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The Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity, and the Battle for America’s Future

Michael Levi Urges the U.S. to Embrace Old and New Energy Alike, in New Book

May 1, 2013


May 2, 2013—"Everything we once knew about American energy seems to be changing," writes Michael A. Levi, CFR senior fellow and director of the program on energy security and climate change, in The Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity, and the Battle for America's Future. "The United States can strengthen its economy, improve national security, and confront climate change if it intelligently embraces the historic gains unfolding all across the energy landscape."

In his new book, Levi offers an intricate portrayal of the rapidly evolving American energy landscape—one defined by surging oil and gas production, a thriving renewable energy industry, and falling oil consumption—and illuminates the consequences of these changes for the economy, national security, and the environment.

The book includes on-the-ground reporting and eye-opening analysis of the country's energy choices, cutting through heated claims made by all sides in America's energy fights. On natural gas, Levi writes: "People who claim that natural gas can propel the U.S. economy in the twenty-first century, if only pesky environmentalists and other concerned citizens lay off, are exaggerating the benefits of the shale gas bonanza. But one needn't exaggerate on this front to conclude that shale gas is a big deal. Indeed the potential consequences go well beyond economics."

Levi also traces the origins of the U.S. energy debate: "[The] fundamentals of the fight over the future of American energy aren't new. Many of the details are novel, but the roots of the basic conflicts stretch back to the first modern oil crisis, which rocked the world in the autumn of 1973. It is no exaggeration to claim that most of the battle lines that define today's clashes were first drawn decades ago."

Levi's book debunks the idea that the fight over America's energy future is a zero-sum game between old and new sources of energy. "The right strategy for the United States would embrace opportunities in old and new energy alike," he concludes.

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"In The Power Surge, Michael Levi captures the emerging turning point in America's energy situation. Combining thoughtful analysis and balanced independent judgment with vivid on-the-ground reporting, Levi delivers both a timely field guide to today's fervent energy debates and compelling insight into the evolving mix of options that is shaping tomorrow's energy world."

Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World and of The Prize

"Energy will energize our economy and our political debates over the next few years as never before. Michael Levi's important book should be carefully considered by anyone who cares about our energy future – and that means anyone who cares about our economic future."

Lawrence H. Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus, Harvard University, and former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury

"Michael Levi has given us a rare gift: a sensible, substantive book that is so well-written it's fun to read. The Power Surge argues persuasively that we must move beyond false choices between clean energy and traditional fuels, and instead aggressively pursue both in new ways. And along the way, it introduces colorful characters and rigorously examines why our energy future is crucial to our economic one. With this book, Levi cements his growing reputation as one of the nation's leading thinkers on energy."

Peter Orszag, Vice-Chairman, Citigroup, and former Director of the Office of Management and Budget

"[P]acked with perspective . . . Readers seeking to understand America's energy policies and prospects will welcome this even-handed, smart, and accessible book on a topic of incomparable economic importance."

Publishers Weekly

"Engaging and illuminating… Recommended."

Scientific American

"Calm, reasoned and balanced, presenting arguments and evidence, not wish lists and beliefs."

Kirkus Reviews

Michael A. Levi is the David M. Rubenstein senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). He directed CFR's Independent Task Force on climate change, co-chaired by former governors Tom Vilsack and George Pataki, and has written for publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, Wired, Nature, and Foreign Affairs. His last book, On Nuclear Terrorism, was published in 2007. He holds a BSc (Hons.) in mathematical physics from Queen's University (Kingston), an MA in physics from Princeton University, and a PhD in war studies from the University of London (King's College). Follow him on Twitter at @levi_m.