The Powers That Be: Global Energy for the Twenty-first Century and Beyond
By Scott L. Montgomery
The Powers That Be: Global Energy for the Twenty-first Century and Beyond (Scott L. Montgomery). The University of Chicago Press, 2010; 350pp; ISBN: 978-0-226-53500-5
● Three main factors contribute to our global energy landscape: Oil shocks, modernization in developing countries, and climate change.
● Humanity needs to pass by the “Hydrocarbon Age”.
● Understanding linkages in complex global systems is required for advancing a better energy future.
Brief Description of the Book
The Powers that Be is essentially an overview of the issues and concepts surrounding energy on a global scale. This book takes the reader through the past, present, and future of energy resources while also outlining the intricacies of specific energy resources. Montgomery lays the foundation for his book by illustrating how interconnected the world is, especially in relation to energy resources. The author leads the reader into the book by discussing the history of global energy. Montgomery then discusses our energy present and individual types of energy resources. Lastly, Montgomery includes an opinionated conclusion in which he discusses 20 factors that make up our global energy reality.
In order to convey his message throughout the book, Montgomery discusses the finer points of almost all viable energy resources. He delves into Oil, and its unfortunate peak. He speaks to the realities of Natural Gas. He then discusses Coal and its geopolitical benefits. Nuclear energy and its apparent rise to prominence; Renewable energy, its realities and limitations; Hydrogen fuel and its entrance into a complex market; and Fusion energy and its implications, if ever mastered. In a time where environmental degradation is becoming more and more prevalent, Montgomery lays out the majority of viable energy resources and genuinely weighs their pro’s and con’s and weighs in on each resources viability looking into the future.
Montgomery believes that society, in order to achieve long-term energy security, must accept the idea that all nations are interconnected in relation to energy. He states that governments should undoubtedly raise the price of fuel in order to stem innovation. Montgomery also believes that integrated public transport should be increased, that more fuel-efficient/hybrid/EV cars should be encouraged, and that biofuels such as butanol should be used by heavier vehicles (not cars).
This book was written by the author in a readable style with a straightforward structure. Montgomery states that the book is neither a manifesto nor expose. The book does not focus around one specific energy crisis or on what must be done to achieve energy sustainability. Montgomery does well to provide the reader with clear and concise understanding and reflections on issues energy related.
“…the U.S. petroleum industry is owned by the American public. When it comes to energy, in other words, many beloved accusations come back to haunt us with the mirror.”
“The final point history may offer is that reliance on, and prophetic desire for, any single fuel or technology will prove misguided. It is our ideas that power our technology. An hourglass is fragile because so narrow at the pinch.”
“Think of a spider web; touch one part, and every part trembles. In no small way, the trends and themes we see today – roaring demand in Asia, supply control in the Middle East, anxious importers in Europe, climate concerns everywhere – directly reflect such connections. Understanding these linkages, and what they portend, defines a required basis for advancing a better energy future.”
Why is this book important to understanding the environmental crisis?
This book is of importance because it encompasses the most significant defining aspects of our global energy reality. This book conceptualizes the past, present, and future of energy resources. The author is able to show the audience that energy resources are tied into almost all aspects of human life and only an interdisciplinary approach to energy sustainability will prove successful.
Scott L. Montgomer is a geologist and adjunct faculty member in the Jackson School of International Studies and Honors Program at the University of Washington. He has written books on scientific communication, the history of science, science and art, contemporary culture and translation. He holds a BA in English from Knox College and an MS in geological sciences from Cornell University.
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