Book Review: A Thousand Barrels a Second

Tertzakian, Peter. 2006. A Thousand Barrels A Second: The Coming Oil Break Point and the Challenges Facing an Energy Dependent World. New York: McGraw Hill.

Although the title suggests that the book will focus on events to come, most of the text is devoted to explaining things past. Tertzakian gives an abridged history of energy use, beginning with wood, then moving on to whale oil, kerosene, coal, oil, natural gas, hydro, and nuclear power. Using the lessons learned from past generations of energy production, he tells about energy cycles and how wea are approaching what he calls a “break point.”

The last chapter is a little bit of a letdown. While most of the book is well written, the last chapter uses an odd convention that was as awkward as it was confusing. Tertzakian writes as though it is already the year 2017 and gives his speculation about future events as though it were history.

Yet he offers no real basis for his speculation. I felt like he left me hanging, wondering what is likely to happen in the future. Maybe that’s the point – that nobody knows what will happen, but I still felt a little unfulfilled. I thought this was interesting, however. Although the book was published as recently as 2006, Tertzakian is bemoaning the high price of oil – trading at $65 per barrel – nearly half of it’s current price.

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