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May 2 / Robert Vanalstyn

One of My Favorite Books

Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil is a 2004 book written by David Goodstein. It explains peak oil and the future of civilization. The book gives the technical view that the age of petroleum is coming to an end, and the future is hazardously insecure. Oil demand will shortly go beyond the production capability of even the largest suppliers. The book talks how the world economy is moving towards an anxious transition. In this book, Goodstein rejected the notion that when peak will occur new substitute sources of energy will be capable to continue the industry in the same way as it is at present. Proof for imminent decrease in world oil production and important economic impact and the feasibility of alternative sources of energy have been presented in the book.

The book begins by citing the work of M. King Hubbert. Then Goodstein briefly mentions thermodynamics, electromagnetism and geology. He then describes the substitute energy technologies. He opines that the alternative energy technologies will not be useful because of the time it will take to improve them for ongoing the present day industry. According to the book, the age of oil is ending. Oil supply will in a while begin to decline, precipitating a global disaster. Even if coal and natural gas are substituted for some of the oil, human civilization will start to run out of fossil fuels by the end of the 21st century. He concludes with the warning: “Civilization as we know it will come to an end sometime in this century unless we can find a way to live without fossil fuels”.

The New York Times Book Review published a review of the book calling it “a book that is more influential for being brief, with the clarity and gentle touch of a master teacher”. Publishers Weekly commented on the book. Paul Raeburn wrote in The New York Times that Goodstein’s prediction regarding peak oil and future of civilization is based on an understanding of physics and thermodynamics, and on a simple observation about natural resources. He described Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil in The New York Times as “a book that is more influential for being brief takes a detour to explain some of the basics of energy budgets, thermodynamics and entropy, and it does so with the clearness and gentle touch of a master teacher”. Brian Braiker described the book in Newsweek as an “important one” where Goodstein gives the explanation of the science behind his prediction.

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