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The Energy of Nations by Jeremy Leggett

The full title of this book by Jeremy Leggett is

The Energy of Nations: Risk Blindness And The Road To Renaissance“.

In my review posted to Amazon.co.uk, I gave the book Four Stars. This means it is Good and Well Worth Reading.

Here is my book review.

Plenty of food for thought

I enjoyed reading this book as it looks back at the recent past and then looks forward.

The author is a long time believer in early peak oil and the founder of a solar energy company. He therefore believe deeply in his message. Whilst he rails against manipulation or the energy facts and debate by Big Oil and Big Nuclear, he may not be presenting a balanced view.

Personally his views tend to match mine but I’m aware that reading this book may confirm the prejudices I already have. I believe that we are heading for another financial collapse and an energy crisis in the near future, as does the author.

Tim Morgan in his book Life After Growth: How the global economy really works – and why 200 years of growth are over explains how the economies based on energy and money have diverged but this artificial state cannot continue indefinitely. Convergence will be very negative.

Jeremy Leggett in this book, combines energy (and especially peak oil), climate change and finance but in a very different way. I didn’t see one mention of Energy Return on Energy Invested in this book and how this plummeting measure will change economic society. That concerns me.

Instead we have a long and interesting history of recent economic, energy and climate change developments that helps to pull the threads together.

Sometimes when you live through history – and I believe we are at a historical tipping point – it’s hard to see the patterns. The book helps you to join the dots and how the story has twisted and turned, alternative energy and climate change arguments gained momentum and then lost it as the realities of the 2008 financial crisis took hold.

From then, money became scarce and the green movement was under pressure, despite the attractive logic behind a Green New Deal. This of course created an open goal for the propaganda of Big Oil to score often, denying the concept of peak oil on the basis of the miracle of fracking for oil and gas.

This history is also livened up by personal accounts of key meetings. The author is clearly very well connected in the energy industry and this has given him limited access to the top politicians. The alleged responses to his arguments and the logic of peak oil and the need to develop sustainable alternatives is alarming.

As I read it, I wanted to grab our leaders by the shoulders and shake them while shouting “NOW IS THE TIME TO TAKE ACTION, BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE.”

I found the idea that much of the shareholder value of Big Oil and other energy companies is a myth because the world can’t afford to burn their existing resources because of carbon limits both interesting and alarming. It presents a strong case for switching investments away from finding new sources of carbon fuels and towards renewables. It also suggests that carbon bubble is building in stock markets within the overall bubble inflated by Quantitative Easing.

Sadly I felt that the book fizzled away in part 2 looking towards the future.

Perhaps this is inevitable given the compelling story told in part 1 and the inevitable vagueness involved with talking about the future.

Perhaps it was because I was aware the author has a solar power agenda of his own. I realise one can over-adjust against potential bias but I don’t expect any transformation to be easy or quick.

The author talks about the power of context and how mobilisation in support of the war effort became possible in world war 2 when it would have been hard to believe such production was possible beforehand. I understand this but WW2 started as a European affair and the UK received considerable support from America before they entered the war themselves. In an energy crisis, the entire world will be in trouble all at once.

Mobilisation also requires energy and whilst renewables would be an obvious priority for existing energy resources, I fear it will have to lag behind food, water and other essentials. Feeding this country will be a major problem and that’s before humanitarian help is given to those countries who are much poorer and literally starving to death.

As energy becomes seriously constrained and very expensive, tough decisions will have to be made and emotions and politics may count for more than economic logic.

The future looks scary to me and the author’s suggested timings for peak oil are earlier than I had in mind.

Read this book to help make sense of recent history, do what you can to encourage politicians to put peak oil and climate change high up on their agendas. Do what you can to conserve energy and prepare for an uncertain future and encourage your friends to do so as well.

It is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

There are many thousand of business books, you can see the full list of my reviews at Business Books Reviews by Paul Simister (Please click). I've also narrowed these down to a list of the 12 Best Business Books For Business Owners & Entrepreneurs (Please click).

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