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A Cubic Mile of Oil: Realities and Options for Averting the Looming Global Energy Crisis 1st Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195325546
ISBN-10: 0195325540
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Editorial Reviews

Review

The authors explain energy in easy-to-understand terms: as they point out this a subject not only for scientists, policy makers, academicians and students, but for a broad readership. --Sekahr Seshan, in Business India, April 17, 2011

What we need is a way to compare and understand, putting it all on a common basis. This is done for us in A Cubic Mile of Oil, by SRI International's Hewitt Crane, Edwin Kinderman and Ripudaman Malhotra. --Geoffrey E. Dolbear in Fuel

The book is a must-read for scientists, engineers, managers, and decision-makers...anyone who seeks an understanding of the world energy sector. It is a worthy addition to the energy technology bookshelf. --James Speight in Energy Sources Part A,

...Overall, this book makes an important contribution and is a very compelling read.  Summing up: Highly recommended.--R. M. Ferguson in Choice, Feb. 2011

Finding a book that leaves the reader with a sense that there are reasonable options for our energy future is both rare and valuable - Nancy B. Johnson, Chem. & Engg. News

Policymakers around the world should add A Cubic Mile of Oil to the top of their readings lists, grasp the energy challenges to come, and make informed decisions. -R. J. Francescon, EUCI

"An orginal, illuminating and entertaining way to experience the energy debate. Cubic Mile is more than an introduction to a new unit of measurement. It is an encyclopedic embrace of energy issues, with dispassionate but compelling analysis of the energy conundrum."--Neil Reynolds, The Globe and Mail

About the Author


Hewitt Crane was one of SRI's visionaries, combining several disciplines in his multilevel career. He is considered to be SRI's first bioengineer and one of SRI's most prolific inventors. Prior to SRI Hew worked with John Von Neumann at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He was also co-founder of the highly acclaimed Ridge winery.

Edwin Kinderman has spent over 50 years actively conducting and/or managing research, development and evaluation activities dealing with the development and implementation of energy technology and the individual markets these technologies address. His latest effort has been an attempt to correlate these experiences into the overall evaluations discussed in this book.

Ripudaman Malhotra is an organic chemist who has worked extensively in the area of energy. Though most of his 30-year tenure has focused on the processing and analysis of fossil fuels, in recent years he has devoted increasing attention to the development of biofuels and other alternative energy sources.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195325540
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195325546
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 0.8 x 2.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,467,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A Cubic Mile of Oil provides an interesting way to conceptualize our energy use and our needs in the near future. While we hear a lot about green energy, little is stated about what it would take to make a dent in our carbon/fossil fuel use. This book gives an overview of each energy source (coal, nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, sun,etc.) with the pros and cons of each. The goal is educating the average person so that a more thoughtful energy policy can be advocated for the future.
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I have been aware of the issue of "peak oil" for at least 5 years. Several years ago, I was a member of a group of faculty (as part of a program for incoming doctoral students in a resource management program) that read the "End of Oil". Oil is a limited resource and will increase in price as production (especially cheap production) declines and demand continues to increase. So I have been looking for a good, non-ideological guide to what alternatives exist for both conservation and the development of other energy resources. A Cubic Mile of Oil is in my opinion a balanced and accurate approach to facing the reality of the future energy shortage.

Some questions that we in the U.S. must face include what will happen when (maybe if) gasoline costs $10 or $12 dollars a gallon (my prediction not the authors) or when the production of electricity does not equal the demand? I think that the bump in petrol prices in 2008 impacted the U.S. economy. My opinion is that gasoline increasing to close to $4 a gallon was the straw that broke the back of the limping camel that was the U.S. economy and tipped the U.S. into the housing/debt crisis.

A "Cubic Mile of Oil" does not give any easy answers to our dilemma, but it does point out that a lot of people are engaged in magical thinking. Specifically the idea that solar and wind power can quickly solve our energy problems. If I build another house, I certainly plan to install solar panels but unless the cost drops and the efficiency improves, I doubt that I will live to regroup my investment. I will also install a geothermal heat pump.
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Fair disclosure: I have only gotten through half of the book. But in this review, I want to focus solely on the value of the cubic mile of oil (CMO) as a proposed unit of energy. I am not convinced that it is really more intuitive than other alternatives. A cubic mile is an awful lot, so it is difficult to conceive of that amount of anything. I'm not sure I'd be able to recognize a cubic mile if I saw one. So it suffers from the same problem as any large quantity: it strains comprehension, which is what the authors were trying to avoid by creating a new unit. When you start to apply it to other forms of energy besides petroleum, things start to get messy, as the authors acknowledge: in order to measure electricity in CMOs, you have to account for the inefficiency of producing electricity from heat, so the authors work backward, and find the quantity of oil that would go into producing that amount of electricity, if it was produced by burning oil. Hardly any electricity is produced from burning oil, by the way. This awkward conversion becomes especially confusing when you consider renewables, which typically generate electricity directly, without involving any kind of combustion of fuel. Once you calculate the CMO for and add in all of the world's energy that doesn't come from oil, it isn't long before you are talking about quantities of hypothetical oil that could never be matched with actual oil, because it outstrips the world's capacity to produce oil by a large margin. Generating a mental picture of this much oil, difficult as it is to do, is not very useful in teaching you about the real world, where oil is inherently a limited resource.Read more ›
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