A disturbing geopolitical survey of the world energy landscape.

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 declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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