The Quest review

May 27, 2012

A long long time ago in what seemed like another World Daniel Yergin wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning book “The Prize.”   The book is as Wikipedia called it the definitive book on the history of Oil.  I devoured the book shortly after its publication in 1990 and recommend it highly.  When Daniel published “The Quest”  subtitled “Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World” I knew immediately it would be the next book I read.

Now, having read “The Quest” my summary is although it is a good book it is no “The Prize.”   “the Quest” did a good job of calming my fears we would run out of oil next year and the World would degenerate into anarchy.  We have enough reserves to last much longer than I thought.  However, petroleum reserves are getting harder and harder to find and refine into the finished product.  “The Quest” is a good primer on alternative energy sources and the state of each (history, current state, and prognosis for the future):

  • Natural Gas
  • Solar cells
  • Wind
  • Bio-fuels
  • Nuclear
  • Efficiency including smart grids, energy saving appliances, hybrid vehicles, etc.

“The Quest” begins by catching the reader up on the history of oil since “The Prize” publication making “The Prize” a must read prologue to “The Quest.”  As with the prior book Daniel does a superb job of documenting  the trials and tribulations of Oil since 1990 when his first book was published.

Next he covers the current state of oil and gas as well as the amount and type of reserves remaining.  As I mentioned earlier they are quite extensive but becoming harder and harder to find and refine into the final product.

Next he presents a brief history of electricity, at least humankind’s involvement in electricity.

Then, because you can’t separate energy from the carbon in our atmosphere problem anymore we are doused with a history of the Climate and Carbon.  Hard to believe, but looking back as late as the 1950s the smart money rested with a new ice age!  My how time has changed our perspective.

Finally we reach the listing of the “new” energy alternatives and Daniel’s prediction for the future.

Summary: I really enjoyed the book through the Climate and Carbon section.  Maybe because through this section the book narrates history and I am a history buff or maybe because Daniel’s predicting the future was not exciting.  No big break through, no turning water into energy, no water into wine either for that matter!   I should have realized this because the life cycle of energy source is very long due in great part to the infrastructure that has to be put into place.  Perhaps that is the big take away from this book:

“It will take decades and decades to change our primary source of energy – petroleum.  We better get started because petroleum is getting harder and harder to find.