afternoon Japan time, 17 miles below the seabed, the pressure vast tectonic between two plate created a massive violent upward force that set off one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded. In addition to widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure in the region north of Tokyo, the quake also knocked out the power supply, including that to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex. Fifty- five minutes later, a huge tsunami unleashed by the quake swept over the coast, drowning thousands and thousands of people. At the Fukushima Daiichi complex, located at the very edge of the ocean, the massive tsunami surged above the seawall and flooded the power station, including its backup diesel generator, depriving the hot nuclear reactors of the cooling water required to keep them under control. In the days that followed, explosions damaged the plants, radiation was released, and severe meltdowns of nuclear rods occurred.
The result was the worst nuclear accident since the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Soviet Ukraine a quarter century earlier. The Fukushima accident, compounded by damage to other electric generating plants in the area, led to power shortages, forcing rolling blackouts that demonstrated the vulnerability of modern society to a sudden shortage of energy supply. The effects were not limited to one country. The loss of industrial production in Japan disrupted global supply chains, halting automobile and electronics production in North America and Europe, and hitting the global economy. The accident at Fukushima threw a great question mark over the “global nuclear renaissance,” which many had thought essential to help meet the power needs of a growing world economy.
On the other side of the world, a very different kind of crisis was unfolding. It had been triggered a few months earlier not by the clash of tectonic plates, but by a young fruit seller in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid. Frustrated by constant harassment by the town’s police and by the indifference of local officials, he doused himself with paint thinner and set himself aflame in protest in front of the city hall. His story and the ensuing demonstrations, transmitted by mobile phones, Internet, and satellite, whipped across Tunisia, the rest of North Africa, and the Middle East. In the face of swelling protests, the regime in Tunisia collapsed. And then, as protesters filled Tahrir Square in Cairo, so did the government in Egypt. Demonstrations against authoritarian governments spread across the entire region. In Libya, the protests turned into a civil war in which drew in NATO.
The global oil price shot up in response not only to the loss of petroleum exports from Libya, but also to the disruption of the geostrategic balance that had underpinned the Middle East for decades. Anxiety mounted as to what the unrest might mean for the Persian Gulf, which supplies 40 percent of the oil sold into world markets, and for its customers around the globe.
These two very different but concurrent sets of events, oceans away from each other, delivered shocks to global markets. The renewed uncertainty and insecurity about energy, and the anticipation of deeper crisis, underscored a fundamental reality—how important energy is to the world.
From THE QUEST: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World by Daniel Yergin. Reprinted by arrangement of Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright (c) 2011 by Daniel Yergin."The Quest superbly captures the great questions of energy and security that face our nation in this risky world. Daniel Yergin identifies the key issues, demonstrates their urgency, and lays out the choices. He does so with such deep expertise and with such vivid narrative writing as to make this book both important and compelling. It can help us see our way to a safer and sounder energy future."
-Senator Richard Lugar, ranking member and former chairman, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee
"This fascinating saga is the definitive book on the most important of global issues, the quest for sustainable sources of energy. Dan Yergin, the prominent energy expert of our times, weaves together security and environmental concerns to explain the system we have toady and to analyze the sensible paths forward. This is one book you must read to understand the future of our economy and our way of life."
-Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein and Benjamin Franklin; president, The Aspen Institute
"Dan Yergin's The Prize was a magisterial masterpiece. Now Yergin widens his lens and takes in not just oil but all energy sources. Anyone who wants to understand the economics or politics of the twenty-first century should read this book."
-Lawrence Summers, Former U.S. Treasure Secretary; Charles W. Eliot University Professor, Harvard University
"The Quest by Daniel Yergin, one of the world's most experienced and influential authorities on global energy, may well become the definitive work on the science, history, and economics of this most complex and important subject. This masterful and illuminating book on one of the most vital issues of our time, one that will powerfully influence international politics, economics, and nations worldwide, should be essential reading for policymakers everywhere."
-Dr. Henry Kissinger, author of On China
"In the magisterial style of his earlier global narrative of energy politics, The Prize, Daniel Yergin has again delivered a sweeping, authoritative account of the science, economics, and geopolitics of energy. His writing, as ever, is clear and intelligent, and his subject could hardly be timelier."
-Steve Coll, author of The Bin Ladens and Ghost Wars; president, New America Foundation
"Written by America's preeminent energy expert, The Quest is a must read for anyone wanting to understand our energy world, how climate change became part of the energy equation-and how we can chart a path forward."
-Fred Krupp, president, Environmental Defense Fund
"This is a profound, unique, and brilliantly written book about some of the most important issues of our times."
-Frederick W. Smith, chairman and CEO, FedEx Corporation
"The search for sufficient, clean energy represents the defining challenge of this generation. Daniel Yergin has masterfully connected the forces of economics and geopolitics with the complex science of energy production and climate change. The Quest provides a lucid guide through the forest of issues that stands between us and a sustainable energy future."
-Susan Hockfield, president, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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