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The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World Paperback – Bargain Price, April 5, 2005
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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
Roberts' sequel, "The End of Food" is highly recommended after you read this book as the interdependence of these two great industries is amazing.
He makes this complex issue accessible to the layman looking to familiarize himself with not only oil, but the energy economy. Rather choose a side and engage in partisan sniping, he tells the good, the bad, and the ugly of the policies advocated by every party involved in the energy debate. Not only does he analyze our present situation, but he also studies our several possible ways forward into a new energy economy.
If I were pressed to make a complaint, it would be that I read the original hardcover edition of the book. A lot of the speculation regarding "worst case" scenarios involve $50 a barrel oil. Now that we are nearly $100 past that worst case, the educated speculation portrayed in the book should be coming to pass in the market. I would like to see either a completely updated 2008 edition or at least one with an updated preface.
Here in the land of the 30 minute shower, oversized SUVs that get 10 miles to the gallon and houses three times the size of the ones we grew up in, we Americans are squandering energy at an ever increasing rate. In "The End of Oil: On The Edge of A Perilous New World" Paul Roberts argues that this must change....and soon. During the energy crisis of the mid 1970's most Americans began to slowly but surely wean themselves away from oil. Jimmy Carter, not a particularly effective President but a man with considerable moral authority convinced the American people that conservation was both the moral and the patriotic thing to do. The people followed the Presidents lead and in an incredibly short time cut back their consumption of oil dramatically. But market forces took hold and oil prices plummeted. Suddenly there was a glut of oil on the market again. Gradually we got back to our old habits and subsequent administrations actually encouraged our short-sightedness. Roberts argues that the present administration continues to lead us down a dangerous path. By totally dismissing conservation, failing to fund R&D for alternative fuels and encouraging increased production and consumption of fossil fuels, our government is setting us up for disaster.
According to Paul Roberts, the world is rapidly depleting stocks of fossil fuels. Within the next 10-20 years the world is likely to reach peak production of oil. Once that happens the world could be in for a very rough ride. The oil that remains will be increasing harder to get to and as a result considerably more expensive. Add to that the rapidly increasing demand in places like China and India and suddenly we have a much bigger problem to deal with. Are not the people of China and India and other such nations entitled to their fair share of the worlds resources? And even if many Americans couldn't care less about people halfway around the world do they not worry about their own children and grand-children? And what about the increased pollution that comes from our continued reliance on fossil fuels? It seems to me that we are taking an awful lot for granted here.
In his incredibly well-research book, Roberts discusses the myriad facets of this most complicated problem. Learn all about the current status and the prospects for alternative fuels like hydrogen, wind and solar among others. A good bit of the book also delves into the politics of energy and who the important players are. On a personal note I can tell you that as a result of reading "The End of Oil" I am even more acutely aware of the energy I personally consume. I am 53 years old. Before I leave this earth I hope to see one of two things occur....the Red Sox win the World Series or a President with the intestinal fortitude to tell Americans the truth and lead us on these important issues. I am not optimistic on either count.
What to do about our energy future has become as politically polarized as abortion - Conservatives favor fossil fuels and the Moderate - Liberal folks want to go Renewable.
Roberts is bare-knuckled about what he feels the agendas are behind the current debate, which leads him to a (slightly) reserved pessimism about our chances of making it out of the mess we've made, by putting all our energy eggs in one basket. He does not hide his contempt for later-day politicians who can't see the forest for the trees and won't take action to avert the coming energy drought.