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$20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better

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  • Posted July 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Innovative, creative & well researched - highly recommended!

    Synopsis:
    Engineer Christopher Steiner argues that the petroleum will become more scarce in the future and that the price of gasoline and oil will similarly increase. He then proceeds to extrapolate how price increases will impact us individually, as a nation, and globally.
    The book is organized in a clever manner - each of the ten chapters describes a different scenario based upon the cost of gas. To sum up, here's the list of chapters:

    * $ 4 per gallon: The Road to $20 and Civilization Renovation
    * $6 per gallon: Society Change and the Dead SUV
    * $8 per gallon: The Skies Will Empty
    * $10 per gallon: The Car Diminished but Reborn
    * $12 per gallon: Urban Revolution and Suburban Decay
    * $14 per gallon: The Fate of Small Towns, U.S. Manufacturing Renaissance, and Our Material World
    * $ 16 per gallon: The Food Web Deconstructed
    * $18 per gallon: Renaissance of the Rails
    * $ 20 per gallon: The Future of Energy

    Each chapter describes in careful detail the repercussions of drastic increases in the cost of petroleum.
    Review:
    In $20 Per Gallon, Christopher Steiner makes a compelling argument for the careful management of our resources while describing dramatic changes in the near future. The detailed research behind his statements makes the book an interesting and worthwhile read, but it is his extrapolations that make the book stand out.

    Personally, while I was aware that petroleum is a limited resource, I enjoyed his analysis. For instance, he presents a coherent picture of how we can expect an increase in demand from different directions. Going beyond the usual list of how petroleum is used in many everyday products and the growing demand from China to meet its evergrowing production requirements, Steiner brings up technological and market innovations like $2,500 Nano by Tata Motors, increased prosperity in India and China, and increased petroleum consumption in the Middle East.
    Here are just a few more of the ideas that caught my attention:
    * At $8 per gallon, the cost of flying will be prohibitively high and airlines that have been under considerable financial stress will likely go under. The cost of flying will also decrease both domestic and international travel for business and tourism. Even college students may select schools closer to their homes and prefer local universities and colleges - which would have larger repercussions in the field of education.
    * At $10 per gallon, Steiner suggests that the production and use of biodegradable plastic will become more attractive. While I had heard about biodegradable plastic, I enjoyed learning about Dr. Oliver Peoples and his company Metabolix which produces biodegradable plastic that is being used to package products with limited shelf life.
    * Steiner described the current planning and construction of a new and technologically smart South Korean city of Songdo. 1,500 acres of reclaimed land, will be completely new and is being touted as the most energy and resource efficient city in the world. Water conservation will be critical and graywater will be installed on a citywide basis. Sustainable design will be apparent and has influenced so many different aspects of the construction from the elevators and concrete to the green roofs and solar cells.
    As the above shows, Steiner has painted scenarios that likely to trigger interesting and important discussions. I believe most of us would benefit from reading this.

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  • Posted July 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Rose-Colored Windshield

    This book is well-organized, provides some interesting hypothesis, but the thesis is tilted towards an optimistic utopia, ignoring or not considering other outcomes or possibilities.

    The author gives no mention of E85 gasoline (gasoline which contains 85% ethanol), flex fuel motors, and the genetic modification of plants to produce more ethanol. What of agricultural plants which recycle animal waste and methane to fuel factories?

    The author suggests that Walt Disney World will cease to be as airlines fuel costs make air travel expensive, although he does foresee high-speed trains and electric cars. (How many people live within a four-hour drive of Disneyland and DisneyWorld?) Wal*Mart will disappear in a puff of smoke as shipping costs will reduce cheap imports, although domestic production will replace foreign goods, people will still drive locally with electric cars, freight trains will continue to move goods, and trucks will either use clean diesel fuel or compressed air.

    As energy costs rise, the author suggests that outlying suburbs will wither and vanish, replaced by local produce farms. Won't the affluent voters in these suburbs convince government to extend public transit to their neighborhoods, just as trains and trolleys connected Westchester County to Manhattan in the early 1900s? (Curiously, the author does not refer to the abandoned houses of Detroit as an example or urban retro-fication.)

    The biggest hypothetical which the author fails to analyze is inflation and the economy. As fuel costs rise, how will it affect the economy? Where will funding for high-speed rail, public transit, and energy infrastructure come from if the economy is stagnant due to increased costs of living and production?

    This book does offer some interesting insights, and would probably make a good Reading Club selection. However, there is much more which should have been in this book (for example, a comparison to society before the Ford Model T changed us into a gasoline-combustion economy) but isn't. After reading this, one should search out books on how petroleum affects our current economy, as oil is ubiquitous in our society.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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