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The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World Hardcover – May 15, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First edition. edition (May 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618239774
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618239771
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,601,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The End of Oil is a "geologic cautionary tale for a complacent world accustomed to reliable infusions of cheap energy." The book centers around one irrefutable fact: the global supply of oil is being depleted at an alarming rate. Precisely how much accessible (not to mention theoretical) oil remains is debatable, but even conservative estimates mark the peak of production in decades rather than centuries. Which energy sources will replace oil, who will control them, and how disruptive to the current world order the transition from one system to the next will be are just a few of the big questions that Paul Roberts attempts to answer in this timely book.

As Roberts makes abundantly clear, the major oil players in the world wield their enormous economic and political power in order to maintain the status quo. Of course, they get plenty of help from the tens of millions of consumers, particularly in the U.S. and Europe, who guzzle oil as if there is an unlimited supply. And this demand shows no sign of abating--nearly half of the world's population lives without the benefits of fossil fuels and they desperately want to be among the haves. In countries such as China and India, where energy systems are already breaking down, Roberts discusses how they are looking to oil to fuel their race for development, in many cases ignoring environmental considerations altogether.

Though there is much to be pessimistic about, Roberts does uncover some positive developments, such as the race for alternative energy sources, notably hydrogen fuel cells, which could help to ease us off of our oil dependence before a full-blown energy crisis occurs. No one book could cover every aspect of what Roberts calls "arguably the most serious crisis ever to face industrial society," but The End of Oil is a remarkably informative and balanced introduction to this pressing subject. --Shawn Carkonen

From Publishers Weekly

All economic activity is rooted in the energy economy, which means a substantial portion of the current world economy is linked to the production and distribution of oil. But what will happen, Roberts asks, when the well starts to run dry? Walking readers through the modern energy economy, he suggests that grim prospect may not be as far off as we'd like to think and points out how political unrest could disrupt the world's oil supply with disastrous results. But that could be the least of our worries; some of Roberts's most persuasive passages describe an almost inevitable future shaped by global warming, especially as rapidly industrializing countries like China begin to replicate the pollution history of the U.S. Some signs of hope are visible, he believes, especially in Europe, but the stumbling progress of potential alternatives such as hydrogen power or fuel cells is additional cause for concern. And though the current administration's energy policy gets plenty of criticism, Roberts (a regular contributor to Harper's) saves some of his harshest barbs for American consumers, described as "the least energy-conscious people on the planet." If the government won't create stricter fuel efficiency standards, he argues, blame must be placed equally on our eagerness to drive around in gas-guzzling SUVs and on corporate lobbying. Stressing the dire need to act now to create any meaningful long-term effect, this measured snapshot of our oil-dependent economy forces readers to confront unsettling truths without sinking into stridency. This book may very well become for fossil fuels what Fast Food Nation was to food or High and Mighty to SUVs.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

Roberts synthesizes the information he gathers superbly.
Autonomeus
To anyone truly interested in learning about the energy of the future and all of its implications I would highly recommend this book.
A.T.
Clean-burning natural gas power plants can begin producing hydrogen which will be the next energy vector.
Muhammad Pyran Hewitt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

172 of 177 people found the following review helpful By Autonomeus on August 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Paul Roberts has put together a piece of reporting to do his profession proud. This is not just a book about oil, it covers energy as a whole. You can quibble with this or that detail (and I will), but this is an excellent introduction, the best single book on energy now available for ordinary citizens.

Roberts synthesizes the information he gathers superbly. The viewpoint he conveys is more optimistic than Heinberg's excellent The Party's Over (see my review) but more urgent and pessimistic than Economist reporter Vaitheeswaran's Power to the People (see my review). Roberts has no utopian libertarian illusions about business, but realizes that business is inevitably going to be part of the solutions that emerge, and so he gives careful thought to the role of corporations and industries.

Roberts does not explain how oil geologists use Hubbert's Curve to estimate oil reserves, and this is a weakness compared to Heinberg, Goodstein (Out of Gas -- see my review), or the oil geologists themselves, Deffeyes (Hubbert's Peak) or Campbell (The Coming Oil Crisis). But he doesn't base his analysis on the over-optimistic estimates of the U.S.G.S. or Exxon Mobil, so this is not a major shortcoming.
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131 of 140 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
While the professional reviewers have given Robert's book only the highest of praise, (The New York Review of Books calls it "the best single book ever produced about our energy economy and its environmental implications") several reader-reviewers have faulted Roberts for not being an economist. As someone who had to endure a good deal of economics while earning my MBA, I can assure you, these unnamed, un-credentialed "reviewers" aren't economists either.
They all seem to have the same complaint: that Roberts doesn't understand economics because he doesn't believe the law of supply and demand will deliver us smoothly from our energy dilemma. Well, no one else who's taken more than freshman Economics 101 thinks supply/demand functions in that simplistic way either. Sure, the supply/demand dynamic is at work, but markets left to their own devices are quite capable of dragging us through shortages, depressions, environmental disasters, and even wars on their way to new equilibrium. Roberts doesn't fail to understand supply and demand. On the contrary, he sees it quite clearly, with all its real world complexity and danger, and helps the lay reader to see it as well. I have to wonder if these "reviewers" even finished the book.
The End Of Oil is written not by an economist (thank heavens!) but by a respected journalist who spent years interviewing economists and a myriad other energy experts and players. Roberts has done what few economists could have; written an accessible, readable, but comprehensive book that could get the American public thinking constructively about our energy strategy (or lack thereof).
In this country, we like to think the real power lies with the people, and I believe it does, but only when we can be bothered to exercise it. We must first recognize and understand an issue before we've any chance of voting wisely, whether with ballots or our wallets. Reading this book is an enjoyable, interesting first step.
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
Let me be as concise as Roberts is comprehensive: this is best book on the looming energy crisis that I have read, and I have read half a dozen.

It's the best because it is the most thorough and the most readable. It is also very well researched and demonstrates the kind of understanding of a large and complex subject that inspires confidence.

So why do we have some negative reviews? It's hard to say since most of them are as vacuous as Roberts is detailed, but my guess is that some reviewers are offended because Roberts lays the blame for our energy problems on the politicians, in particular on the politicians currently in power, and he minces no words. To wit: "If American energy politics has always been dysfunctional, a new standard may have been set with the election of George W. Bush. The Texas Republican floated into office on a wave of campaign contributions from the energy and auto industries ($2.4 million from carmakers alone), and proceeded to assemble a White House that was closely aligned with both industries." (p. 298)

I also noticed that one reviewer thinks that Roberts doesn't realize that hydrogen is essentially a storage medium. One has only to read the book to see that Roberts has a commanding understanding of the so-called hydrogen economy based on the fuel cell, and a firm grasp of the problems involved in getting there.

Roberts touts renewables and anything that limits the amount of carbon that goes into the atmosphere. This does not set well with the fossil fuel industry, especially with the powers that be in Vice-President Cheney's home state of Wyoming where the coal reserves are enormous.
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