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$20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better Paperback – Bargain Price, July 16, 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Book Description

Imagine an everyday world in which the price of gasoline (and oil) continues to go up, and up, and up. Think about the immediate impact that would have on our lives. Of course, everybody already knows how about gasoline has affected our driving habits. People can't wait to junk their gas-guzzling SUVs for a new Prius. But there are more, not-so-obvious changes on the horizon that Chris Steiner tracks brilliantly in this provocative work. Consider the following societal changes: people who own homes in far-off suburbs will soon realize that there's no longer any market for their houses (reason: nobody wants to live too far away because it's too expensive to commute to work). Telecommuting will begin to expand rapidly. Trains will become the mode of national transportation (as it used to be) as the price of flying becomes prohibitive. Families will begin to migrate southward as the price of heating northern homes in the winter is too pricey. Cheap everyday items that are comprised of plastic will go away because of the rising price to produce them (plastic is derived from oil). And this is just the beginning of a huge and overwhelming domino effect that our way of life will undergo in the years to come. Steiner, an engineer by training before turning to journalism, sees how this simple but constant rise in oil and gas prices will totally re-structure our lifestyle. But what may be surprising to readers is that all of these changes may not be negative--but actually will usher in some new and very promising aspects of our society. Steiner will probe how the liberation of technology and innovation, triggered by climbing gas prices, will change our lives. The book may start as an alarmist's exercise.... but don't be misled. The future will be exhilarating.

Amazon.com Review
Q&A with Christoper Steiner, the author of $20 per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better

Steiner, an engineer-turn-journalist, explains how the simple but constant rise in oil and gas prices will change our lifestyle, but not necessarily for the worse. Read this Q&A to find out more about this revolutionary theory.

Gas prices are going up again this summer, but are you really suggesting prices might rise to $20 a gallon?

That figure lies far ahead in the future; it's hardly an imminent thing. But most people don't require much convincing to know that $2 gas isn't sustainable for the long term. Oil is a finite resource that the whole world demands--a world that grows more gasoline consumers every day. It's important to understand that this book isn't about oil statistics, it's about our lives and the ways in which we live will change.

What do you hope readers will gain from reading your book?

Readers should gain an appreciation for the kind of change that lies behind the growing price of gas. Weaning ourselves from gasoline isn't a scary thing, it's an exciting thing. We're talking about cleaner environments, more walkable lives, better public transportation and more vibrant cities.

What are some of the surprising ways you think rising gas prices will change our everyday lives?

I don't think people realize how close our airline industry is to an all-out collapse. The book details a massive airline extinction at $8 per gallon, and in fact, serious change could take place even before then. It's certainly not something that should be celebrated, but the collapse of that industry will open the door to new ones, such as widespread high-speed trains in America, a phenomenon that won't take serious root until plane tickets become luxuries rather than conveniences. Beyond the airlines, I think people might be surprised to think that their future may not include Wal-Mart, and that their food world may condense, ruling out things such as sushi, but introducing things such as local organic fruit, vegetables and meat.

Is this pure speculation and fantasy or what kind of research did you do?

I consulted experts in a bevy of industries throughout the whole book, so this is not a random exercise, far from it. That said, it can be hard to forecast exactly at what gas price each change will happen. There are many unforeseen factors that can accelerate or forestall a certain change, such as government involvement in building high-speed train networks. If the government funds trains aggressively, change will be effected quicker, obviously. But I do feel that all of the changes represented in the book will happen eventually, whether they take place at gas prices of $10 per gallon or $12 per gallon.

So how scared should we be of the changes to come?

There is little to be scared of. The rising price of gas will unlock countless doors to innovation, opportunity and change.

Why does your book's subtitle say rising gas prices will change our lives "for the better"? How so?

We've grown used to engorging ourselves on the back of cheap oil and it has lead to all manners of problems. As the price of gas goes up, we'll live closer to work, school, eat healthier foods and even be skinnier and safer. The book profiles research that connects cheap oil to America's obesity rate and to the daunting numbers of people that die on our roadways. As the price of gas goes up to, say, $6, we'll save more than $30 billion on obesity-related diseases, 10,000 fewer people will die in car crashes and thousands of people will be spared heart attack deaths related to air pollution. Those kinds of effects will only be magnified as the price of gas rises further. And that's just a sampling of the benefits.

In what ways will rising gas prices improve our economy and job market?

America has lost much of its manufacturing mojo during the last 20 years. A green revolution, fueled by a search for alternative energies and technologies, could change that. Not only will there be need to produce things such as solar panels, electric cars, and new city infrastructure, but the power of globalization will be blunted by higher gasoline prices. The advantages of, say, making a computer in China decrease as the cost of fuel increases and the cost of transporting things all over the earth rises-that will lead to manufacturing jobs returning here, to home soil.

In what ways will the rising cost of gasoline boost innovation?

The innovation game is one that many people anticipate as oil's grip on the world ebbs. New technologies will be needed in all arenas that oil touches, including cars, trains, our homes, the plastic we use and the roads we drive on-and those are just a few examples. The opportunities for inventors in a world with less oil will be prolific.

What kind of places did you visit for your research and why was it necessary to visit them?

Good books need good stories, and it's hard to tell a good story from just talking to people over the phone, so I got out there and did things. I worked on an electric UPS truck in Manhattan for a day; I spent some time on a fishing boat hauling in Asian carp; I descended into one of New York's new train tunnels currently under construction; I rode our nation's fastest train to meet the Amtrak CEO in Washington. I'm not anointing my book or my stories as good--that's up to the reader--but creating an enriching storyline within a nonfiction book was my goal, so I'm hopeful I did that.

So now that we know this, what should we do in the here and now?

Preparing for the future isn't about buying the latest gadgets or the car with the best mileage. Those things help, of course, but they're mere pings in a coming cacophony. People who will do the least amount of adjusting in the future are those who already live more sustainable lives. Where you live largely determines how you live. Buying solar panels for a house at the far edge of the suburbs, for instance, won't alter how the future affects you. Moving to a walkable neighborhood where groceries, your kids' schools, your office or a train are all within several blocks-that's a change you'll profit from and a place where the future will be kinder.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. According to Steiner, senior staff reporter at Forbes magazine, surging fuel prices will transform Americans' daily lives almost beyond recognition. With traditional energy sources disappearing and global demand soaring, the U.S. will confront gas prices rocketing to $6, $8, $14 and beyond—prices that will compel sweeping changes in everything from urban planning to food production. He reveals the consequences of each incremental hike in gas prices: at $8 per gallon, air travel will essentially vanish; at $14 a gallon, Wal-Mart stores will become empty “ghost boxes”; when gas hits $16 a gallon, sushi will become an extravagance only for the extremely wealthy. While many changes will come at tremendous social and economic cost, Steiner envisions a better future, where human ingenuity will spur greater efficiency and less waste. Although it's unlikely all the author's predictions will come true—he goes so far as to forecast the order in which airlines will go out of business—the surprising snapshots of the future (where rising gas prices might revitalize Detroit) make for vivid and compelling reading. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (July 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 044654955X
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,688,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Seppi on August 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have spend my last 40 years in the energy business and can tell you that most of Christopher Steiner's predictions are on the money, he readily identified a number of weaknesses and urban myths about the future of energy, nailing the key changes that will occur. In my opinion he is 95% correct, so why only three stars?

He really misses the boat by thinking provincially. This is a book written by an American for Americans and doesn't address how this future affects the rest of the world and America's place in it. He talks about the growth of high speed rail, like has occurred in Europe and Japan. The problem is that the Europeans and Japanese have been investing in infrastructure for future during the last fifty years. America hasn't made ANY of these investments and is nearly bankrupt now, not even being able to afford Social Security, Medicare or any number of other current programs.

The only way that American can afford the more Utopian future that Steiner predicts is by vastly increasing taxes which will stifle industry and move even more businesses abroad. America is at a crossroads that will determine if we will be a third world country with the world's largest military, or if America will adjust to the changing world and be a leader in the new world order. This is something that he glosses over in one paragraph near the end of the book.

The information in this book is important and can provide a road map for the future, but only if readers and the government take it to heart. Unfortunately, through Steiner's provincial outlook the reader is forced to "read between the lines" for the clues that will allow government, businesses and individuals to prosper in the coming storm.
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Format: Hardcover
I picked up Steiner's book the other day and began reading through it. I bounced between the chapters for a while, but finally settled in and took my time to pick through his chapters in order. Instead of writing about whether or not I agree with each of his points, I'd like to make a general statement about Steiner's approach with this book.

To begin with, it is too easy and common to capitalize on fear. You can always come up with myriad ways in which something that is happening right now is going to make the future worse. It is easy to write, it is easy to sell, it is easy to gain an audience. In short, it is easy to sell fear. However, what do we really learn from fear? The answer is easy. We learn nothing. It hinders us from making rational and intelligent choices, it keeps us from planning appropriately, and it hinders tolerance and development.

Steiner decided to take the more difficult path with this book and focusses on rational thought for our future as fuel prices continue to rise. Steiner gathered up information, made an informed decision, and presented ideas for discussion. Furthermore, he took a more positive approach with it. That is what really sets this book apart. Instead of looking for an easy fear story to sell, the author points out the benefits.

Steiner did not take the easy route with this book. He went after a difficult topic to open it up for discussion. Whether or not you agree with the author's ideas and conclusions, you will come away from this book thinking more in depth about our fossil fuel usage.
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Format: Hardcover
The book's structure - chapters going up with the price of gas - is elegant and clever.

It's a fascinating breakdown of how gas prices affect our world and how, in a world of higher and higher prices, how we'll adjust. The relationship between gas prices and car fatalities - wow. The relationship between gas prices and obesity? That's simply amazing. But when you think about, it makes perfect sense, as the supporting research shows.

There are so many great characters throughout the book, from the farmer in Chapter $16 to the driver of the electric UPS truck in Chapter $10. The commerical carp fishermen have to take the cake, though! I've read about Shai Agassi before, but his mission always amazes me.

I almost think there could have been an additional chapter on the psychology of Americans regarding gas prices. There almost seems to be a sense of entitlement with many people, a sense that they're owed low gas prices and it's the government's job to keep them low. We treat gasoline, for some reason, differently than anything else.

But oil is a wild, wild market. Don't think that because prices are down next week that they'll be down in a year. They could go completely bonkers. And they likely will.

And the New York chapter of this book simply rules. Excellent read.
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With global economies predicated on the ready availability and low cost of the frequently volatile commodity of oil it's a wonder policy makers pay so little attention to addressing the issue. "$20 Per Gallon" seeks to get readers to thinking about the volatility of oil prices and what those increases mean to them in the macroeconomic sense. But rather than being a dryly written treatise of interest only to economists Steiner takes a unique approach that makes the consequences of higher gas prices quite clear to readers: each chapter is broken out by the price of a gallon of gas and lays out the consequences of what that means to individual consumers and the broader economy. As a senior editor at Forbes magazine Steiner is used to making economics comprehensible to lay people and he does so here to a devastating effect with writing that is crisp, clear and cogent. A great example is when gas hits $6 per gallon. At that point Steiner posits that consumers will make a permanent shift away from SUVs and much of our current commuter culture will start to buckle as parents no longer are willing or able to shuttle children to an endless round of athletic events and practices, tutoring, and the like. Exurban areas will start to see a loss of population back to city cores that will only accelerate when the prices continue further upwards. By the time you reach $12 per gallon the sustainability of our "just-in-time" method of stocking retail and factories is unsustainable. Big box retailers will have to rethink how to do business. Suburbanites will have to rethink living away from their jobs. But there are many other less obvious areas of our economy that would be affected by such an increase that Steiner points out.Read more ›
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