Book: Out of Gas

Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil author and Cal-Tech professor David Goodstein says global oil supplies will peak this decade. After the peak, Goodstein declares, measurable oil shortages will incite panic and chaos far before they will stimulate innovation. And that's that.

A quick read at only 125 pages (of text), Out of Gas is more about how we used up all the oil than what we do about it. Goodstein's simple explanations of atmospheric science, oil-consumption mathematics, engines, entropy, isotopes, and other concepts are interesting and fundamental for anyone who wants to have an educated energy-policy conversation, and for this reason I think it's a good book.

But go somewhere else if want to hear that a solution is around the corner. Clearly, Goodstein's intended message with Out of Gas isn't "it'll all work out somehow," it's "get crackin'!" Goodstein isn't exactly upbeat about the future of our energy resources, our environment, or our own existence for that matter, and as he challenges in detail the scientific feasibility of several major alternative-energy strategies (especially hydrogen, reporting that it will take six gallons of gas to generate the electricity needed to create enough hydrogen to replace one gallon of gas!) I imagine him at a carnival game, methodically picking off targets with a plastic rifle. Goodstein is a moderate supporter of nuclear energy, but again, citing technology and environmental problems, he's skeptical.

Goodstein's style is perfect for "is-it-pessimism-or-is-it-realism" debaters. But there is an advantage to this: writing a book about the pending oil crisis without getting sucked into a political discussion seems impossible, but Goodstein did it, and his credibility is the better for it.

Out of Gas can be found at Country Bookshelf in downtown Bozeman.