Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Windfall (Meghan L. O'Sullivan)

Meghan L. O'Sullivan's Windfall is an overview of modern politics from the perspective of energy. It discusses how the oil and gas boom that’s been driven by technological advancement in extraction of energy resources is shaping modern politics in America, Russia, China, Europe, and the Middle East.  Windfall focuses on the relationship between energy and foreign policy and the success (or failure) of nations around the world through the ebb and flow of energy supply and revenues that come from it.

Ten years before her book was written, scarcity in energy drove high energy prices. Those prices in turn made it possible for technological innovation to take hold and drive America, Canada, and a few other nations to utilize new techniques to bring new supplies of oil to the market. The subsequent drop in oil prices helped spur economic recovery in much of the West but drove many of the traditional oil-producing nations to make reforms or political hay in the name of maintaining relevance.  O’Sullivan effectively argues the case of how much of the current global economic boom was brought about by technological innovation in oil and gas extraction, which lowered price and helped fuel growth.

O’Sullivan tackles traditional energy sources like oil, gas, and coal with remarkable effect and argues future political and policy paths based on an oil and gas future. The lack of coverage in renewable energy beyond passing references throughout the book did provide me some pause given the likely increase in renewable energy production in the coming years. However, for a current sense of the political and economic landscape and the ramifications that oil and gas have had on it in recent decades, this book is a very knowledgeable and well-researched account of what is going on.