A Cubic Mile of Oil: Realities and Options for Averting the Looming Global Energy Crisis
Oxford University Press, Jul 15, 2010 - Nature - 328 pages
One cubic mile of oil (CMO) corresponds very closely to the world's current total annual consumption of crude oil. The world's total annual energy consumption - from all energy sources- is currently 3.0 CMO. By the middle of this century the world will need between 6 and 9 CMO of energy per year to provide for its citizens. Adequate energy is needed remove the scourge of poverty and provide food, clothing, and shelter for the people around the world, and more will be needed for measures to mitigate the potential effects of climate change such as building dikes and desalinating water. A Cubic Mile of Oil describes the various energy sources and how we use them, projects their future contributions, and delineates what it would take to develop them to annually produce a CMO from each of them. The requirement for additional energy in the future is so daunting that we will need to use all resources. We also examine how improved efficiency and conservation measures can reduce future demand substantially, and help distinguish approaches that make a significant impact as opposed to merely making us feel good. Use of CMO eliminates a multitude of units like tons of coal, gallons of oil, and cubic feet of gas; obviates the need for mind-numbing multipliers such as billions, trillions, and quadrillions; and replaces them with an easy-to-understand volumetric unit. It evokes a visceral response and allows experts, policy makers and the general public alike to form a mental picture of the magnitude of the challenge we face. In the absence of an appreciation of the scale of the problem, we risk squandering efforts and resources in pursuing options that will not meet tomorrow's global energy needs. We must make critical choices, and a common understandable language is essential for a sustained meaningful dialog.
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I highly recommend this well-organized and easy-to-understand book. It would make a good college-level textbook on the overall picture of energy and its present and future forms.
One of the authors’ contributions is to develop a new energy unit to represent energy production and consumption on a world scale. They define this unit, the energy stored in a cubic mile of oil, at the beginning and use it in their discussion throughout the book. As in any field, we need a common unit for comparison and discussion. Without such a unit, we would have the confusion of using several different units with large multipliers to represent the size of energy on a world scale.
The authors thoroughly studied and investigated a large set of data and statistics published by reliable sources, and they presented the facts without emotional arguments. Whatever position one might take on the future of energy, it is imperative to understand the current energy situation and evaluate with a cool head each energy source for its potential for future use.
If I have any complaint about the book, it is that some sections are a bit too long and too detailed for the target audience. Because so many interesting and useful statistics and so much good data are presented, it is hard to follow the argument without taking notes and flipping back and forth. A section of highlights would have been very helpful for busy but curious executives who want to find out where we stand in terms of energy and its future.
The complete review is in bit.ly/fchlSu