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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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