Monday, October 12, 2009

What We're Reading: $20 Per Gallon

In $20 Per Gallon, Christopher Steiner engages us in a somewhat painful thought experiment - as the price of gas increases, how will our lives change? It's a little more palatable because of his optimism, and his feeling that life will ultimately change for the better the more the cost at the pump. We got a little taste of it at $4 a gallon, as the value of SUVs plummeted. However, what about when we catch up with other parts of the world who already pay $8 per gallon of gas? Or, what about $20? The chapters aren't set up in strict numerical order, but rather dollar amounts - $6, $8, $10, $12, and so on.

There are obvious benefits to the environment, surely, with fewer gas powered cars on the road and the like. However, we will also find better ways to harness our waste and turn it into energy we can use. West Virginia Alloy is a good example; they manufacture silicon and gobble up a lot of energy to do so. The sweltering heat that is produced from the process can be used by a steam turbine to turn it into 50 megawatts - enough to power 40,000 American households - that can be routed right back into the plant for its own energy needs. That makes environmental and business sense. Win-win.

There's more than I could ever hope to cover here, which is why you just need to read it. From the revitalization of our city centers to the renaissance of rail, there is much to mull over. Much of the truly interesting predictions come toward the end of the book, which makes sense. At $20 per gallon, our nation will certainly look a lot different than it does today. You may not agree with everything - people have been sounding the death knell for Walmart for a while now and they will most likely find a way to survive - but it's a lot of fun to think about nonetheless. In the end, you may even find yourself rooting for the inevitable rise of gasoline prices.

No comments: