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A Thousand Barrels a Second

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A Thousand Barrels a Second

The Coming Oil Break Point and the Challenges Facing an Energy Dependent World


15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

Historically, energy shortages lead to breakthrough replacements. Here comes the shortage: where's our breakthrough?

Editorial Rating



So many books lately have touted the looming energy crisis that a new book on the topic bears a fairly heavy burden. It must demonstrate a firm grasp of prior scholarship, yet be innovative enough to serve a distinct purpose amid similar tomes. In this regard, author Peter Tertzakian achieves the first objective nicely and comes close on the second. He shares his keen sense of how the impact of energy sources has rippled across history and altered its course. He discusses the concepts of "energy cycles" and "energy break points" to explain how inherent mismatches between dwindling supply and growing demand lead to crises that can be resolved only by innovation and "rebalancing solutions." Upon closer examination, though, the "break point" seems referential to the familiar notion of a "paradigm shift." And, alas, the author's menu of alternate energy choices is no more satisfactory than anyone else's. Given his historical acumen, however, getAbstract finds that this book is a useful addition to the expert chorus warning the global citizenry to wake up and smell the petroleum.


A Thirsty World

The global appetite for energy is immense - and growing. Each day, the world consumes "85 million barrels of oil, 240 billion cubic feet of natural gas, 14 million tons of coal and 500,000 pounds of uranium." The numbers are growing. Given China's awakening economy, soon mankind's thirst for oil will surpass 1,000 barrels a second. That's enough to drain an Olympic swimming pool in 15 seconds. At that rate, demand would empty more than 38,000 swimming pools each week. As those numbers suggest, "Our birthright of abundant, reliable energy is coming to an end."

Historically, the world has passed through eras of increasing demand for fuel, creating rising pressure on markets and supply chains. This inevitably led to a series of "break points." Each break point opened a period of innovation when infrastructures changed to adjust to the new energy demands. Ultimately the "energy cycle's" elaborate dance between growth and dependency generates more demand and another innovation-provoking break point. This is nothing new.

Whale Oil

In 1751, candle makers in Newport, Rhode Island, developed a superior candle using spermaceti, a waxy substance ...

About the Author

Peter Tertzakian's company publishes weekly charts that evaluate worldwide energy trends. He is also the head energy economist at a leading equity firm that specializes in energy.

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