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Publisher's Summary

Imagine an everyday world in which the price of gasoline (and oil) continues to go up, and up, and up. Think about the immediate impact that would have on our lives.

Of course, everybody already knows how about gasoline has affected our driving habits. People can't wait to junk their gas-guzzling SUVs for a new Prius. But there are more, not-so-obvious changes on the horizon that Chris Steiner tracks brilliantly in this provocative work.

Consider the following societal changes: people who own homes in far-off suburbs will soon realize that there's no longer any market for their houses (reason: nobody wants to live too far away because it's too expensive to commute to work). Telecommuting will begin to expand rapidly. Trains will become the mode of national transportation (as it used to be) as the price of flying becomes prohibitive. Families will begin to migrate southward as the price of heating northern homes in the winter is too pricey. Cheap everyday items that are made of plastic will go away because of the rising price to produce them (plastic is derived from oil). And this is just the beginning of a huge and overwhelming domino effect that our way of life will undergo in the years to come.

Steiner, an engineer by training before turning to journalism, sees how this simple but constant rise in oil and gas prices will totally re-structure our lifestyle. But what may be surprising to readers is that all of these changes may not be negative - but actually will usher in some new and very promising aspects of our society.

Steiner will probe how the liberation of technology and innovation, triggered by climbing gas prices, will change our lives. The book may start as an alarmist's exercise.... but don't be misled. The future will be exhilarating.

©2009 Christopher Steiner; (P)2009 Hachette

Critic Reviews

"[T]he surprising snapshots of the future (where rising gas prices might revitalize Detroit) make for vivid and compelling reading." (Publishers Weekly)

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  • Overall
  • dm
  • 10-16-09


I have been following this topic and am very glad to have an audio book on the subject. And there is some good stuff here. The concept for organizing the book is clever. And some of the overall thoughts on our future are interesting as well.

BUT the book is not a great read. The writing is very inefficient. The author takes a long time to make his points, going into many exhaustive and unnecessary stories, perhaps under the mistaken notion that non-fiction must be colored up to be interesting. The whole book could have been 1/3 as long or less.

I also think that Steiner paints a somewhat preposterously smiley face on a ominous future. I wholly agree that, ultimately, a low energy future will be better than what we have now. But getting there from here is another matter. It may well be that mankind will lose billions of people in the change. That won't be happy.

Steiner also fails to discuss the gravity of the link between fossil fuel and the economy. It seems evident to me, or at least obvious enough to discuss, that the boom of modern society since the industrial revolution (and the resultant boom in population) has been the result of our ability to find and use fossil fuel. Once this one time "gift" starts to wane, won't the economy and population and the very complexity of society wane as well? We might be on the verge of an very long contraction of industry. The economy may never "recover." Many of us may have no job prospects except to grow food. Not all of this is bad, but certainly warrants examination and discussion, I would think. And none of it will likely be easy.

I'm not sure why Steiner wrote this book in this way. Is he trying to reassure us so we are not afraid to take action? Is it all a masked attempt to promote nuclear power? Is he just a very optimistic guy? Beats me.

Still, there's little else on audio and this is worth the read.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • David
  • Centennial, CO, United States
  • 06-10-11

Pass on this one

This audio book is replete with common knowledge and platitues presented in a style that I found very difficult to listen to. This is not a scholarly work. It's more journalistic in its approach and level of analysis. Don't expect to learn much more on the topic than you would from the popular press.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


My first review & I regret that it is a negative one. $20 a Gallon starts off like a a college research paper - a plethora of quotes with duly noted sources. It then morphs into a heavy social commentry lightly sprinkled with nuggets of something you can hang your hat on. The author makes grand ecological assumptions (we'll enjoy our national parks more without too-expensive-to-use atv's buzzing around)but employs very little critical analysis (how will we afford to visit the aforesaid parks to enjoy them if even atvs are too expensive to run?) I titled this review relentless because I really do want to finish the book (I still haven't) for the few nuggets of good information but it just seems to go on and on and on........ I would like just the footnotes, please.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Carolyn
  • Glen Mills, PA, USA
  • 08-10-09

Everyone Should Read This Book!

I gave this book 5 stars not because I agree with everything in this book, but because this is such a relevant, thought provoking book that I cannot get out of my head. From having a father who worked in the oil business for most of his career, I already knew about the many uses for petrochemicals. And from living in Europe, I already knew the effects high priced gasoline (petrol) can have on society. But the author's analysis is fascinating, as are his predictions about what the future holds for the US. In Europe, where gas is much more expensive ($13/gallon at one point), diesel, manual, tiny cars with little power under the hood are the norm. The only sports cars are the very high end ones (Ferraris, Maseratis, etc.) and SUV's are too large to fit in parking spaces. My diesel Citroen gets 45 miles to the gallon, but is as speedy as a slug. We bring our own recyclable bags to the grocery (and other) stores to avoid getting charged for the plastic ones. Yet air fares are quite inexpensive, unlike what is predicted in this book. The author has a tendency to make the US seem like Pottersville from It's a Wonderful Life and judges harshly those who waste energy driving gas guzzlers. But insights, such as comparing the US's thirst for oil to an elderly smoker with emphysema who just won't quit, make you think about your own habits, purchases and ideals. I hope every government leader reads this book for the courage to make the tough decisions this country needs. I should also mention that the narrator does a splendid job with this book. Well worth the credit.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Chris
  • IndianapolisVirgin Islands, U.S.
  • 08-07-09

Maybe the Amish have it right

Excellent, well-researched, thought-provoking, look at the world around us, now and in the future. I look forward to many of the changes.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Hoped for more

The layout of the chapters was great. Explore what life will be like as gas prices reach new highs -- each chapter looking at life with a new price at the pump.

While the speculating about what might happen was entertaining. I was disappointed that the predictions were not backed up with much argument or any evidence.

  • Overall

Thoughtprovoking view of the future!

$20 Per Gallon is a fascinating, thoughtful, and thoughtprovoking view of the near future as the price of oil rises. Steiner describes the economic and social implications of rising energy prices across the human experience and proposes some interesting scenarios about how life will look as the world, especially the U.S., is forced to adapt and reinvent. While some of his conclusions are a bit too rosey, he makes a strong case for the re-emergence of American industry, a return to locally grown TASTY food, and energy innovation. I highly recommend this book.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Alternative Fuels Anyone!!!

Can anyone say alternative fuel?

The author, Christopher Steiner, does a wonderful job in laying out the pathway that were all taking towards ever-increasing fuel cost and the implications for doing so.

Our dependency on foreign oil and tax subsidized gas prices is not allowing us to realize the downward spiral that we face economically and environmentally, and the upward spiraling cost of fuel itself. It's time for us to get serious about developing alternative fuel sources and changing our lifestyles and dependency away from also fuel. We have the technology to do it now, so other than the "political agendas" that of course bog everything down, we have to start thinking critically and making decisions that will correct the pathway that were on.

I like the way the author lays out, chapter by chapter, dollar per gallon – dollar per gallon, the effects that we will feel personally, economically, socially and environmentally. I know right now many of us cannot see beyond perhaps a five dollar per gallon cost to ourselves personally, but that day is coming sooner than we think.

I highly recommend this book because it is well written, and it pertains to every man woman and child in this country.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Greg
  • Collingwood, ON, Canada
  • 08-16-09

positive future

When I bought this audio book I thought that it would teach me anything much that I didn't know, but boy was a wrong. This book is packed full of interesting facts and it paints and positive picture of the future of 20 dollar gasoline with all the benefits that will come to us.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful