Energy – where we get it, how we use it, what we do with the after-effects, and how much we have – is one of the most important policy considerations for our nation and the rest of the world.  In many respects energy is a mystery.   Electricity comes out of two slots in the wall, gasoline flows from hoses with funny handles on them, and as long as all that works, we rarely ask the questions we sense are necessary.  Thus, when a big book from a supposed expert covering a broad range of these issues appears, it tends to make a splash.

Daniel Yergin, a self-described “leading energy expert,” is one of the most widely quoted consultants in the energy field.  He gets appointed to presidential panels and speaks at Davos.  His firm, IHS CERA, serves the energy industry.  Now he has written The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World, designed to provide information that policy-makers can rely upon in shaping energy policy for the decades ahead.

This could be a dangerous reliance, for Yergin is an advocate for the fossil fuel community, not an honest broker of information.  Nearly all the data cited in the book is from his company and is proprietary and non-public, so it can’t be verified or challenged.  He doesn’t appear to take seriously the views of people he doesn’t agree with, and they are not included in his extensive bibliography or interviewee list.  When he makes (or quotes himself making) forecasts, it is almost always at the high end of “as much as,” putting the best possible picture on things.  He treats overall supplies and continued growth as assured.  He is skeptical only when it comes to the concept that new sources of energy could upset the status quo. 

One thing Yergin never asks, though, is what if he’s wrong? 

In other words, if you like the way things are going and want to be assured that there’s no need to worry, Yergin’s your man.  As you might suspect, this reviewer is not persuaded.