The Quest

Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World
Narrated by: Robert Petkoff
Length: 29 hrs and 26 mins
Categories: History, World
4.5 out of 5 stars (755 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In this gripping account of the quest for the energy that our world needs, Daniel Yergin continues the riveting story begun in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Prize.

A master storyteller as well as a leading energy expert, Yergin shows us how energy is an engine of global political and economic change. It is a story that spans the energies on which our civilization has been built and the new energies that are competing to replace them. From the jammed streets of Beijing to the shores of the Caspian Sea, from the conflicts in the Mideast to Capitol Hill and Silicon Valley, Yergin takes us into the decisions that are shaping our future. The drama of oil - the struggle for access, the battle for control, the insecurity of supply, the consequences of use, its impact on the global economy, and the geopolitics that dominate it - continues to profoundly affect our world.

Yergin tells the inside stories of the oil market and the surge in oil prices, the race to control the resources of the former Soviet empire, and the massive mergers that transformed the landscape of world oil. He tackles the toughest questions: Will we run out of oil? Are China and the United States destined to come into conflict over oil? How will a turbulent Middle East affect the future of oil supply?

©2011 Daniel Yergin (P)2011 Penguin

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Best nonfiction book of 2011


2011 was a great year for nonfiction, but no book comes close to The Quest for claiming top honors.

Everything we do depends on energy. Every industry, including higher education, ultimately is possible due to energy. Without energy, we could not teach or do research, heat our classrooms and offices, or cool our data centers. If you walked to campus today (or worked at home) that is terrific, but most of us relied on gasoline to power our cars for our commute. Higher ed may not be like the airlines, where fuel is the largest expense (ours is labor), but we are no less dependent on energy to run our business than Southwest airlines.

The past, present, and future of worldwide energy is a big topic, one that requires a big book. The Quest is 816 pages, none of which are wasted. This is an efficient book. Yergin manages to keep the narrative moving along without skimping on either the stories or the numbers.

The Quest systematically examines every major source of energy, including oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, solar and wind. The origins, technology, sustainability, and personalities attached to each of these major energy sources is given a complete and balanced treatment.

Readers looking either for an indictment or defense of our carbon or renewable fuel sources will be disappointed, as Yergin is scrupulously even-handed and non-polemical. Energy turns out to be too important, and too complicated, to be reduced to simple narratives and slogans. Rather, Yergin manages to consider the role of energy in the environment as well as the economy, while making strong (and actionable) policy recommendations for a sustainable energy future.

8 people found this helpful

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A prize awaits for thoughtful readers....

Had a difficult time following the first part of this book as I wasn't familiar with the characters / players / history of the patchwork of states that have emerged since the fall of communism. Perhaps I missed it or perhaps its just impossible to tell the outrageous stories contained in The Prize about powerful people still living. There is probably alot to fear from those people. I would bet my last gold deutsche mark the stories that will one day be told will make this period of time very interesting indeed. Unfortunately I didn't find the first half that interesting, though I really need to sit down with a map and some additional history books to gain a better appreciation. Certainly the role of Russia and its satellites in the world today is vastly underrated. The discussion of Putin and Europe alone is worthwhile enough to justify reading the first 40% of the book.

Really hit stride when discussing the US energy markets and the competing energy alternatives. The book is ambitious and perhaps has too much ground to cover. I know something about these markets so I looked forward to hearing what Daniel Yergin had to say. I have to say I am really impressed by the author. Did he persuade anyone with this book? Probably not as the book is really a quick synopsis of key items and drivers for the energy industry in the recent past and foreseeable future. All as seen and interpreted by Daniel Yergin. I really trust his judgement, but clearly readers who disagree with the fundamental view of the author may not enjoy this book as much. Personally I think if you disagree with Yergin you should benefit from his perspective as he may give you new facts and/or a different perspective. I'm sure certain groups of readers such as peak oilers will disagree however. Highly recommended. Not as easy a read as the Prize... so I used a little p in my headline... still worthy of 5 stars however.

6 people found this helpful

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Comprehensive, neutral, vivid

Covers all aspects of our modern energy situation--scientific, technological, environmental, political, economic--in a global narrative history that presents every side of every issue in a fair and straightforward way. Full of compelling stories and fascinating facts.

This book is foundational for understanding the global economic and political challenges of the 21st century, because every aspect of our modern way of life depends on reliable and sustainable energy.

5 people found this helpful

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Lots of Facts, Little Analysis

This book was pretty good, with very good narration, but it was a bit dry for my taste. The book is loaded with historical information and factoids about the energy industry, energy production technology and climate change, but it seems to me to lack the perspective, depth, and analysis of a good history and lacks the details of a good technical primer. The book takes a non-investigative journalistic tack and the author seems to go to extremes to not expose his own point of view (which is, of course, impossible). The author’s views come through, but only through subtle framing of ideas. I found this a little insidious. I prefer reading many books with many different, yet strong and clear, points of view. The author glosses over many important issues, then presents a bunch of cute anecdotes. The little science presented is weak at best. A bunch of facts may be somewhat interesting but more scrutiny and analysis would make this a much stronger book. Having a book on energy without even mentioning fusion seems odd to me. I learned quite a bit more from Global Warming: Global Threat.

6 people found this helpful

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A must read for anyone in the oil and gas business

It is without a doubt the quintessential first book that must be read for anyone working in the petrochemical industry. If only as a fan of history, it should be a trophy on one’s bookshelf. I’ve listened to it multiple times, and it gets better each time.

1 person found this helpful

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solid on the history of the modern energy industry

Fascinating journey through the development of the modern energy industry and the story of what led to the "climate change" conversation. Nothing promised nor delivered on where it is all headed.

3 people found this helpful

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In Depth History of Energy

This book gives a very detailed history of energy, mostly from the industrial revolution until today.
Highly recommend to the Energy nerds out there like myself.

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Breathtaking overview of modern energy industry

I met a girl who is my soulmate; she works in sales & trading in renewable energy commodities at a top tier investment bank. I had no idea what she did or why she did it, but then I stumbled on this book. It gives a deep and broad overview of the energy industry from 1990 to early 2010’s and has a pace and artistry that was wonderful to listen to. I’m a staunch environmentalist, but the book gives a balanced picture of the value of oil geopolitically and in one everyday lives. It also illuminated how the financial industry and modern banking has helped drive investment in new energy sources. The Quest is a real masterpiece.

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  • NK
  • 07-05-19

The Quest

Great book. Many insights about the in and outs of the various energy business.....Not just oil but power too. There were a couple of things on the power side I did not agree with but appreciated another viewpoint.

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Expand your Understanding of Energy

The Quest's much grander than merely Oil. It will truly broaden your mind on Energy.