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The Future of Energy, according to Daniel Yergin
November 15, 2011 1:45 PM   Subscribe

Daniel Yergin was recently interviewed on NPR's always informative Planet Money podcast. Yergin—most famous for his 1992 Pulitzer-winning opus on 20th century petroleum development, The Prize—has penned a sequel, of sorts, examining the modern quest for sustainable energy amidst the looming threat of climate change. If The Prize was an epic glorification of the quest for money, oil and power, The Quest is a look at those who might have to clean up the whole mess. "The heroes are the engineers and scientists of the energy world — the geeks, in other words."

As an author, analyst and talking head, Yergin (and his organization: IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates) has been criticized for being too sympathetic to big oil, for downplaying peak oil, and for suggesting that oil production is likely to continue largely unabated, among other things.

In the interview, Yergin offers a fairly nuanced primer on most of the fossil fuels alternatives, including nuclear, wind, and biofuels. He also suggests his approach is based on a self-described "marriage of optimism and realism." In Yergin's view, the ambitious prospect of rapidly restructuring our energy-hungry economy is unlikely in the short term, but inevitable in the long game. He's also hopeful that solutions to our toughest energy problems might still be solved through innovation and more consistent R&D funding.

The interview earns some bonus points for a bit on Thomas Edison and Henry Ford's early interest in electric cars.

More Yergin online:

PBS series based on The Prize, over at Google Video.

Yergin on the Colbert Report. (available in U.S. only)

Yergin on Charlie Rose in 2008.

A roundup of reviews of Yergin's latest book: The Quest.
posted by hamandcheese (11 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

Man I like Planet Money. I've learned so much from that podcast.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:47 PM on November 15, 2011

"The heroes are the engineers and scientists of the energy world". Absolutely right. Youth of today, here is your destiny, your honour, and your contribution!
posted by No Robots at 1:56 PM on November 15, 2011

Yergin has to make amends for downplaying the oil crunch for all these years. He's a major reason why "the ambitious prospect of rapidly restructuring our energy-hungry economy is unlikely in the short term."
posted by ocschwar at 2:24 PM on November 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

"The heroes are the engineers and scientists of the energy world"

I would also add to that list the climate scientists who have warned the rest of us as to the pressing need for establishing those alternative energy sources as quickly as possible.
posted by longdaysjourney at 2:32 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I haven't read his other books, but The Commanding Heights was nothing but a worthless pile of end-of-history tripe.
posted by moorooka at 6:06 PM on November 15, 2011

It was amusing that the commentator kept mentioning that the new book was more suited to the show's audience, "you know, for geeks." It made me want to rewatch The Hudsucker Proxy at least.
posted by trackofalljades at 6:47 PM on November 15, 2011

Academic Wet Blanket Deflates Overcaffeinated, Underinformed, and Unusually Deferential Common Man.
posted by kickback at 6:56 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

For a more intelligent perspective than industry shills like Daniel Yergin, I'd recommend The Oil Drum, where actual geologists and other experts on petroleum can be found.
posted by jhandey at 3:42 AM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

he also does not seem to grasp the concept of EROI. and yes, please read theoildrum instead. nothing Yergin says should be taken seriously.
posted by ninjew at 8:28 AM on November 16, 2011

Graph of Yergin/CERA's oil price predictions track record.
posted by Bangaioh at 9:00 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

^ ...which actually is from one of the links in the FFP, despite the linked article claiming to be from January 2008. D'oh!
posted by Bangaioh at 9:04 AM on November 16, 2011

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