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Book Review: The End of Oil by Paul Roberts

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If you haven’t consumed any media in the last year or so, you may not have heard of Peak Oil.

It’s the name of both a theory that says Earth’s oil reserves are running out very very soon; and a book explaining this theory and its implications to Western Civilisation (there won’t be any if there’s no oil).

While Peak Oil‘s website gives the impression that the book is kind of scary-with-a-straight-face, The End of Oil comes across a lot more balanced.

It begins with an analysis of energy crises our ancestors (I’m generalising here; he’s talking about our European ancestors who developed the industrial society we now live in) went through, and how they solved those energy crises without killing each other.

Then, Roberts looks at the state of affairs today, giving as much air time as he can to both sides of the argument: the ones who say we’re running out soon while demand continues to grow exponentially, and the ones who say there are still hidden, untapped reserves in the world that will carry us through until we discover alternative sources of fuel.

It is perhaps Roberts’ fair-mindedness that makes this book seem a bit repetitive: we get the general arguments on either side, yet we’re still treated to them as espoused by various people all over the world.

Finally the book breaks through into possibilities for the future. Admittedly, I haven’t read that part yet – the slow-moving first part of the book put me off. But the sneak peeks I have seen of the later chapters give me hope – not just for the future of the world, but that this book will eventually make interesting reading!

If you want detail – lots of detail – about the current state (as at 2004/2005) of the energy industry, its big players and detractors, you’ll really enjoy The End of Oil. In that respect, it’s good journalism.

If you simply want a clear picture of what’s going on now, and what could happen in the future, perhaps you should consider skim-reading this book.

Either way, it’s fair to say this is a subject you should be interested in. We all use oil, whether we like it or not.

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