The Big Flatline: Oil and the No-Growth Economy

Overview

In an urgent follow-up to his best-selling Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller, Jeff Rubin argues that the end of cheap oil means the end of growth. What it will be like to live in a world where growth is over?

Economist and resource analyst Jeff Rubin is certain that the world's governments are getting it wrong. Instead of moving us toward economic recovery, the measures being taken around the globe right now are digging us into a deeper hole. Both politicians ...

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The Big Flatline: Oil and the No-Growth Economy

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Overview

In an urgent follow-up to his best-selling Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller, Jeff Rubin argues that the end of cheap oil means the end of growth. What it will be like to live in a world where growth is over?

Economist and resource analyst Jeff Rubin is certain that the world's governments are getting it wrong. Instead of moving us toward economic recovery, the measures being taken around the globe right now are digging us into a deeper hole. Both politicians and economists are missing the fact that the real engine of economic growth has always been cheap, abundant fuel and resources. But that era is over. The end of cheap oil, Rubin argues, signals the end of growth—and the end of easy answers to renewing prosperity.

With China and India sucking up the lion's share of the world's ever more limited resources, the rest of us will have to make do with less. But is this all bad? Rubin points out that there is no research to show that people living in countries with hard-charging economies are happier, and plenty of research to show that some of the most contented people on the planet live in places with no growth or slow growth. But bad or good, it's the new reality, and Rubin reveals how our day-to-day lives will be drastically changed.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his thought-provoking and accessible latest, Rubin (Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller), chief economist at the Canadian bank CBIC World Markets for almost 20 years, argues: “The price of oil is the single most important ingredient in the outlook for the world economy.” While substitute fuels exist for some functions, oil is indispensable for transportation. The key issue is not absolute supply, but production costs—oil that nobody can afford to extract is useless. With production costs steadily rising, and growing demand in China and India, the juggernaut of world demand seems implacable. Rubin argues that high oil prices encourage exploration and production and force conservation. He also, unusually for an economist, suggests that the advent of a scant- or no-growth economy might offer advantages. Rubin’s wide-ranging examination of assorted energy issues, while scarcely cheerful reading, offers acerbic insights. For example, environmental opposition to the Keystone pipeline is likely to send the crude to China, raising the likelihood of another Exxon Valdez supertanker disaster. In this no-nonsense analysis, his grimmest observation is that, with oil and other hydrocarbons as the driver, economic growth is transforming into more of a zero-sum activity, with frightening implications for the poorest nations. Agent: Rick Broadhead, Rick Broadhead Associates. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
“A brisk introduction to a world of constrained energy supplies…the warning that constraints on energy use will set limits to growth is worth taking seriously.”—The Financial Times

“As we inhabit a finite sphere, Mr. Rubin enables us to achieve a more respectable balance with finite resources and to plan thoughtfully a more dignified future.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Contradicting conventional wisdom about the worldwide recession now in its fourth year, a Canadian economist predicts a gloomy future for consumers who worship growth…Clearly written and smartly argued.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Very few understand the negative impact of high priced oil on the world’s economy and the energy security and life style choices we’re used to. Fortunately, Jeff Rubin does.  He clearly explains what we can expect if we continue on our current course—relying on Twentieth Century solutions to Twenty First Century problems.  We need a game-changing array of energy solutions before the flatline becomes the downward spiral.  Jeff tells it like it needs to be told.”—John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil and author of Why We Hate the Oil Companies

"Anyone who cares about the future prospects of the world economy should read Jeff Rubin's The Big Flatline. With compelling logic, he demonstrates that high oil prices have made endless growth unsustainable and that new strategies are needed for survival in a zero-sum world."—Michael T. Klare, author of The Race for What's Left

"The biggest economic event since the Industrial Revolution is under way, but you won’t hear about it from any politician or central banker. Jeff Rubin is one of the very few economists with the insight and courage to tell it like it is: Oil-fueled economic growth is ending. We can adapt, but it sure helps to know what we must adapt to."—Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow, Post Carbon Institute and author of The End of Growth

“Thought-provoking and accessible.”—Publishers Weekly

 

Kirkus Reviews
Contradicting conventional wisdom about the worldwide recession now in its fourth year, a Canadian economist predicts a gloomy future for consumers who worship growth. Beginning in 2008, writes Rubin (Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization, 2009), the high cost of oil consumption drove many nations on different continents into an economic tailspin. The mortgage crisis in the United States, so often blamed as the primary cause, was collateral damage rather than the trigger. The U.S. and other industrialized nations highly dependent on oil cannot sustain growth; oil prices in the triple digits will force consumers to cut back on everything from automotive transportation to eating at restaurants. With consumerism growing precipitously in China and India as their already massive populations expand, those nations will find ways to grab more fossil fuels, and the U.S. will be left behind in the competition for limited, nonrenewable energy sources. Rubin is not shy about trumpeting the correctness of his analysis; he states unequivocally that the reason economists and politicians have failed to reverse the current recession is that they are relying on outmoded world views. He spotlights Denmark as a nation that has come to grips with oil shortages by charging high prices for energy, thus directly discouraging consumption. He notes that Danish citizens have supported central planning for a ramped-down consumer society by using bicycles as primary transportation, among other realistic lifestyle decisions. Advances in technology will never be significant enough to allow continued economic growth, Rubin writes, and he characterizes green energy sources as worthy but inconsequential. Clearly written and smartly argued, although short on nuance.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230342187
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/16/2012
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 965,534
  • Product dimensions: 6.58 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeff Rubin is the author of the bestselling Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller, which sold over 50,000 copies and was named one of the best books of the year by the Financial Times. Rubin was the Chief Economist and Chief Strategist at CIBC World Markets, where he worked for over twenty years. He was one of the first economists to accurately predict soaring oil prices back in 2000, and is now one of the world's most sought-after energy experts. He blogs weekly for The Globe and Mail and lives in Toronto.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part 1

1 Changing the Economic Speed Limit 19

2 Debt Is Energy Intensive 39

3 The Arab Revolt 65

4 Hitting the Energy Ceiling 87

5 The Keystone Conundrum 107

6 The Danish Response 121

Part 2

7 Zero-sum World 133

8 The Static Economy 153

9 All Bets Are Off 179

10 Will Triple-digit Oil Prices Save the Planet? 201

Conclusion 223

Source Notes 231

Acknowledgments 239

Index 241

Note on Author 259

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