Bryce’s engrossing survey has two purposes. The first is to refute pessimists who claim that technology-driven economic growth will burn through the planet’s resources and lead to catastrophe. “We are living in a world equipped with physical-science capabilities that stagger the imagination,” he writes. “If we want to bring more people out of poverty, we must embrace [technological innovation], not reject it.” The book’s other purpose is to persuade climate-change fundamentalists that they are standing on the wrong side of history. Instead of saving the planet by going backward to Don Quixote’s windmills, they need to take a progressive approach to technology itself, he says, striving to make nuclear power safer, for instance, and using the hydrocarbon revolution sparked by fracking and deep-offshore exploration to bridge the way to the future.

… President Obama likes to call oil “yesterday’s energy.” But “for the vast majority of the world’s population,” Mr. Bryce argues, “the cheapest and most reliable forms of energy are, and will continue to be, hydrocarbons.” Anyone who thinks that he is doing the world a favor by compelling the switch from fossil fuels to wind and solar is consigning billions of people to a life of poverty and darkness.

Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2014, by Arthur Herman