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Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller [International Edition] [Hardcover]

by Jeff Rubin
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 19, 2009 0307357511 978-0307357519 First Edition
What do subprime mortgages, Atlantic salmon dinners, SUVs and globalization have in common?

They all depend on cheap oil. And in a world of dwindling oil supplies and steadily mounting demand around the world, there is no such thing as cheap oil. Oil might be less expensive in the middle of a recession, but it will never be cheap again.

Take away cheap oil, and the global economy is getting the shock of its life.

From the ageing oilfields of Saudi Arabia and the United States to the Canadian tar sands, from the shopping malls of Dubai to the shuttered auto plants of North America and Europe, from the made-in-China products on the shelves of the Wal-Mart down the road to the collapse of Wall Street giants, everything is connected to the price of oil

Interest rates, carbon trading, inflation, farmers’ markets and the wave of trade protectionism washing up all over the world in the wake of various economic stimulus and bailout packages – they all hinge on the new realities of a world where demand for oil eventually outstrips supply.

According to maverick economist Jeff Rubin, there will be no energy bailout. The global economy has suffered oil crises in the past, but this time around the rules have changed. And that means the future is not going to be a continuation of the past. For generations we have built wealth by burning more and more oil. Our cars, our homes, our whole world has been getting bigger in the cheap-oil era. Now it is about to get smaller.

There will be winners as well as losers as the age of globalization comes to an end. The auto industry will never recover from this oil-induced recession, but other manufacturers will be opening up mothballed factories. Distance will soon cost money, and so will burning carbon – both will bring long-lost jobs back home. We may not see the kind of economic growth that globalization has brought, but local economies will be revitalized, as will our cities and neighborhoods.

Whether we like it or not, our world is about to get a whole lot smaller.

Editorial Reviews


"The book is a great read, and one that should be required for anyone with a long-term interest in Canadian energy, transportation, manufacturing or agriculture."
— The Globe and Mail

"Jeff Rubin is not your typical eggheaded senior economist.... And the controversy that has dogged his work is about to hit the boiling point.... So get set. If Jeff Rubin says something is coming, you better listen. Love him or hate him."
— Canadian Business

"Should be mandatory reading for all corporate executives."
National Post

About the Author

Jeff Rubin was the Chief Economist and Chief Strategist at CIBC World Markets where he worked for over 20 years. He was one of the first economists to accurately predict soaring oil prices back in 2000 and is now one of the world's most sought-after energy experts. He lives in Toronto.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Canada; First Edition edition (May 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307357511
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307357519
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,172,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
77 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable and plausible July 15, 2009
I read Jeff Rubin's book because I invest in energy stocks and like to know the broad societal implications of energy issues. I was fascinated by his major premise that high energy costs will end the global marketplace. It is the opposite of Tom Friedman's World is Flat premise. Rubin's basic argument is that high energy prices will trump low labor costs of developing countries. That will mean we will re-industrialize and start making things again in America. That may make us look more like 1950's America. Most economists say globalization is irreversible but Rubin disagrees. Globalization is only possible when cheap energy allows shipping anything at low cost.

There are two other books that have the same end of cheap energy theme. One is Stephen Leeb's Game Over and the other is $20 a Gallon by Chris Steiner. Leeb's book is more of an investment survival guide while Steiner's $20 a Gallon is more of a sociological portrait of America in the age of prohibitive gas prices. Leeb is rather depressing in positing the end of cheap energy and commodities in general. Leeb sees global insecurity as countries fight for resources.

Steiner sees high energy as an opportunity to re-urbanize America with close in dense communities without cars. Steiner does a great job of predicting how escalating gas prices will change our lives. He says we may be happier living a simpler less consumption oriented lifestyle.

Rubin's book is the best all round book for it covers both economics and sociology. If you want to know how to make money from energy shortages, Leeb has some valuable and practical advice. Steiner will leave you hopeful for a simpler, more community minded America. I recommend all three books without hesitation as helpful guides to an America facing a dearth of resources in the next 20 years. They certainly reinforce the need for a national energy policy now while we may be able to extend resources.
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48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The end of the world as we know it ain't so bad... June 25, 2009
Jeff Rubin gets right to it on page 1, declaring that the global financial meltdown of 2008 had as much to do with $150 oil as it did with bad mortgages. I was waiting for somebody to say what I suspected was true. And Rubin delivers, continuing, that we are at a turning point in modern society. In 2008, we passed over the peak of the age of cheap energy. From here on out, energy, especially oil is going to be harder to get out of the ground, and we may never produce much more than we did last year.

Furthermore, he warns that the world has two choices in the next few years. Either transition our society to less energy-intensive, more localized communities; or keep banging our collective heads against the wall of this rapidly depleting resource and face recession after recession each time supply fails to meet demand.

Two years ago, he was right in predicting when $100 oil would happen. And it appears this book may be right just weeks after being published, with the supposed "green shoots" of economic recovery triggering a doubling in the price of oil in the first half of 2009. The book predicts we'll soon be back in the triple digits. Maybe even $200 a barrel and $7/gallon.

I was very impressed with the book because:
A) An economist acknowledged what most economists don't; that resources are limited - and so is economic growth

B) He presents us with hope that a smaller (less energy-intensive) world may actually be a happier world

I'm eager to see what else Rubin may have to say about this in the coming years.
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51 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Education for the Average Citizen June 7, 2009
By Arlene
I am neither an economist, politician, oil company employee, nor geologist: I am the average citizen who gained information from this book about how the price and supply of oil could potentially affect my life. Although there are aspects of the book that I've been exposed to previously, Rubin provided me with more detail and with new information that will certainly be new to others also as evidenced by the lack of disussion of these topics by colleagues, neighbours etc. who are also average citizens. There is certainly a population of people who will benefit from reading this. Whether the world evolves as Rubin expects, and to what degree, is obviously unknown; however, the material between the covers is certainly food for thought and gives a better understanding of the intricacies of how the world currently operates and why it may indeed unfold as he suggests.

Rubin presents much diverse information yet manages to tie together all the pieces in cohesive, friendly prose that is not statistically boring and stuffy yet is backed with facts. There are 11 pages of source notes at the back should anyone question the validity or sources of his information or desire to read more. The book is thorough in that it gives good background, demonstrates relationships between various elements of our world and takes into account numerous countries and their roles in all of this. It's a good read if you don't want to live with your head in the sand.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Economics Drive Behavior July 20, 2009
Format:Kindle Edition
Unlike the many books published on how oil will run out and how we need to stop emitting carbon now, this book takes the approach of "it is happening so what is the impact of it". I like books that help me see the future (regardless of how good or bad that may be). They inspire thought.

When the price of oil rises sharply (which the book suggests it will), we will become less global since the cost to travel and transport products will make it prohibitive to do global business. The high price of oil will create an "oil tax".

Economics is the main driver of purchasing behavior. Some people will pay more to feel good but most will only change if the price is lower. So when oil prices rise, it will be cheaper to buy local products, vacation locally, drive less etc. So in a sense, we go back to the old days. We may even see a resurgence of manufacturing in North America.

I agree with the thesis of the book but would have preferred more data and facts. EG how much more will it cost for an apple from Argentina etc. How much more will what products cost?

My brother, Lyle Estill, wrote a book "Small is Possible" that touts the benefits of the live local lifestyle. The two books mesh nicely in that Lyle says it is the way to go to feels good and be more sustainable and Ruben says economics will force us to act that way.

So this sort of says we might get back to the good old days and there will be a resurgence of local economies. What we do need to realize is that comes with a cost - we will pay more for goods. The reason the world went global was because it was cheaper and the reason it will return to local is for the same reason. Economics drive behavior.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars shifts your worldview
Jeff Rubin was the chief economist at CIBC World Markets for 20 years, and one of the first to point to the economic consequences of peak oil. Read more
Published 3 months ago by David Last
4.0 out of 5 stars More economists should study geology, not just money
Rubin has a quick-reading style and does a good job of explaining why the human economy is crashing into the limits of nature. Read more
Published 13 months ago by AJ CA
4.0 out of 5 stars Full of information of the end of the age of oil
Very readable but it all could be said in a book half this length. Why do authors think they need to repeat details and expand on what they have already told us to get their... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Graham Palmer
3.0 out of 5 stars Meh.
Well my review won't be too favourable but I bought this for a course I was taking in university. It's one of those books that tries to scare people with panic. Read more
Published 17 months ago by G. Manuel
5.0 out of 5 stars analysis of future growth
very easy to read with wonderful entertaining anecdotes but at the same time provocative and compelling. I'm looking forward to his next book
Published 17 months ago by john mackenzie
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, book. I diagree with his conclusions but amazing work.
The book is amazing. The research is top drawer, and the way he places the context is also very well done. I disagree with his conclusions however. Read more
Published 20 months ago by harrisja
1.0 out of 5 stars What a load of garbage
I know, the sky is falling, the sky is falling. As I write this, three, count 'em, three years after this book was published, oil is languishing at $80 a barrel, and will probably... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Pepi
3.0 out of 5 stars Oil things must pass
Rubin's main point is the rising price of oil will end globalization and we will get back to local manufacture.This could be a good thing. Read more
Published on December 22, 2011 by Casca
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps this title should now read - Your World Is Becoming Smaller
Here is a book that should be read by everyone on this planet. Whether you accept Mr Rubin's scholarship or choose to ignore it, this book is very thought-provoking. Read more
Published on October 26, 2011 by Susan Ferreira
2.0 out of 5 stars So So
I gave this 2 stars simply because I learned a little about Economics. It would have been 1 star otherwise. This book, like so many other books, is boring as hell and overly wordy. Read more
Published on July 1, 2011 by Amazonman
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