The Quest by Daniel Yergin is about development of business of energy in last 20 years. He wrote another book called “The prize” in early 90s that covered the history of oil industry and this book is a kind of squeal. This book tells a grand story in which the world started looking for energy instead of oil, while oil remain a significant policy issue of the governments.
Book is an easy and fluent read to learn about the world of energy: major players, major technologies, major technical challenges, major sociopolitical challenges, and major environmental issues. The author is a pro-business American and he has inherent biases in his presentation of various political issues around energy business. Sometimes ridiculously simplified view of some political conflicts. For example, his description of coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002 is full of false statements (If you read the book then try to understand his explanation of the failure of the coup). Another example, the recent Bahrain protests are defined as ‘protracted violence’ therefore Saudi king had to send an army there to ‘restore law and order’. And of course in his view, 2009 protests in Iran were a long cry for freedom. I hope technical aspects are accurate or at least he truly reflected the world view of the businessmen who run the world energy companies.
Here are the key questions one may ask about energy. I also list a summery of his answers.
- How much oil is left?
- At least 5 times the humanity used so far… that means a lot..
- How much natural gas is left?
- Not much exploited so far. New technologies and gas fields are arriving fast. No one knows really..
- How much damage oil/gas drilling can do to environment?
- All you can learn from accidents. The impact of all the accidents have been limited.
- Is nuclear energy safe?
- It depends to whom you ask. France has excelled in error free mass nuclear energy production. US and other developing countries are not totally sure what to do. It is very much clear that one major accident and whole nuclear energy dream is off the table.
- How much nuclear material is out there?
- This book did not discuss this issue.
- Is climate change real? and how urgent?
- Very real! Data is becoming undeniable. The book stands with the scientists.
- Are renewable energy sources viable?
- This book has a lengthy discussion about each kind of renewable energy. Each one has enormous challenges to make them acceptable. May be things will work out.
- Can electric car replace normal cars?
- There is a big push around the world to go electric. It will depend a lot on government policies if they make sure electric remain competitive against oil cars.
In general it claims, there are significant problems but trust businessmen. They will solve them.