Wednesday, November 02, 2011

`The Quest' by Daniel Yergin: A great job but we need more

I recently read Daniel Yergin's fascinating book The Quest. It's a panoramic view of the global energy industry. For me personally, many parts were familiar territory. But many parts were new to me, and the overall integration of the story was valuable. I encourage every non-specialist (like me) who is curious about energy to read the book.

But I was left thirsty for two more books.

The first book would be a more technical treatment of the same material.

I repeatedly found myself wanting more technical detail. The pollution from cars has come down by 99% between 1970 and 2010. How was this done!? New nuclear reactor designs are fundamentally safer than the reactors that got into trouble at Chernobyl or Fukushima. What are these designs and why are they fundamentally safer!? Hybrid cars give you much higher mileage than ordinary cars. What are the key innovations which make this possible and how much did each of these new ideas contribute? The oil industry is doing incredible things digging deep into the sea. What are these engineering challenges and how are they being overcome?

And so on. The Quest is a good book but the The Quest for Geeks would be a great book.

The second direction in which I was curious and unsatisfied was India. The book has roughly nothing about India. It talks a bit about about Suzlon and has some political stories about India's views in global climate negotiations. For the rest, there is nothing about India's energy industry. It would be great if a comparable panoramic treatment was done, focusing on India. Perhaps Girish Sant and/or Rangan Banerjee should embark on such a project.


  1. Googled and amazoned for "The Quest for Geeks" and there is just no trace. Is this an Indian publisher? Amazon, often leaves out non American publishers. Really surprising that it does not appear in Google.

  2. Jose,

    Sorry if my attempt at humour was confusing. The Quest for Geeks is a title that I made up to convey the book idea which I thought is worth pursuing. As I say in the post, it would be a great book. It does not exist.

  3. Mr. Shah,
    I have just finished Yergin's The Prize, and am about to start on The Quest. I would love to hear your opinion on The Prize if you have read it. It is similarly narrative and not technical, and fairly dated, but nevertheless a good introduction to the industry- I feel. But what do you think are the methodological/structural flaws in The Prize?

    On another note, I have also been looking for more quantitative - but still readable! - literature on the industry and the associated geopolitics. A Quest for Geeks may not exist, but can you suggest some articles or authors that you have found useful?

    Best regards,
    Ushma Shah

    Ushma Shah
    University of Pennsylvania
    Bachelor in International Relations, Economics


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