Daniel Yergin’s stimulating new book, The Quest, offers an informative guide to how energy shapes and is shaped by global economics, power, and security. Yergin has taken on a large and complex subject. But he makes his lengthy book accessible to a broad audience by developing his analysis through hundreds of short vignettes, many of which are rich in historical details. General readers will learn a great deal about the wide world of energy on which we depend so completely—how it came to be the way it is and how it works. Energy experts, while not the primary audience, will gain a greater appreciation for the complex interplay of technology, markets, environments, and politics in today’s energy debate.
Yergin begins his story on December 31, 1991, the day the former Soviet Union ceased to exist. Readers may wonder (as I did) why a story about energy begins in Russia, out of the spotlight of the infamous Middle East. The reason is that this energy superpower is struggling with the many blessings and curses of an oil and gas economy. Russia has the potential to redraw the world map of fossil fuels, but it still has to get its own house in order. It must become much more efficient, orderly, and organized. And Russia must dial down domestic dependence on natural resources to capitalize on its vast natural resource wealth.