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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

$20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better - Christopher Steiner Some day the $4 per gallon gas prices experienced in the summer of 2008 will be recalled as the good old days when gasoline was a bargain. In the long run, the author contends, the coming high prices for gasoline will be good for us.

Our addiction to oil, Steiner's research says, has contributed to all manner of ills, among them pollution, long and stressful commutes, poor nutrition, and insufficient exercises. As world demand for oil grows and supply plateaus or shrinks, the price will climb inexorably to unprecedented levels.

If Steiner is correct or even half-correct, then the direct hit to our collective wallets will become so pronounced that it will force most of us to change the way we live our lives and the way our country works. The good news is that we could eventually come out on the other side with numerous, significant societal improvements.

The inevitable effects the author foresees include the evaporation of demand for houses in far-flung suburbs, trains supplanting planes as the dominant form of long-distance travel within the country, and the gradual disappearance of disposable plastic items. In that context, Steiner sees healthier lifestyles, improved environmental quality, and many other benefits large and small.

The book takes time to describe some of the technologies that have (and don't have) a good potential to be of use in an economy where oil and its derivatives are expensive. It also speculates of which products and means of travel will be greatly diminished (hint: don't invest in airline stocks).

The book is divided into chapters discussing changes that will take place at each step along the way; $6/ gallon, $8/gallon, $10/gallon, and so on to $20/gallon. Predicting the future is not an exact science, so not everything is going to necessarily happen as described in this book. But the author provides enough statistics and reasons to back up his forecasts to make them very believable.

The author doesn't say much about how fast we will reach $20/gallon gas. One place he says we'll reach $10/gallon in ten years. So I suppose it follows that we can expect $20/gallon in twenty years. It is my own thought that the future will go in one of two directions. Either we will experience $20/gallon gasoline in the not too distant future, or we will have a depressed world economy. One thing we have learned from the past year's economic recession is that fuel purchases are greatly reduced when the economy crashes. That is part of the reason why current prices (late 2009) are less than $4/gallon. Viewed in this way, $20/gallon prices would be indicative of a vibrant world economy, which would be good news.