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Drilling Down: The Gulf Oil Debacle and Our Energy Dilemma Paperback – September 16, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1441976765 ISBN-10: 1441976760 Edition: 2012th

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Copernicus; 2012 edition (September 16, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1441976760
  • ISBN-13: 978-1441976765
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

From the reviews:

“Tainter and Patzek use the story of Gulf oil spill as the background for discussing the energy-complexity spiral, and its relationship to this accident. … Drilling Down touches on many interesting topics, from details about how extraction is done … to overviews of how various civilizations have dealt with rising complexity and reduced energy flows. … The book is well worth … . With one detail-oriented author, and one ‘big picture’ author, the book includes something for everyone.” (Gail Tverberg, Financial Sense, September, 2011)

From the Back Cover

For more than a century, oil has been the engine of growth for a society that delivers an unprecedented standard of living to many. We now take for granted that economic growth is good, necessary, and even inevitable, but also feel a sense of unease about the simultaneous growth of complexity in the processes and institutions that generate and manage that growth. As societies grow more complex through the bounty of cheap energy, they also confront problems that seem to increase in number and severity. In this era of fossil fuels, cheap energy and increasing complexity have been in a mutually-reinforcing spiral. The more energy we have and the more problems our societies confront, the more we grow complex and require still more energy. How did our demand for energy, our technological prowess, the resulting need for complex problem solving, and the end of easy oil conspire to make the Deepwater Horizon oil spill increasingly likely, if not inevitable? This book explains the real causal factors leading up to the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history, a disaster from which it will take decades to recover.

A world expert on oil technology and one of our foremost social commentators, the author of “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” join forces to:

  • Lead you on a fascinating tour from the events on the Deepwater Horizon to the processes in society that made the tragedy nearly inevitable
  • Explain the energy-complexity spiral that governs our way of life
  • Take you beyond the headlines, finger pointing, and political punditry to the underlying causes of the Gulf catastrophe
  • Help decision-makers from all walks of life to understand the risks and challenges of managing complex organizations
  • Discuss energy options for the future

Praise for Drilling Down:

In this book, Joseph Tainter and Tadeusz Patzek use the Gulf oil spill as a point of entry to discuss our energy future. For those of us who watched the oil spill from afar, this book provides the technical background to help us understand it, something that was never available from the media. For those like me, who are interested in the role of energy in the rise and fall of civilizations, this is a must read.
--Lester R. Brown, President of Earth Policy Institute and author of World on the Edge

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
With hesitation, I deliver this review of trivialities in the periphery of the important message of the book.

I'm only part way into the book, so I cannot comment fully on the content. So far it's a fascinating read, and it promises more of the same. My admittedly premature review is mostly about the editing in a book at this price bracket. All chapters have a duplicate abstract, not a summary, text portion at the start plus work addresses of the authors before the abstracts. The footnote links work, but the destination text needs to be panned to be fully readable on a small screen Kindle. I do not know if these are required in a scientific work, but they are distracting.

In chapter 3, at around the 12% mark, a full list of derived energy units is missing, only the bullit points are there.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J.A. (John) Turley on September 23, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A superlative nonfiction academic review of BP's Macondo Blowout aboard the Deepwater Horizon (and much more) with words no offshore operator or engineer should ever forget: The root cause of the Macondo blowout was failure of management, training, and communication. Additionally, the authors address more-in-depth: (1) a number of the proximate causes of the blowout, including procedural, tactical, and engineering failures specific to the well, and (2) the ultimate causes of the disaster, which include in part societal pressures that drive oil exploration into more remote locations (like deep water) and the commensurate necessary development of complex, costly, risky, and difficult-to-comprehend technologies. A good read. Kudos to the authors--Joseph A. Tainter, Ph.D., and Tadeusz W. Patzek, Ph.D.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Simply put, this is a book a deep significance. I came across it shortly after it came out, as I was doing research for my own book, "Just a Little Bit More" (Blue Ocotillo/ACTA, 2014), that deals with excess and over-consumption. Scholars Joseph Tainter (anthropologist, Utah State University) and Tad Patzek (engineer, University of Texas-Austin) detail the Deepwater Horizon tragedy by way of backdrop for the rest of their story: whether or not "we can plan on a future that requires still more oil" (p. 5). Before shucking this book aside as the fracking boom would seem to nullify concerns about the future of oil in America, know that the authors approach this important subject with scholarship, experience, and a (politically) non-partisan demeanor.
I was introduced to two crucial concepts by reading this book: EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) and the energy-complexity spiral. The first concept is self-explanatory; the authors tell how back in the early days of oil discovery the EROEI quotient was around 100:1. Today - as evidenced by the doomed Deepwater Horizon platform which cost more than $1 billion to produce - EROEI for oil worldwide is about 18:1. Tainter and Patzek claim a complex modern society (such as ours) needs at least a 5:1 net energy ratio to succeed. Tellingly, some of the politically charged tar sands from Canada will be processed with an EROEI as low as 3:2 . . .
The energy-complexity spiral concept is, once grasped, fascinating and obvious. Remember the hand crank window on your older model car a few years ago? It got to be balky as the car aged, but getting it fixed when it eventually broke didn't cost you and arm and a leg. And, you could fix it yourself if you were so inclined.
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