Out of Gas | David Goodstein

Summary of: Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil
By: David Goodstein


Get ready to dive into the intriguing world of oil, its history, and the imminent challenges it poses as we approach the end of the Age of Oil. In the book summary of ‘Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil’ written by David Goodstein, we’ll explore the predictions surrounding the peak and decline of global oil supply, and how it will affect economies worldwide. Additionally, we’ll delve into a range of alternative energy sources and assess their viability in filling the impending energy gap. This summary provides a stimulating appraisal of our current lifestyle’s reliance on fossil fuels and the urgent need to find sustainable energy solutions sooner rather than later.

The History of Oil

Oil had little use until Drake drilled the world’s first oil well in 1859, which sparked the demand for it. Coal-oil refineries replaced coal with oil, and in 1861, Nikolaus Otto invented the first gasoline engine. Since then, over 50,000 oil fields have been discovered. There is a pressing question, however, about whether there’s enough oil to meet global needs, and this answer goes back to a geophysicist named M. King Hubbert, who raised concerns about running out of cheap, conventionally produced oil in the 1950s.

A Dour Prediction

In the 1950s, geologist M. King Hubbert predicted that U.S. oil production would peak around 1970 and decline consistently. His calculation assumed a bell-shaped curve for oil production, which enabled him to predict the point at which oil production would reach its all-time height (now known as Hubbert’s peak). He also predicted that oil consumption would follow the curve of oil discovery by about two decades, which would signal the beginning of the inevitable oil supply decline. Today, oil companies and geologists rely on Hubbert’s techniques to project oil production and supply globally. The math is clear; oil consumption must peak in the next decade due to reduced supplies. The solution is alternative fuel sources, which include nuclear, solar, fusion, fission, geothermal, among others. However, the question remains whether these sources can fill the gap between total energy needs and dwindling petroleum supply.

A Clean and Safe Energy Option

Nuclear energy is often feared, but the reality is that man-made nuclear energy is what many people are afraid of. The worst nuclear accident in history took place at Chernobyl, resulting in 31 immediate deaths. However, nuclear fission is still the cleanest, most practical, and safest form of energy available today. Despite the need to find a way to dispose of spent nuclear fuel rods, it is important to recognize that humans are making very poor use of the natural nuclear energy from the sun. In fact, from 1850 to 1900, over 100,000 men died in England’s coalmines.

The Science Behind Electromagnetic Induction

In 1831, Michael Faraday went from a bookbinder’s apprentice to one of Europe’s most significant scientists after attending chemist Humphry Davy’s lectures. He discovered that a passing magnet through a copper wire generates an electric current, now called electromagnetic induction. This process is the primary method of energy generation using turbines to propel a coil of wire in a magnetic field. Faraday’s scientific breakthrough changed the world and had an incredible impact on modern technology.

Climate Change: A Threat to Life

Carbon dioxide emission from burning coal is having a more significant negative impact on the global climate. Human activities have caused a notable increase in the gas concentration in the atmosphere, leading to a gradual rise in temperature and melting of polar ice caps. This effect can cause a further warming, leading to worsening of the heat retention problem and more evaporation. Despite the expected doubling of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, the ultimate outcome is challenging to predict. The need for the gradual improvement of existing technologies is critical in halting the fuel crisis.

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