Category: Book review

BOOK REVIEW: The New Map, by Daniel Yergin

By Pooya Hoseinpoori, Research Assistant, SGI

The global energy landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade. Three macro trends have reshaped the energy market and the global energy map over the past decade: the shale boom in the US, the growing role of renewable energy, and the rise of climate policies and government funding. Daniel Yergin, a veteran energy analyst, explores the new energy maps emerging from these changes in his latest book, “The New Map, Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations”. The global energy map has changed significantly since Mr Yergin published “The Quest” in 2011. In the New MAP, he updates and expands his analysis of technological advances, energy and geopolitical changes and presents a compelling narrative of developments that have disrupted the energy world over the past decade.

The New Map opens with the new US map and the shale revolution, which raised the supply and lowered the price of oil and gas, and reshaped traditional oil and gas relations and geopolitics by changing the US’s position on the global energy market. Next is Russia’s map shaped by geopolitical competition and conflicts over un­resolved borders from the collapse of the Soviet Union as well as a pivot to the east strategy and alliance with China. Then there is the new China map with its massive, ambitious international investment strategy known as the Belt and Road Initiative and its strategic plans for securing its commodity trade flows across the South China Sea. The Middle east’s map comes next in the book, formed by frontiers and rivalries and an economy highly dependent on oil and gas revenues. Last is the roadmap of the future and the climate maps discussing how the transition to a low carbon energy system might play out.

Like his previous books, the New MAP is full of detailed stories and interesting statistics about changes and events that formed these new maps: “By 2019 the unconventional revolution (shale boom) was supporting over 2.8 million jobs in the US”, “The US trade deficit in 2019 was 309 billion lower than it would have been if there was no shale revolution”, “China is building eight new airports a year”, “In 2019, $25 million cars were sold in China”, “Between 2006 and 2013 China’s gas consumption tripled” and also stories on Russia’s pivoting to east strategy and the new level of cooperation between China and Russia: “At the same time president Putin and president Xi were making pancakes together, their military joined in a large war game in the Far East”, “Chinese would provide the financing for a massive new $45 billion power of Siberia gas pipeline”, “Russia’s $25 billion investment on ESPO oil pipeline facilitated by $80 billion prepayment China made to Rosneft for deliveries over the next twenty five years”. Through all these statistics and stories, Mr Yergin sets the context for his contention that oil and gas will continue to be part of the ongoing energy mix, and their role remains a central theme of global energy order in the upcoming decades.

Yergin does not doubt climate change or question the transition to green energy. In his book, he discusses the substantial progress made in renewable energy and suggests that the use of wind and solar power will continue to grow despite the obstacles still standing in their way. He also provides a thorough history of the electric car (which I really enjoyed) and suggests that EVs will become commonplace and that governments will impose greater restrictions on fossil fuel use to combat climate change. He acknowledges that a change like this will eventually occur. But he believes that energy transformation is a gradual process that will take a very long time, and he is unconvinced that this will occur at the ambitious rates promised by net-zero targets. In his opinion, climate change concerns are not yet strong enough to majorly alter geopolitical orders or reshape development plans.

The New Map has been met with mixed reactions and responses, with the majority of critiques being directed at Yergin’s stance on energy transition. While some criticised him for being “so embedded in old patterns of thought that he can’t quite recognise the urgency of the climate crisis”, in the eyes of some, “he is injecting reality into expectations of the energy transition”. I share Yergin’s doubts about optimistic transition rates and very ambitious net-zero targets. My critique, however, goes to other chapters in which I found his perspectives US-centric and also primarily focused on oil and gas producing countries, with China being the only big demand centre discussed. I was hoping to read more about developing countries and new MAPs for Africa, India, or South America. Overall though, in my opinion, the New Map is timely and a fitting follow-up to his previous books “The Quest” and “The Prize”.

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Ref 3) internationaledition/20200917/281848646024355

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Ref 5) “The New Map, Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations”, Daniel Yergin, Penguin Press 2020


BOOK REVIEW: ‘How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need’, by Bill Gates

By Semra Bakkaloglu, Research Associate, SGI

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need by Bill Gates is also a short book (288 pages). Because the majority of respected environmental books have been authored by scientist and social activists, Gates’s entrepreneurial approach is intriguing. Despite his lack of expertise on the subject, this book is reader-friendly and accessible to anybody with an interest in the subject. He simplifies the science, explains why and how climate change is occurring, and discusses the importance of achieving a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions goal, as well as how we can do so using existing technology and necessary innovation.

Gates explains how to get zero emissions from the world’s annual emissions of 51 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases. He focuses on emissions from five industries: electricity, manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, and heating and cooling systems. In each chapter, he discusses each sector’s emissions and various technologies for reducing emissions. Predictably, his book emphasis the carbon-free technology solutions for the energy system to eliminate a greater percentage of our overall emissions. He highlights how important it is to electrify as much human activity as possible. He is concerned that solar panels and wind turbines are not as efficient as nuclear power in the energy sector. Obviously, he supports the world’s use of nuclear power in the coming years and encourages investment and technological advancements in that sector. He does not, however, go into detail about the future of hydrogen usage, which the entire world is moving toward. He also avoids addressing waste sector emissions throughout the book, particularly how to deal with nuclear waste when advocating for nuclear power. On the other hand, I think he does a great job in the final chapters of summarising the government’s role in combating climate change.

The book didn’t teach me much, but I get the impression that its real purpose is to pique the interest of people who have been complacent up to this point. It does provide an exceptionally detailed overview of the potential answers that are worth exploring. I urge that newcomers to climate change read this book. The concepts expressed here by one of the world’s most admired billionaires will not disappoint you.


BOOK REVIEW: “Sustainability for the Rest of Us: Your No-Bullsh*t, Five-Point Plan for Saving the Planet” by John Pabon

By Zara Qadir, Communications Manager

“Sustainability for the Rest of Us: Your No-Bullsh*t, Five-Point Plan for Saving the Planet” by John Pabon is a short book (just 200 pages) and a definite page-turner for those who want to delve beyond the hype. The book makes you think critically about sustainability (‘as not all giving is equal’) as well as providing a simple plan and crash course guide to sustainability terminology. Pabon talks about how to spot greenwashing and how often philanthropy is misplaced by those who are well-meaning. However, he also highlights projects that have had a real positive impact on communities and the environment.

Pabon describes himself as a pragmatic altruist, and tells us that ‘passion, without pragmatism, is just complaining’. His book is a witty, bold, and refreshing read that makes you feel uncomfortable sometimes. However, his overall advice is solid with a strong background in sustainability at organizations such as United Nations, McKinsey, A.C. Nielsen.

When volunteering your time, he recommends looking at donating your professional skills in an ongoing way where it is needed most. We’ve got to focus on what we can do and not try to do everything at once, so we don’t burn out. He also says it is useful to think like a marketer, not an activist. By this, Pabon means identifying your stakeholders and working with them to find out what the best long-term solution is. The afterword focuses on the impact of Covid-19 and highlights some positive developments, for example, an unprecedented and significant reduction (although short-term) in greenhouse gas emissions across the globe.

Book review: “The BOOM” by Russell Gold

‘A nuanced overview of successes, barriers and lessons learned from the American shale gas revolution.’

Our first book review has been written by Pooya Hoseinpoori, a researcher in energy system modelling and policy making at Sustainable Gas Institute, Imperial College London. In this review, she looks at a book that explores the American shale gas revolution. Pooya believes both supporters and opponents of fracking will find this book interesting in understanding the alternative viewpoint.

Over the last decade, the global gas market has experienced significant transformations that greatly impacted traditional gas relations and geopolitics worldwide. With the US shale boom, the growing LNG trade, and the emergence of new gas-producing states, natural gas has become an abundant commodity, and its supply is no longer constrained to regional markets. Among these developments, the American shale boom has had the most profound impact on the abundance of natural gas, reducing gas prices and changing the flow of international gas trades.

Due to the rise in natural gas production from unconventional resources, the United States` energy landscape has transformed significantly in the past decade. By 2010 a combination of disruptive technologies, innovative practices, and an accommodating regulatory environment facilitated the shale revolution, turning the US from a major natural gas importer into a gas exporter. Advancements in hydraulic fracturing, horizontal drilling and seismic imaging were the three main technological advancements that made it possible to extract hydrocarbons from previously inaccessible shale formations and opened vast deposits of natural gas for economic growth in the US. The result was a 50% increase in proved reserve and a 34 % increase in US gas production over the past decade. The shale revolution had a profound impact on greenhouse gas emissions in the US by facilitating the transition from coal to gas. In addition, the abundance of natural gas drove down US gas prices significantly, giving a competitive advantage to its industry. The large-scale extraction of shale deposits has also affected the global oil and gas market and energy security through the growing LNG trading.

Although the shale boom reduced the long-term energy security risks in the US, it has some major environmental risks, making it a controversial technology. Tens of thousands of wells have been drilled across the Unites States and this has led to the growing concerns about the impacts of fracking on ground/surface water resources and local air pollution. Due to the widespread nature of the shale business, it has a large community impact and people are confronted with the process of energy production in a way that they haven’t in the past. This has led to growing public opposition to it. On the other hand, although climate change is part of the shale boom story, many believe that the fugitive emissions from shale gas could offset the emission reduction gains of switching from coal to gas.

Russell Gold is an investigative journalist at the Wall Street Journal based in Texas. For over a decade, he travelled around the United States tracing fracking to drilling sites, farms, companies and interviewed drillers, market analysts, engineers, environmental activists, local residences and landowners to present a comprehensive overview of the shale revolution. In his book, “The BOOM”, he delivers a thorough and balanced analysis into the benefits and disadvantages of fracturing and the growing conflict between economic development, energy independence and environmental damages. I believe both supporters and opponents of fracking will find this book helpful in thinking about alternative viewpoints.

Gold’s book provides important insights into how energy change takes place. In his book, Gold elaborates on how the institutional structure of the United States, in particular private ownership of minerals, facilitated the emergence of fracking and how setting consistent government policies aligned with the right market forces created a fertile ground for the deployment of this disruptive technology. The science and engineering of hydraulic fracturing are well explained. The book also provides interesting information about the history and early fracking attempts, such as using nuclear weapons for fracking.

The Boom is the story of how the coordination of different stakeholders facilitated the biggest energy innovation of the last century. What I liked the most about the book was the interviews with people who were closely involved in this transition and its focus on the human side of adopting this provocative technology. Gold does a great job at capturing the great ambitions and personalities that drove the shale boom. There are the engineers of Mitchell Energy who first figured out how to use chemically slicked water to fracture shales; the investors at Devon who first committed to combine hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling enabling engineers to improve the well’s output and make it profitable; Chesapeake’s McClendon who figured out how to finance the revolution and sell it to wall street bankers; the landowner and local residents who had to live with the side effects of fracking and the activists who protested against fracking, trying to force stricter regulations and limit the environmental damages.

Gold concludes by saying natural gas could be a bridging fuel to a future powered by renewable energy and fracking could be the technology that enables that. Despite the consensus on the value of natural gas for reducing urban/regional pollutions, the debate about the role of fracking in addressing climate change and whether natural gas from fracking is net benefit rages on. Being a promising bridging fuel requires further efforts in reducing fugitive methane emissions from the fracking process and gas transport. The other key question is about the future of fracking. Would it deliver the future projected for it? And if shale boom is replicated by other countries and spread globally, how would it affect the energy markets?

Despite the controversial role of shale gas in a clean energy transition, I found the story of the shale boom an interesting account of a change in the energy system and the trade-offs we have to make. I think, as we look ahead to the transition to a low-carbon energy system, there are many lessons we can learn from the shale revolution, including how to create an environment that encourages innovation and enables disruptive technologies to emerge.


  • Gold, Russell. 2014. The Boom. Simon & Schuster.
  • Grigas, Agnia. 2017. The new geopolitics of natural gas. Harvard University Press.
  • Michael Greenstone, Jeff Holmstead, Susan Tierney, interview by Amy Harder. 2018. The Fracking Debate, Energy policy institute at the Univeristy of Chicago
  • Murtazashvili, Ilia. 2016. “Institutions and the shale boom.” Journal of Institutional Economics.
  • Richard S. Middleton, Rajan Gupta, Jeffrey D. Hyman, Hari S. Viswanathan. 2017. “The shale gas revolution: Barriers, sustainability, and emerging opportunities.” Applied Energy 88-95.
  • House of Commons, The Energy and Climate Change Committee, 2012. The Impact of Shale Gas on Energy Markets .
  • European Union., 2013. The Shale gas ‘revolution’ in the United States: Global implications, options for the EU ,
  • Hoxtell, A. G., 2012. The Impact of Shale Gas on European Energy Security, Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi).

Pooya works for the Sustainable Gas Institute at Imperial College which explores the role of natural gas in a low carbon world. Research is  needed to understand methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, and to explore the feasibility of alternative fuels such as hydrogen.