A disturbing geopolitical survey of the world energy landscape.

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THE END OF OIL

ON THE EDGE OF A PERILOUS NEW WORLD

Enjoy your SUVs while you can, gas-guzzlers: the glory days of hydrocarbons are over—and hard times are on the way.

So warns freelance journalist Roberts, who’s made the energy industry his beat for Harper’s. “On the face of it,” he writes, “our energy economy is humming along like a perpetual-motion machine.” But, he adds, that’s illusory: although the growing energy economy requires the constant discovery and exploitation of new stores of fossil fuels, with demand expected to grow by 50 percent in the US alone by 2020, the reality is that actual production is falling, so that the oil-dependent nations of the First World are ever more dependent on countries that feel little goodwill toward them. “By nearly any sane measure,” Roberts remarks, “the quest for less problematic forms of energy and energy-efficient technologies should be a top priority for all players in the energy world.” Yet that has not been the case: although, Roberts notes, the energy industry has historically shown itself to be capable of turning on a dime, the powers that be—not least of them the current US administration (“If American energy politics has always been dysfunctional, a new standard may have been set with the election of George W. Bush”)—have resisted regulations requiring greater efficiencies. The road to a new energy regime is likely to be perilous, politically and economically; as Roberts notes, previous transformations have been profoundly dislocating. Yet more dislocating will be the worldwide economic shock when the news sinks in that depletion and scarcity are the order of the day: “World markets—and the political systems that depend on those markets—could deteriorate with surprising speed once it becomes widely known that a peak has occurred,” Roberts warns. So what is to be done? Well, plenty, all of it involving a great change of “energy lifestyles”—and all of it certain to cause pain.

A disturbing geopolitical survey of the world energy landscape.

Pub Date: May 15, 2004

ISBN: 0-618-23977-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2004

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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