three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
55-Nov-Dec-2011
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Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World

A-The QuestDaniel Yergin, a leading analyst of the world's energy markets and the chairman of a powerful energy research consulting firm, won a Pulitzer Prize for his best-selling history of the oil industry, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Money, Oil, and Power (1991), which was later adapted into a PBS documentary series. The Quest is a follow-up to that book.

The Topic: In this comprehensive overview of the many ways that the global pursuit of energy is reshaping the world, Yergin brings readers up to date on the progress made (or, in some cases, the catastrophes endured) by each industry: oil, gas, electricity, and the burgeoning field of renewable energy. For example, vast new oil fields in post–Cold War Russia and the latest innovations in drilling technology are loosening the Middle East's stranglehold on supply, while "fracking" has increased natural gas output. In the meantime, renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar, and nuclear power, are not developing quickly enough to combat looming climate change. "Whatever the mix in the years ahead," Yergin argues, "energy and its challenges will be defining our future."
Penguin. 816 pages. $37.95. ISBN: 9781594202834

Christian Science Monitor 4 of 5 Stars
"The Quest doesn't offer Yergin's prescription for our energy future. But what the book does do is to clearly and carefully outline the diverse factors we will need to consider as we move toward an energy transition. Readers of Yergin's important book should end up better positioned to play their own role in the quest for our energy future." Brian Black

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Because he tries to confront [so many different] topics ... this book lacks the drama and compulsive readability of The Prize. But it is an important book nonetheless, a valuable primer on the basic issues that define energy today. ... If there is a flaw, it is that he is too cautious in some of his conclusions, shying away from saying outright what his narrative implies." Fareed Zakaria

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The book ... takes us on an exploration of the energy industry and its history, touching down in so many remote corners of the globe, filled with such a huge cast of sinister business magnates, visionary scientists, political scoundrels and con men that it sometimes reads like a novel by Thomas Pynchon (I mean that as praise). ... Yet for all its sheer size, The Quest addresses a topic that's even larger. As a result, the book sometimes reads as a once-over-lightly treatment of its subject matter." Michael Hiltzik

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The Quest will be necessary reading for C.E.O.'s, conservationists, lawmakers, generals, spies, tech geeks, thriller writers, ambitious terrorists and many others. But it won't be easy reading. This is a very large and not overly elegant book; committing to it is like committing to a marriage, or to a car lease, or to climbing Everest." Dwight Garner

Wall Street Journal 3.5 of 5 Stars
"He tells a sprawling story richly textured with original material, quirky details and amusing anecdotes. ... But then Mr. Yergin's [climate change] narrative begins to stray into the conventional alarmist storyline." Steven F. Hayward

San Francisco Chronicle 2.5 of 5 Stars
"It is easy to read, a genuine feat given its size, and seems to cover every facet of energy. ... We are supplied with a thin soup of largely archival material, absent a unifying theme apart from the ordinary messages that we need much energy, it is not easy to come by, and no one knows what is going to happen next. The reader ends up the loser." Steve LeVine

Critical Summary

The Quest provides readers with an in-depth look into the different energy sectors' operations, and there is no shortage of heroes, villains, breakthroughs, and setbacks in this wide-ranging tome. Although The Quest has much in common with Yergin's previous best seller, the critics felt that it didn't measure up to The Prize. Despite its length, The Quest's wider scope leads it to treat some topics too cursorily, according to the Los Angeles Times. Other critics noted a marked bias against some politicians and nay-saying scientists (with a corresponding whitewash of corporate goings-on), an unwillingness to draw conclusions from the material, and a frustratingly evasive account of climate change. Nevertheless, Yergin's epic is an ambitious and invaluable history and analysis of the world's energy markets.