The current disruption of the geostrategic balance that had underpinned the Middle East for decades is bound to cause ripples in energy markets. But don't these recent developments only add to scares of the past. In his latest work 'The Quest', a follow-up to his earlier work 'The Prize', author Daniel Yergin notes that in a world where fossil fuels still account for more than 80% of the world's energy, crises underscore a fundamental reality - how important energy is to the world.
This weighty volume is Pulitzer Prize winner Yergin's attempt to explain that importance intertwined in a story about the quest for energy security, oil business, search for alternatives to fossil fuels and the world we live in. Three fundamental questions shape this free-flowing and brilliant narrative spread over 800 pages split by six parts containing some 35 detailed chapters. To begin with, will enough energy be available to meet the needs of a growing world and crucially at what cost and with what technologies?
Secondly, how can the security of the energy system on which the world depends be protected and finally, what will be the impact of environmental concerns? The author gives his answers to these profound questions citing international events and technological developments of the decades past and present.
Part I discusses the new and more complex world order after the Gulf War, Part II focuses on energy security issues while Part III discusses the advent of electricity and "gadgetwatts". Part IV discusses climate change, Part V clean technologies and lastly in Part VI, Yergin offers the reader his take on the road ahead.
Shale, oil sands, 'rise' of gas, wind, solar, biofuels, offshore and peak oil versus the perceptively "ever expanding range of the drillbit" have all been discussed in detail by the author. In all honestly, it is neither a pro-fossil fuel rant nor does it belittle the renewables business. Rather it highlights the complexities of both sides of the carbon divide with the macroeconomic and geopolitical climate serving a constant backdrop.
Current the book surely is, accompanied by a healthy dosage of historical contextualisation and Yergin's own take on whether nation states - chiefly the US and China - are destined for a clash over energy security. The Oilholic read page after page fascinated by an extraordinary range of 'non-fiction' characters, places, technologies, theories and the dramatic stories they resulted in.
What really struck the Oilholic was that the narrative is free from industry gobbledegook (or its duly explained where applicable) and as such should appeal to a wider mainstream readership base than just energy professionals and those with a mid to high level of market knowledge. Its crisp mix of storytelling and analysis suits petroleum economists and leisure readers alike.
While the Oilholic attaches a caveat that a book of 800 pages is not for the faint hearted, he is happy to recommend it to business professionals, students of economics and the energy business, and as noted above - those simply interested in current events and the history of the oil trade. It is of course, a must for fellow Oilholics.
© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo: Cover of ‘The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World’ © Allen Lane/Penguin Publishers 2011.