Book Review: $20 Per Gallon

Quick what would happen to the world is gas prices spiked to $20/gallon and stayed there?  No idea, don’t worry I didn’t have a clue either.  So thankfully someone else decided to ask that question and try to come up with some predictions.  The result is an entertaining book called $20 Per Gallon by Christopher Steiner.

Rather than just ask that question outright Christopher followed the trail of cheap gas and our lives today (ie: where else could an SUV come from other than $1/gallon gas) then asked what changes would happen at each level of gas price increases starting at $6/gallon (~$1.58/L), $8/ Gallon… then rising up to $20/gallon (~$5.28/L).

Now granted some of the changes he predicts are questionable at each level, but the concept was interesting to read about and here is what he thinks will happen:

  • The SUV will be dead at $6/gallon (I suspect that won’t happen until closer to $8/gallon myself.)
  • Electric/Hybrid cars will be standard for those that can afford them.
  • Everyone else will use a lot of mass transit in cities.
  • Food will shift to more local markets.
  • High speed trains will become increasingly more critical as the airlines become the domain of the very rich.  A trip to Europe will once again be a once in a lifetime trip for North Americans.
  • Nuclear power will be much more wide spread.
  • Natural plastics that biodegrade will replace petroleum based ones.
  • Global trade will slide backwards and Walmart will potential go out of business or at least overhaul its business model.

What was perhaps the most interesting parts of the book was the way he pointed out everyone change won’t really be bad.  Some will actually be good for us.  For example, some SUV’s have a horrible safety record and the number of deaths on the road will actually drop when they are gone.

Overall the book is a entertaining read on ‘what if’ and some possible ideas on where to invest for the very long range planner.