Cover image for The end of oil : on the edge of a perilous new world
The end of oil : on the edge of a perilous new world
Roberts, Paul, 1961 August 2-
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, [2004]

Physical Description:
389 pages ; 24 cm
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HD9650.6 .R63 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Petroleum is now so deeply entrenched in our economy, our politics, and our personal expectations that even modest efforts to phase it out are fought tooth and nail by the most powerful forces in the world: companies and governments that depend on oil revenues; the developing nations that see oil as the only means to industrial success; and a Western middle class that refuses to modify its energy-dependent lifestyle. But within thirty years, by even conservative estimates, we will have burned our way through most of the oil that is easily accessible. And well before then, the side effects of an oil-based society -- economic volatility, geopolitical conflict, and the climate-changing impact of hydrocarbon pollution -- will render fossil fuels an all but unacceptable solution. How will we break our addiction to oil? And what will we use in its place to maintain a global economy and political system that are entirely reliant on cheap, readily available energy?
Brilliantly reported from around the globe, The End of Oil brings the world situation into fresh and dramatic focus for business and general readers alike. Roberts talks to both oil optimists and oil pessimists, delves deep into the economics and politics of oil, considers the promises and pitfalls of alternatives, and shows that, although the world energy system has begun its epoch-defining transition, disruption and violent dislocation are almost assured if we do not take a more proactive stance. With the topicality and readability of Fast Food Nation and the scope and trenchant analysis of Guns, Germs, and Steel, this is a vitally important book for the new century.

Author Notes

Paul Roberts is a regular contributor to Harper's Magazine, for which he has written about the timber industry, the auto industry, and the destruction of the Florida Everglades. A longtime observer of both business and environmental issues, Roberts is an expert on the complex interplay of economics, technology, and the environment. He lives in Leavenworth, Washington

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (May 15) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

This introduction to issues related to current and potential future energy (not just oil) is both readable and relevant. Roberts, a journalist, writes in a popular style long on personalities and vignettes and short on hard statistics--the sort of style that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has popularized in his books on global affairs. Roberts makes good use of this style to provide an accessible and interesting discussion of oil and energy that will be useful to nonexperts. The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 provides background and context through discussions of the history of oil production, petroleum reserves, the international political economy of oil, and alternative fuels. Part 2 provides an analysis of energy supply and energy demand and examines the potential impact of changing supplies (new energy sources) and changing demand (conservation) on the energy regime. The final section looks to the future, emphasizing both the dire need for change and the strong political and economic forces that exist to resist change. This is a timely book for a world of $40-per-barrel petroleum. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers and lower-division undergraduate students. M. Veseth University of Puget Sound

Booklist Review

Out of Gas BKL D 1 03, by scientist David Goodstein, has strong appeal for those with a general interest in energy. Roberts' disquisition tilts decisively toward the curiosity level of activists who populate public-interest groups and government as well as those who are more business-oriented and trying to make non-oil energy technologies profitable. Thus the author's style is sober, systematic, and studded with statistics, such as his favorable quotation of an analyst that atmospheric carbon dioxide must be restrained to 550 parts per million, about two-thirds above today's level. Numbers also back up his surveys of COsources that threaten that threshold (China's coal, America's SUV drivers). Roberts will diverge into an anecdote, but he consistently returns to adducing facts and drawing conclusions for all subtopics related to the prospective, decades-long transition from oil to--what? Decarbonized coal, liquefied natural gas, wind, sunlight, and hydrogen-- Roberts handicaps their profitability and advocates policies to market them, including international policies. Severely caustic about the energy policies of the Bush administration, Roberts will certainly gratify its opponents; yet policy-oriented readers willing to set aside Roberts' politics will understand him to be exceedingly well informed about the energy issue. --Gilbert Taylor Copyright 2004 Booklist

Library Journal Review

How black gold has shaped us socially and politically and how we can end our dependence on it. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Prologue I was standing on a sand dune in Saudi Arabias "Empty Quarter," the vast, rust-red desert where one-quarter of the worlds oil is found, when I lost my faith in the modern energy economy. It was after sundown and the sky was dark blue and the sand still warm to the touch. My Saudi hosts had just finished showing me around the colossal oil city theyd built atop an oil field called Shayba. Engineers and technicians, they were rattling off production statistics with all the bravado of proud parents, telling me how many hundreds of thousands of barrels Shayba produced every day, and how light and sweet and sought-after the oil was. Saudi oilmen are usually a taciturn bunch, guarding their data like state secrets. But this was post 9/11 and Riyadh, in full glasnost mode, was wooing Western journalists and trying to restore the Saudis image as dependable long-term suppliers of energy -not suicidal fanatics or terrorist financiers. And it was working. Id arrived in the kingdom filled with doubts about a global energy order based on a finite and problematic substance-oil. As wed toured Shayba in a spotless white GMC Yukon, though, my hosts plying me with facts and figures on the worlds most powerful oil enterprise, my worries faded. Id begun to feel giddy and smug, as if I had been allowed to peek into the garden of the energy gods and found it overflowing with bounty.Then the illusion slipped. On a whim, I asked my hosts about another, older oil field, some three hundred miles to the northwest, called Ghawar. Ghawar is the largest field ever discovered. Tapped by American engineers in 1953, its deep sandstone reservoirs at one time had held perhaps a seventh of the worlds known oil reserves, and its wells produced six million barrels of oil a day-or roughly one of every twelve barrels of crude consumed on earth. In the iconography of oil, Ghawar is the eternal mother, the mythical giant that makes most other fields look puny and mortal. My hosts smiled politely, yet looked faintly annoyed-not, it seemed, because I was asking inappropriate questions, but because, probably for the thousandth time, Ghawar had stolen the limelight. Like engineers anywhere, these men took an intense pride in their own work and could not resist a few jabs at a rival operation. Pointing to the sand at our feet, one engineer boasted that Shayba was "self-pressurized"-its subterranean reservoirs were under such great natural pressure that, once they were pierced by the drill, the oil simply flowed out like a black fountain. "At Ghawar," he said, "they have to inject water into the field to force the oil out." By contrast, he continued, Shaybas oil contained only trace amounts of water. At Ghawar, the engineer said, the "water cut" was 30 percent.The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Ghawars water injections were hardly news, but a 30 percent water cut, if true, was startling. Most new oil fields produce almost pure oil, or oil mixed with natur Excerpted from The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World by Paul Roberts All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 1
Part I The Free Ride
1 Lighting the Firep. 21
2 The Last of the Easy Oilp. 44
3 The Future's So Brightp. 66
4 Energy Is Powerp. 91
5 Too Hotp. 116
Part II On the Road to Nowhere
6 Give the People What They Wantp. 143
7 Big Oil Gets Anxiousp. 165
8 And Now for Something Completely Differentp. 188
9 Less Is Morep. 213
Part III Into the Blue
10 Energy Securityp. 237
11 The Invisible Handp. 259
12 Digging In Our Heelsp. 281
13 How Do We Get There?p. 307
Notesp. 335
Bibliographyp. 350
Acknowledgmentsp. 359
Indexp. 361