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Profit from the Peak: The End of Oil and the Greatest Investment Event of the Century Hardcover – May 2, 2008
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"...enlivened by an optimistic, practical approach" (Spectator Business, October, 2008)
From the Inside Flap
There is no doubt that oil production will peak, if it hasn't already, and that all other fossil fuels will peak soon after. The important questions for investors are: when will it happen, to what extent, and what can I do to capitalize on it?
According to authors Brian Hicks and Chris Nelder, we're quickly facing the end of our oil-based economy. Half of the world's known oil reserves are gone, and with roughly a trillion barrels remainingand consumption up to eighty-six million barrels a daythe world has about thirty years of oil left. And that's a best-case scenario.
But every crisis contains the blueprint for its own solution. As entrepreneurs, inventors, the scientific community, and even Big Oil race to find the next abundant energy source, the largest potential crisis of the twenty-first century has also become the greatest investment opportunity of this century. In fact, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that at least $20 trillion will have to be invested over the next twenty-five years to meet surging energy demand.
Divided into three comprehensive partsThe Crisis in a Barrel, Making Money from the Fossil Fuels That Are Left, and Energy after OilProfit from the Peak contains the information you need to successfully navigate this epic event. Hicks and energy expert Chris Nelder take a hard look at the future of oil and gas, discuss how you can effectively invest in these resources, and detail the potential profitability of energy alternatives that are poised to power the years ahead. Along the way, they also explore the potential, as well as the inherent limitations, of each major energy source and carefully cover the investing angles of each one.
Filled with in-depth insights and practical advice, Profit from the Peak will help you understand this ever-changing marketplace so that you can excel in it. Issues addressed include:
What is Peak Oil?
Which companies are best positioned to take advantage of this event?
What does the future hold for all fossil fuels?
What investment opportunities are available in the solar, nuclear, geothermal, and biofuel sectors?
How can we adjust our infrastructure to accommodate various alternative energy options?
And much more
But Profit from the Peak is more than just a guide to capitalizing on a potential energy crisis. By asking how this situation could affect you as both an investor and an individual, it offers a sobering assessment of where we are and what it will take to find a way forward amid the coming changes.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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Right from the get-go I was suspicious. The authors allude to several well documented factors and effects of energy production and improvements in energy efficiency, but then they ignore them all together for the rest of the book. For example, they discuss the "rebound" effect that results from improvements in efficiency, but then go on to discuss a more-or-less business as usual strategy while simultaneously claiming that, more or less, things can't go on the way they have forever and that there are limits to everything.
It's almost as if the authors wanted to write an inspiring book that people would want to buy, but that they were willing to sacrifice all of their integrity just for the sake of being able to publish the thing.
Furthermore, if you look at the investment recommendations in each chapter, you can clearly see that most of the investment ideas they have presented have continued to decline in value, or that they have done no better than any of the other stocks in the market. It appears as if they just took a dartboard approach to the energy industry for their recommendations.
Don't buy it, it's a waste of money.
The human race could adopt a simpler life. The only way that can happen is if we have a massive die-off of most of the human population. Also, it would be a society where people die young due to lack of modern-day health care, and so forth.
I believe the assumption the authors have made regarding energy demand are sound. People WANT to live what they perceive to be a better life. Some of the aspects of such a life are: advanced health care, the ability to travel, the ability to have a career involving challenging intellectual pursuits, as opposed to having to devote one's life to doing grunt work in order to put food on one's own table.
I am totally prejudiced on this matter. I believe the amenties of modern society have been of tremendous benefit to me. (frankly, if I had lived in older days, due to my physical frailties, I no doubt would have died long ago).
Now a few people may prefer the simpler life, but the vast majority of the people of the world want the amenities that we in the developed world have. I don't see the people of China saying, "hey, we'd rather spend our lives harvesting rice and living in mud huts".
OK, so much for the rant, now on to my review.
The book is a good overview of the peak oil situation. For those not familiar with peak oil, it provides a lot of the fundamental facts that those who have studied this issue have discovered.
For example, the fact that once we can no longer run our society on fossil fuels, IF there is a path to a comparable standard of living in the future, the mainstay of our energy use will be in the form of electricity.
There are a couple of beefs I have with the book, though, which led me not to give it 5 stars.
1). It really is essentially a book about peak oil, not investing. Upon reading the book, it seems clear to me that the book is motivated primarily by the desire to expand awareness of the peak oil problem to a broader cross-section of the public, not to provide people investment ideas for how to profit from the transition. And that is all to the good in my view, because I think the former is a much more important goal. So the title strikes me as a bit disingenuous, perhaps trying to snare people out to make a buck on alternative energy and then give them a tutorial on peak oil, with the names of a few companies thrown in in order to justify the title of the book.
In my case both causes interest me. I am retired and I am spending some of my time trying to become knowledgable about peak oil in case I can find a way to do anything constructive to help fix the problem. And, I am also an investor, and focused heavily on commodities.
I tend to be skeptical about investing in new technologies, however, because it seems to me it is very hard to anticipate who the real winners are going to turn out to be, and stocks in hot new areas that seem to hold promise for solving important problems of society (the biggest of which is energy) tend to be bid up to sky high prices and thus are extremely risky. One specific mention was about the oil refiners like Valero who can process heavy sour crude. Well, right now the refiners are in the dumpster due to low crack spreads, so who knows maybe Valero is a good buy right now (I have been on the fence about buying some myself). On the other hand, the oil producing nations are seeking to do more of the downstream processing of oil themselves. I can't remember whether the book mentions this, I think it probably does. The Middle East states have a population explosion and need jobs for their huge population of young people. So they want to build refineries and sell us gasoline instead of oil.
Hence, I think there is no guarantee that US refiners will even have oil to process in the future. When I hear Bush talk about how we need to build more refineries, well it's no more idiotic than most all the other garbage you are hearing from the politicians, but does Bush realize that the oil producing nations are building refineries and want to just sell us finished products like gasoline? (in his defense, I am sure McCain and Obama are equally clueless on that)
Another point, before I forget: The reviewer that said the book was US centric I do agree had a good point. I live in the US and an pretty US centric myself, but I do recall thinking a couple times while reading the book that in some places it focused on the US when it should have been focusing globally.
Now, my last criticism and perhaps biggest: The authors have a definite bias for renewables and against fossil fuels and nuclear.
Now in the long run I totally agree that we need to switch over to renewables because the nonrenewables won't be there any more.
However, the authors express all the pitfalls in terms of cost, timetables, etc. associated with the big existing sources of energy with great zeal, while they speak glowingly about renewables with very little discussion of the huge pitfalls and challenges.
The most obvious example is that they say very little about the fact that since most renewables produce intermittently (when the wind blows, when the sun shines), for us to transition to a future based on renewable energy requires the development of massive energy storage facilities. And I would say that right now even though renewable sources such as large-scale solar generation are not particularly far along in implementation, large-scale energy storage is at a far earlier stage of infancy. So in my view the development of large-scale energy storage is liable to be an even bigger challenge than the development of large-scale renewable energy production facilities.
But all in all, it was nevertheless a very good book. It covers the issues associated with peak oil to a moderate level, so it is perfect for someone new to peak oil to get a solid grounding in most of the important issues, and someone who has already studied the issue somewhat is liable to learn a few new things from the book as I did.