Author Daniel Yergin Tells Energy’s Future

Daniel H. Yergin, an award-winning author on energy and international policy, commanded the attention of over 400 attendants in Science Center B for a talk about his latest book, “The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World,” on Wednesday night.

“I speak today from the vantage point of ‘The Quest’ and also [as] someone who owes a great deal to Harvard for what I’ve been able to do in the energy field,” Yergin said.

Yergin, who taught as a lecturer at Harvard Business School from 1977 to 1980 and at the Harvard Kennedy School until 1983, is the author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning book “The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil Money and Power.”

In “The Quest”, Yergin said that he addresses three major issues: growth versus scarcity, energy security, and the balance between using energy and preserving the environment.

Yergin described how his book uses a variety of characters to illustrate the extent of innovation and progress in the energy sector.

According to Yergin, the book’s characters include Ronald Reagan as a spokesperson for General Electric and Albert Einstein as the discoverer of photoelectricity. Yergin said that he uses Einstein’s character to illustrate the time required to translate ideas to projects.

Geologist Roger R. D. Revelle, who pioneered the study of carbon levels and later joined the Harvard faculty, features prominently in “The Quest.”

“He had an impact in ways he couldn’t see at the time. One of the students in his class was Albert Gore, Jr.,” Yergin said, alluding to Revelle’s “Natural Sciences 118: Human Population and Natural Resources” course.

Yergin said that much has changed since the publication of “The Prize,” including the rise of the climate change movement and increased use of diverse resources such as shale gas.

Corey E. Clapp, a teaching fellow for Physical Sciences 11, attended the lecture on the recommendation of Atmospheric Chemistry professor James G. Anderson.

“Having it recommended by a science professor, I expected it to be more technical, but it was a great way to connect to the course material,” Clapp said. Other audience members also said they appreciated Yergin’s talk.

“He’s one of those people who are worth listening to,” said Harish Mukundan, a MIT graduate. “For the energy sector, his words are predictive. He’s like Steve Jobs in the information sector. He leads the pack and knows the inside.”

Yergin’s lecture marked the conclusion of the year’s Future of Energy lecture series presented by the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

“We found this one to be top quality, a very nice summary of his book,” said Marion B. Reine of Cambridge, who attended many of the lectures this year and last year with his wife. “It was huge treat to have him here.”

—Staff writer Kerry M. Flynn can be reached at