That is enough to get people's attention. If nothing else, Rubin provides a lot of food for thought between the covers of his book, and he helps to reveal some of the mysteries and intricacies of why the world operates the way it does. Where energy is concerned that is vital information, because it does not just affect one person or one state or even one country. Because society has become so global so quickly, energy consumption and cost is something that everyone must be aware of and that can either help or hinder most of what people do in society, both now and into the future. By realizing this and bringing it to light, Rubin is doing a service to humanity.
One of the things that Rubin does very well in the book is to take a lot of diverse information and put it together so that it ties in well. By making it cohesive, and keeping it 'friendly' instead of filling it full of stuffy, boring facts and statistics, he keeps readers' attention. Of course, the information is backed up with facts and sources. There are more than ten pages at the end of the book that contain source notes. Anyone with questions over where Rubin's information came from can easily look at these notes and find the validity of the sources. They can also use those source notes to read more about the issues presented in the book.
It is a thorough book that provides enough background to have a good understanding of the issue. It also shows how the various elements Rubin addresses relate to one another so that they all make sense and tie in properly. In addition, the numerous countries that are affected by this are discussed, as well as the roles that they play in the overall issue. People need to understand how these things are all interconnected instead of living without being aware of what is really taking place around them. Rubin's book will not provide everything that a person can possibly learn about this issue, but it will provide enough to make a very good, informed start, and to give an interested person a place to go next.
Like any work that addresses global issues or calls into question the way that people operate their businesses or their countries, there are some concerns with Rubin's book, as well. No book that deals with these kinds of issues is perfect or has everything sewn up in a neat and tidy little package. There are always loose ends, assumptions, and other issues that need to be resolved. It is clear that Rubin makes many points that are meaningful and valid. Most of the scenarios he creates are possible, if not plausible. However, the conclusions that he draws are not as substantiated by his eleven pages of source notes as it would appear. The idea that cheap oil is diminishing and has the potential to go away completely is certainly possible and may be accurate, but without a way to back that up it enters the realm of opinion, not fact, which is not the same and does not necessarily offer the same possibilities or probabilities for the future of the world.
Authoritative references regarding what will happen (as much as anyone can actually know that) are really lacking in Rubin's book. Many sources and notes and references do not mean that those sources and references and notes are valid, valuable, or the right ones for the conclusions being drawn. Where Rubin goes wrong is in making the assumption that oil companies and automobile manufacturing companies will ignore all of the issues that they are facing until they eventually end up bankrupt. They have done this, to a certain extent, just recently. Now, with Ford being the one to lead the way, they are changing and adapting to the issues surrounding the use of energy and fuel, and they are doing this even though the United States still sees gasoline prices that are under three dollars per gallon -- so there is change taking place already.
Rubin assumes that America and the rest of the world are going to be staying static, and not changing anything for the better (or the worse) because they do not or cannot see the point of making the changes. By assuming such a static U.S., Rubin is ignoring the fact that the United States has always and consistently shown that it is able and willing to be flexible and dynamic, and to adapt to what is necessary to keep moving forward. The cornerstone of the success of America and the American people has been that ability to adapt. Most Americans, for example, know that SUVs can guzzle gas, but they are certainly also capable of figuring how much extra in fuel they would be spending -- and it is often not that much.
If gasoline were seven or eight or ten dollars a gallon, suddenly the difference between a vehicle getting 20 MPG and one getting 30 MPG tells a much different story at the fuel pump and over the course of time. This incredible rise in gasoline prices has not taken place, and there is no direct, specific evidence to say it will. Even if it does, it is not something that will be taking place overnight. These kinds of changes happen over time, and that means that people can see them coming in time to avoid them, change them, or -- at the very least -- find a way to adapt to them so that things work out for the good of the country.
Rubin does spend some time in the book 'beating up' the United States for inventing more and better things for vehicles that run on gasoline instead of starting out with electric cars when automotive development was still in its infancy. However, one can only play the hand that he is dealt, and Rubin cannot know what would have taken place if electric cars would have been used, instead of cars that run on fossil fuels. Would the lead acid batteries in the entire world's production of vehicles have led to serious levels of lead in the drinking water and in the soil? Would lead poisoning have become as much of a concern as the disappearing fossil fuels? We do not know. What is more, we cannot know, because there is no way to go back and find out. Even scenarios and computer simulations really do not give a definitive answer, and, therefore, Rubin cannot give one, either.
Rubin appears to have a lot of enthusiasm for his task and his work, and also for the environment. These are all good things. They bring the reader back to agrarian culture, homespun and homegrown communities where everyone helped one another out, and a much more limited usage of -- and need for -- electric power, fossil fuels, and the like. These are not bad things, but they are not the way the majority of the world works anymore. People have 'evolved' -- if that is what one would call it -- beyond those simple pleasures and are more focused on labor-saving devices that work well but require a tremendous amount of energy. These things use up resources. Period. But it is not likely that people are going to shy away from them and give them up. They have become part of the culture.
Another issue that Rubin does not address is solar power. Collecting cheap and abundant power from the sun, wind, and water has been talked about for a very long time, but it is still a challenge to make it efficient enough to work for the majority of people -- and to make it affordable and desirable for them. Green technology is becoming more valuable, though, and product design is slowly starting to be driven by it in some sectors. That shows progress, and is a good sign. But it does not appear to be enough just yet. Engineers and scientists are still challenged by everything that green technology offers and requires, and economic forces across the planet must support green technology efforts they are to move forward and help save the planet from its people.
Rubin is on-target to a certain extent, but in the most pessimistic of ways. He makes a very good case when just the problem is looked at, but he does not make a good case about the solution. The United States -- and the world, overall -- has a collective capacity to pull together when necessary and to work toward better solutions and a better world. That is a very important component of this issue, and it appears to be one that Rubin does not realize or remember when he details where this planet and its people are headed. Another downfall of Rubin's book is that he assumes rational behavior on the part of the suppliers and the…