Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Book Review: $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better by Christopher Steiner

Review of $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better by Christopher Steiner


Engineer Christopher Steiner argues that the petroleum will become more scarce in the future and that the price of gasoline and oil will similarly increase. He then proceeds to extrapolate how price increases will impact us individually, as a nation, and globally.

The book is organized in a clever manner - each of the ten chapters describes a different scenario based upon the cost of gas. To sum up, here's the list of chapters:
  • $ 4 per gallon: The Road to $20 and Civilization Renovation
  • $6 per gallon: Society Change and the Dead SUV
  • $8 per gallon: The Skies Will Empty
  • $10 per gallon: The Car Diminished but Reborn
  • $12 per gallon: Urban Revolution and Suburban Decay
  • $14 per gallon: The Fate of Small Towns, U.S. Manufacturing Renaissance, and Our Material World
  • $ 16 per gallon: The Food Web Deconstructed
  • $18 per gallon: Renaissance of the Rails
  • $ 20 per gallon: The Future of Energy
Each chapter describes in careful detail the repercussions of drastic increases in the cost of petroleum.


In $20 Per Gallon, Christopher Steiner makes a compelling argument for the careful management of our resources while describing dramatic changes in the near future. The detailed research behind his statements makes the book an interesting and worthwhile read, but it is his extrapolations that make the book stand out.

Personally, while I was aware that petroleum is a limited resource, I enjoyed his analysis. For instance, he presents a coherent picture of how we can expect an increase in demand from different directions. Going beyond the usual list of how petroleum is used in many everyday products and the growing demand from China to meet its evergrowing production requirements, Steiner brings up technological and market innovations like $2,500 Nano by Tata Motors, increased prosperity in India and China, and increased petroleum consumption in the Middle East.

Here are just a few more of the ideas that caught my attention:
  • At $8 per gallon, the cost of flying will be prohibitively high and airlines that have been under considerable financial stress will likely go under. The cost of flying will also decrease both domestic and international travel for business and tourism. Even college students may select schools closer to their homes and prefer local universities and colleges - which would have larger repercussions in the field of education.
  • At $10 per gallon, Steiner suggests that the production and use of biodegradable plastic will become more attractive. While I had heard about biodegradable plastic, I enjoyed learning about Dr. Oliver Peoples and his company Metabolix which produces biodegradable plastic that is being used to package products with limited shelf life.
  • Steiner described the current planning and construction of a new and technologically smart South Korean city of Songdo. 1,500 acres of reclaimed land, will be completely new and is being touted as the most energy and resource efficient city in the world. Water conservation will be critical and graywater will be installed on a citywide basis. Sustainable design will be apparent and has influenced so many different aspects of the construction from the elevators and concrete to the green roofs and solar cells.
  • At $14 per gallon, Steiner predicts the decline of big box stores like Walmart. As China's eighth largest trading partner, the cost of shipping and distribution will grow prohibitively high while shoppers will be detered from the cost of driving 5 to 10 miles to the closest big box store.
As the above shows, Steiner has painted scenarios that likely to trigger interesting and important discussions. I believe most of us would benefit from reading $20 Per Gallon.

Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (July 15, 2009), 288 pages.
Courtesy of Hatchette Books Group.

Visit Christopher Steiner's blog or the $20 per Gallon website to learn more.
If you'd like your own copy, enter the giveaway for $20 Per Gallon by July 31, 2009 at http://startingfresh-gaby317.blogspot.com/2009/07/book-giveaway-of-20-per-gallon-by.html

Thank you so much to Valerie and Hatchette Books Group for this opportunity!

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting sounding book!

    I like the way its chapters are organized so that they each correspond with a different gas price. I'll have to add this to my reading list.