John's Reviews > The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World

The Quest by Daniel Yergin
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's review
Sep 02, 2011

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Read from November 13 to December 23, 2011

"The Quest" is a sort of sequel to Daniel Yergin's Pulitzer Prize-winning book "The Prize," which was a history of oil.
"The Quest" advances the story all the way into 2011, and broadens it to all aspects of energy and energy security. Events of the first part of this year, such as the Japanese tsunami's effect on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and the Arab spring, make frequent appearances.
Yergin starts with oil and then moves to security, electricity, climate change and carbon, renewable energy and finally new ways to operate and fuel the automobile.
The book is packed with information. We learn, for example, that the world has been thought to be running out of oil on five different occasions. And that the first flex fuel vehicle was the Model T Ford. It was designed to run on either ethanol or gasoline, although Henry Ford preferred ethanol. And that Prohibition helped to knock out ethanol for quite some time.
The strongest section, I thought, was the part about climate change. It was a much more clear explanation of climate change than any I've ever read before. (But I still don't understand cap-and-trade.) The section on renewables was weaker. But I gradually got the message that every renewable source has promise and every renewable source has problems.
"The Quest" seemed to me to be very well-balanced. I didn't feel like I was being presented with one set of facts to lead me to only one possible conclusion, as I so often do when I hear from politicians or read newspaper columns.
I also thought much of it was dull. This was in contrast to "The Prize," which I thought was fascinating history and fun to read virtually on every page. I found myself wondering if Yergin had a different editor this time around. If so, it wasn't a change for the better.
The book also showed signs of being hastily edited. I suppose, given all of the 2011 references, it was hastily edited, and I don't mean to say that the mistakes are egregious. But every once in a while, there are no quotation marks to end a quotation, or a word is out of place or the wrong word is used. It makes what's left of this former copy editor's hair stand on head, just as it does when I see my own mistakes in print.

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