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The Energy of Nations: Risk Blindness and the Road to Renaissance

The Energy of Nations: Risk Blindness and the Road to Renaissance [Kindle Edition]

Jeremy Leggett
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Product Description


“A story very well told. As far as I am aware there is no one on this planet who has a comparable all-encompassing, multi-disciplinary view and understanding of these issues to Leggett's.”Stephan Schmidheiny, founder, World Council for Sustainable Development

“It really is a terrific read - very unveiling of our human struggle between greed and legacy.” – Stephan Dolezalek, Managing Director, Vantage Point Capital Partners.

“I was so captivated by it. The narrative device of running the years and the oil price gives it power and tension. The inter-weaving of account and candid diary makes one feel one has a front-row seat at the places where things almost happen.”Adam Poole, Analyst, Buro-Happold

“I was hooked within the first few pages.”Pamela Hartigan, Director, Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Said Business School, University of Oxford

“The narrative flows compellingly, filmically, almost like an airport thriller.”Mark Prain, Executive Director, Hillary Institute of International Leadership

“At a time when most people view tomorrow's energy prospects through dark lenses of coal, oil, fracked gas or even methane hydrates, Jeremy Leggett shines a brilliant light on the path towards low or zero carbon energy. Illuminating. And a joy to read.”John Elkington, cofounder of ENDS, SustainAbility and Volans.

"Brilliant–a real roadmap to the future. And a perfect reminder of why we must leave most fossil fuel safely in the ground." – Bill McKibben, Founder,

"Jeremy Leggett is one of great entrepreneurs of the emerging solar era, a man driven by his passion for the environment and for social justice in the developing world to set up a new business (and a new charity) to give expression to those ideas. ‘ The Energy of Nations’ tells it as it needs to be heard, with new – and genuinely sustainable – business models at the heart of today’s transformation going on today in the global economy" – Jonathon Porritt, Founder Director, Forum for the Future

"To understand what is going on you need to be a polymath who has worked at the highest levels on all sides. Jeremy Leggett is that person, and he provides clarity of thinking in a consistently delightful written style." – Paul Dickinson, Chairman, Carbon Disclosure Project.

"Leggett’s The Energy of Nations is the key to the "next big thing" for investors and asset managers worldwide."Hazel Henderson, Seeking Alpha

"The Energy of Nations is a stimulatingpolemic that paints the ongoing drive to move away from carbon-based fossil fuels as a titanic struggle in which mankind struggles to overcome its darker instincts – greed and denial – in order to ensure the future survival of the human race." Real Power

Product Description

Systemic global risks of oil supply, climate shock and financial collapse threaten tomorrow's economies and mean businesses and policy makers face huge challenges in fuelling tomorrow’s world.

Jeremy Leggett gives a personal testimony of the dangers often ignored and incompletely understood - a journey through the human mind, the institutionalization of denial, and the reasons civilizations fail. It is also an account of tantalizing hope, because mobilizing renewables and redeploying energy funding can soften the crash of modern capitalism and set us on a road to renaissance.


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More About the Author

Jeremy Leggett is a social entrepreneur and author of The Carbon War, Half Gone and The Energy of Nations. He is founder and chairman of Solarcentury, the UK's fastest growing renewable energy company since 2000, and founder and Chairman of SolarAid, an African solar lighting charity set up with five percent of Solarcentury's annual profit's, itself parent to a social venture, SunnyMoney, that is the top-selling retailer of solar lights in Africa. An Entrepreneur of the Year at the New Energy Awards, he has been described by the Observer as 'Britain's most respected green energy boss'. He was the first Hillary Laureate for International Leadership in Climate Change, and a CNN Principal Voice. He chairs the financial-sector think tank CarbonTracker, and is a risk consultant to large corporations. He writes and blogs on occasion for the Guardian and the Financial Times, lectures on short courses in business and society at the universities of Cambridge and St Gallen, and is an Associate Fellow at Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This book is full of vividly quotable aphorisms. Here's one: "'Logical' is the last thing human thinking, individual and collective, is. Too compelling an argument can even drive people with a particularly well-insulated belief system deeper into denial."

Heeding its own advice, that there are drawbacks to presenting arguments in an overly rational or logically compelling format, the book proceeds down a parallel course. A large part of the book reads more like a novel than a textbook, with numerous fascinating episodes retold from the author's diaries.

The cast of characters that have walk-on parts in these episodes include prime ministers, oil industry titans, leading bankers, journalists, civil servants, analysts, and many others. Heroes and villains appear and re-appear, sometimes grown wiser with the passage of years, but sometimes remaining as recalcitrant, sinister (yes), and slippery (yes again) as ever.

A core theme of the book is risk blindness. Powerful vested interests in society have their own reasons to persuade public opinion that there's nothing to worry about - that everything is under control. Resources at the disposal of these interests ("the incumbency") inflict a perverse blindness on society, as regards the risks of the status quo. Speaking against the motion at a debate, "This House Believes Peak Oil Is No Longer a Concern", in London's Queen Elizabeth II Congress Centre in March 2009, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis brought on by hugely unwarranted over-confidence among bankers, the author left a trenchant analogy hanging in the mind of the audience:

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informed, compelling and accessible 11 Jan 2014
This book is a great and sobering read. The style is very accessible, offering a flowing narrative with the right amount of detail. I devoured it in short order, finding it gripping, clear, concise, well informed and compelling.

Leggett is brilliantly positioned to comment on these topics.

The book reminded me of and strengthened my concerns over climate change and financial risk, re-energising my resolve to fight back against what Leggett calls the "energy incumbency" and a slow descent into climate chaos.

I recommend this book.

Andrew Turner
MSc Sustainable Energy Futures
Imperial College, London
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The reasoned voice of Jeremy Leggett guides the reader through the complex and murky waters of the energy industry to give a revealing account of systematic crises in the 21st century. The Energy of Nations narrates the socio-political and economic forces which have driven the ever-changing discourses on peak oil, climate change and the financial system. This is a must read for: any student looking for a clear perspective and overview of these issues; any person who holds a position of power and has a responsibility to understand and influence the different paths we face; and for any new or seasoned campaigner looking for a new voice and inspiration.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is Dr. Leggett's account of the interplay amongst finance, business and government in the energy sector, primarily in the London/UK context. It does not paint a terribly optimistic picture. Dr. Leggett documents his own personal experiences with many of the primary decision makers, and gives example after example of the difficulty in changing the culture of cheap, available oil. But it is all presented in a way that makes for fun reading. The book gives an insider's view of how power is actually exercised in a 21st century democracy.

The shorter, about the final 20%, part of the book, offers some thoughts about where this may all lead. As with any prognosis for the future, this is more uncertain. While the messages are important, the contrast with the recorded history of the first part of the book is somewhat disconcerting. Dr. Leggett is a scientist, and is clearly less comfortable without hard data, which the future obviously doesn't provide. The major problems indicated by past data are clear; how it may evolve is less so.

This is in part because Dr. Leggett realizes that the way we humans respond to data is not purely rational. The book brings in recent psychological research that helps explain how people persist in beliefs despite data to the contrary. But this psychological dimension is not a central theme; it could have been a much greater part of the book.

The ENERGY OF NATIONS will explain a great deal about the problems that our societies face today, presented in an engaging, first-hand report. For anyone who cares about the problems it documents it is required reading.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Advance warning of looming systemic risks? 1 Oct 2013
Jeremy Leggett has written an important book that should be mandatory reading, not least for directors of listed companies with obligations to protect the long-term interests of shareholders. This is not a book for the faint-hearted as it identifies potentially devastating, fundamental risks to the global economy which are inter-related: an oil price shock after 'peak oil'; disruptive impacts of climate change; another financial system crash; the 'carbon bubble'; and inflated estimates of the sustainability of the present shale gas boom.

There are few other people who could have drawn these risks into a coherent narrative. Like Tony Juniper, another distinguished environmental author, it was Jeremy's work as a scientist - particularly his research into the geological history of the oceans and hence ancient climates - which led to a deep concern about the health of planet Earth and the likelihood of irreversible climate change unless the global economy changed course. In leaving academia to become Greenpeace's climate change campaigner in 1989, Jeremy was not abandoning science but deploying it for another purpose. When he established SolarCentury in 1997, it was to take his campaigning into the markets and directly drive the adoption of renewable energy; similar, in joining Swiss private equity fund New Energies Invest AG as a non-executive director in 2000, it was to help harness the power of financial markets to fund the low-carbon energy transition.

The Energy of Nations skilfully combines analysis and anecdote. It is a very good history of the key developments in geopolitics, energy, finance and climate negotiations over the last decade and longer.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
interesting view
Published 1 month ago by marduc
4.0 out of 5 stars a clever book but a difficult reawd
this is part of our energy library. the book is interesting and clever but the writing style is unnecessarily difficult.
Published 3 months ago by nvision energy
4.0 out of 5 stars A way forward in a post carbon world?
Less depressing than several other books I've read documenting/predicting the rise and fall of the developed (and oil dependant) countries. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Andy
5.0 out of 5 stars A good summary of our current ills
The first part of the book is an easily readable summary of the recent history of the intertwined worlds of energy and finance. Read more
Published 4 months ago by G. Harris
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the single most important book you will ever read. EVER..
11 calories to 1. The curtain is drawn aside and the window is open for those who wish to see. Sadly as Winston Churchill stated so clearly stated "Want of foresight,... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Pal Dinessen
5.0 out of 5 stars Blueprint for our future
A fantastically written, blueprint for our future. Jeremy outlines the recent history of the fossil fuel industry that threatens to damage our planet beyond repair, combining it... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mr N Richardson
5.0 out of 5 stars must read
a very necessary and timely wake up call. Legget has exposed the true nature of politics, economics and capitalism in the age of peak oil! A must read...
Published 6 months ago by J. L. King
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant account of what must change in energy...
Energy of Nations describes the extent of dysfunction within the mainstream energy industry. The book also highlights the political impotence that has enabled the fossil fuel... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Andy Baird
5.0 out of 5 stars If everyone read this book.... the world would change!
Amazing insight into the politics and business of energy policy at the very top level in the UK, and stark warnings for failing to act proactively before an oil shock as demand... Read more
Published 6 months ago by A. Simpson
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading, but tedious
In this book Leggett considers the causes of the 2008 financial crash and if we have reached the peak oil point, and the effects and implications that this has had so far, and will... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Half Man, Half Book
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