Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil


Science tells us that an oil crisis is inevitable. Why and when? And what will our future look like without our favorite fuel?
Our rate of oil discovery has reached its peak and will never be exceeded; rather, it is certain to decline—perhaps rapidly—forever forward. Meanwhile, over the past century, we have developed lifestyles firmly rooted in the promise of an endless, cheap supply. In this book, David Goodstein, professor of physics at Caltech, explains the underlying ...

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Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil

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Science tells us that an oil crisis is inevitable. Why and when? And what will our future look like without our favorite fuel?
Our rate of oil discovery has reached its peak and will never be exceeded; rather, it is certain to decline—perhaps rapidly—forever forward. Meanwhile, over the past century, we have developed lifestyles firmly rooted in the promise of an endless, cheap supply. In this book, David Goodstein, professor of physics at Caltech, explains the underlying scientific principles of the inevitable fossil fuel shortage we face. He outlines the drastic effects a fossil fuel shortage will bring down on us. And he shows that there is an important silver lining to the need to switch to other sources of energy, for when we have burned up all the available oil, the earth's climate will have moved toward a truly life-threatening state. With its easy-to-grasp explanations of the science behind every aspect of our most urgent environmental policy decisions, Out of Gas is a handbook for the future of civilization.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
I hope Goodstein is wrong. I wish we could dismiss him as an addled environmentalist, too much in love with his windmill to know which way the wind is blowing. On the strength of the evidence, and his argument, however, we can't. If he's right, I'm sorry for my kids. And I'm especially sorry for theirs. — Paul Raeburn
Library Journal
Goodstein is not some flaky, back-to-earth type, insists the publicist, but a sober-minded scientist (and vice provost at the California Institute of Technology) issuing a warning. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393326475
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/28/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 150
  • Sales rank: 800,203
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.35 (d)

Meet the Author

David Goodstein, vice provost and Frank J. Galloon Distinguished Teaching and Service Professor at the California Institute of Technology, is the author of Feynman's Lost Lecture, among other works. He lives with wife Dr. Judith R. Goodstein in Pasadena.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 13
Ch. 1 The Future 21
Ch. 2 Energy Myths and A Brief History of Energy 41
Ch. 3 Electricity and Radiant Energy 57
Ch. 4 Heat Engines and Entropy 77
Ch. 5 Technological Fixes 99
Envoy: The Future Revisited 117
Annotated Bibliography 125
Acknowledgments 127
Notes 129
Index 133
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2005

    A book for realists

    Author David Goodstein says the world¿s citizens must face the facts: the end of the age of oil is at hand. Those who argue that the world¿s oil supply is sufficient for another 30 or 40 years are missing the point, he says, because the economic effects of the oil shortage will begin long before the last drop is pumped from the ground. Goodstein crafted his book for the educated nonscientist, and he does a masterful job of explaining the complex science behind energy supply and production. Goodstein¿s prose is neat, clean and straightforward. His explication has a narrative quality that makes it easily readable, and he adroitly avoids oversimplification. Ultimately, the book is limited by science itself: Goodstein admits that science does not yet know the tipping point for the greenhouse effect, and has not yet determined the optimum mix of alternative power technologies. However, he makes it clear that alternative energy development is a matter of pay for it now or pay for it later. We strongly recommend this book, especially for realists who sense a lot of long gas lines waiting just around the corner.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2005


    Dr. David L. Goodstein, Ph.D., is Vice Provost and Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Caltech, where he has been on the faculty for more than 35 years. His book is called ¿Out Of Gas.¿ Dr. Goodstein is a very creditable scientist he has been the leader of many scientific panels and has won many awards. When I chose this book and saw the title, I was thinking that this could be a very interesting topic to read on. I am not a physics major, I just figured with everything going on in today¿s world about oil and the price of gas going up, I thought ¿why not.¿ I was sadly mistaken the title of this book misguides the reader a great deal, and actually makes you very frustrated after the first two chapters. Don¿t get me wrong, I like his theory, he backs it up very well but the thing is he doesn¿t even talk about it for the majority of the book (witch I am going to get into in just a second). For the casual reader that wants to know about Goodstein¿s theory about why we are going to run out of oil, and is interested in it, this book is not for you. Just go to your local bookstore, read the first two chapters of the book and put it back on the shelve, and save your-self some money. Goodstein starts this book out very well. He has a very good opening paragraph and first sentence. Talk about grabbing the reader¿s attention. He starts the book with ¿The world will soon start to run out of conventionally produced, cheap oil.¿ I mean, if that doesn¿t get you to read on, I don¿t know what will. Goodstein¿s whole theory is if we don¿t start to take a look at what is going on with our oil supply and start looking at other possible resources, like coal or nuclear fission, to fill in the gap when our oil runs out then we are in big trouble. He gives the good counter argument to that, which is according to economists, the rise in oil prices will make other fuels economically completive and oil will be replaced by another source. Goodstein goes on to explain the Hubbert¿s peak method to predict future yields of existing oil fields. Hubbert had two parts to what he had to say. First, was that by conducting a simple mathematical equation he could calculate how much oil we had altogether and the rate at which we are discovering oil. Than by knowing those figures he said that he could state the time we are going to reach the halfway point. That brings me to his second point. Hubbert believed that as soon as we hit the peak of are oil discovery and all the oil is up from the ground, which according to him is our halfway point. That it will start to decrease and never exceeded that peak point ever again, and fall until we hit zero. Just a side note, he believes this is going to happen within the next decade. What I liked about Goodstein¿s analysis about Hubbert¿s theory was that he thinks that the panic is not going to happen when we run out of oil. The panic is going to happen on the way down. That theory is based on what happen in 1973 when the Middle Eastern nations took advantage of the declining U.S supplies and created a temporary, artificial shortage which had people losing there minds, lining up at the gas stations. In the first two chapters of this book, Goodstein is trying to get people to think about what is going on and that we need to think of better alternatives. For example nuclear fission, he thinks that will be one of the main things that will be able to replace oil. I like Goodstein¿s first two chapters in this book and I think everyone should take a look at this book because it will open your eyes, but I repeat, I repeat, the first two and the first two chapters only and that is it, because after that the Physics lecture begins. I think this book goes right along with Hubbert¿s peak. It starts off great, hits its peak and declines for the rest of the book and never exceeds that peak point ever again. I mean the book is titled ¿Out of Gas¿. You can¿t make that your title and then decide to talk about it for two

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