A cleareyed and mostly neutral study of the price of America’s energy addictions.

READ REVIEW

THE BOOM

HOW FRACKING IGNITED THE AMERICAN ENERGY REVOLUTION AND CHANGED THE WORLD

An insider’s guide to the most controversial energy-production technique in the United States.

One of the most respected and practiced energy journalists in the United States, Gold (the Wall Street Journal) was most recently a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Here, the author delivers one of the first of a slate of books scheduled to tackle the provocative practice of hydraulic fracturing to mine natural gas, a process better known to most Americans as “fracking.” It’s a complex technique, and Gold gets deep into the science and engineering. Bookended by the story of his parents’ decision to sell fracking rights to their farm in rural Pennsylvania, Gold takes a coast-to-coast journey, interviewing energy moguls, roughnecks, mud men and market analysts to present a mostly comprehensive snapshot of the subject today. He also tells the story of the big personalities that drove the industry. There’s George Mitchell, the son of a Greek goatherd, who became the “father of fracking,” and Mitchell’s dark reflection in Aubrey McClendon, who rose to staggering heights and took a spectacular fall at the helm of Chesapeake Energy. There are also little terrors: the revelation that America experimented with fracking in the 1960s using nuclear weapons instead of fracking fluid; the shadowy deal between McClendon and Sierra Club leader Carl Pope to channel millions in gas money to fight big coal; the Anadarko Petroleum executive who suggested downloading the Army’s counterinsurgency manual to combat protests. The book is weighted toward the opinions of the pro-fracking side, but it’s a forgivable sin given Gold’s beat and the book’s thesis. Ultimately, he arrives at a rational middle ground, advocating fracking to bridge the gap between the age of oil and the arrival of clean energy. But he admits it may be too late: “I don’t fear fracking. I fear carbon.”

A cleareyed and mostly neutral study of the price of America’s energy addictions.

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4516-9228-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

A French academic serves up a long, rigorous critique, dense with historical data, of American-style predatory capitalism—and offers remedies that Karl Marx might applaud.

Economist Piketty considers capital, in the monetary sense, from the vantage of what he considers the capital of the world, namely Paris; at times, his discussions of how capital works, and especially public capital, befit Locke-ian France and not Hobbesian America, a source of some controversy in the wide discussion surrounding his book. At heart, though, his argument turns on well-founded economic principles, notably r > g, meaning that the “rate of return on capital significantly exceeds the growth rate of the economy,” in Piketty’s gloss. It logically follows that when such conditions prevail, then wealth will accumulate in a few hands faster than it can be broadly distributed. By the author’s reckoning, the United States is one of the leading nations in the “high inequality” camp, though it was not always so. In the colonial era, Piketty likens the inequality quotient in New England to be about that of Scandinavia today, with few abject poor and few mega-rich. The difference is that the rich now—who are mostly the “supermanagers” of business rather than the “superstars” of sports and entertainment—have surrounded themselves with political shields that keep them safe from the specter of paying more in taxes and adding to the fund of public wealth. The author’s data is unassailable. His policy recommendations are considerably more controversial, including his call for a global tax on wealth. From start to finish, the discussion is written in plainspoken prose that, though punctuated by formulas, also draws on a wide range of cultural references.

Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to work explaining the most complex of ideas, foremost among them the fact that economic inequality is at an all-time high—and is only bound to grow worse.

Pub Date: March 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-674-43000-6

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more