The Quest, Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern WorldYergin does not say what the future of energy will be. His storytelling is brilliant but more important is the understanding he brings to his reader’s mind: where and why we stand where we are today on energy issues. As an echo to this understanding, a second thought is introduced: why we will not be able to reach a better situation unless we learn from the past. This is when the journalist becomes a friend. Never forget the realities and constraints that drive the decision-makers. It is no surprise that Yergin received the Pulitzer Prize, twenty years ago, for The Prize. Oil was its central character, and oil has not disappeared. It is still playing a major role in the global game of power and the lives of people. Each locomotive engineer uses the energy equivalent of 100,000 men and, today, each jet pilot uses the equivalent of 700,000, said the admiral Rickover, quoted by Yergin. He recognizes that the harnessing of energy has achieved a lot, but he dares ask the question “Can we bet on that for the future?” The security issue that surrounds supply will continue to be a fundamental concern. “Over 80 percent of world energy continues to be supplied by the ‘combustibles’… Coal is 40 percent of the world’s electricity.” As he points out, the global overall energy consumption may become 35 to 40 percent greater than it is today. Forging a coherent energy policy at the complex, global level it has reached today, means going into a long-term policy mix with a variety of sources. But the magnitude of the long-term plan will not only claim much more knowledge, as Yergin explains. It also demands a revolution in the decision making process.

- H. M.

The Quest, Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World, Daniel Yergin, Allen Lane, £30.00