walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_$20 Per Gallon_, Christopher Steiner (kindle)

Subtitled: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better

The Official Review

Steiner's authorial voice is eager and enthusiastic. When he is describing his adventures underneath Manhattan in the subway tunnels (including one being drilled), or riding around in an electric UPS delivery truck, or feeling the heat off a furnace that is about to be outfitted with a combined heat and power facility, he comes across as a fun, interesting kind of guy. He structured this book based on his idea that certain price points for gas will be triggers to unleash a bunch of changes in individuals and society. The idea came to him, not unexpectedly, in the wake of $4+ gas last year.

While the chapter titles are about gasoline (the pain at the pump), he does bring up uses of fuel other than transportation -- that furnace, above, for example. He will occasionally bring up Peak Oil, Climate Change, particulate pollution killing people, environmental poisoning that results from burning coal, etc. as part of his argument that the changes that result in us using less gas and more of something else for power (whether that's something more efficient, or a different power source or both) will be overall for our benefit.

While I have complained in some detail both about what Steiner included and what he left out (and how he worded things, and blah, blah, bleeping, blah), Steiner's voice and the novelty of the book's theme and structure have some value to them. Alas, in the end, I found that this was more valuable to me as a thought experiment than it was valuable to me as a book. Depending on how much you learn from and how you value the specific ideas he describes in the book (densification, public transit, combined heat and power, local production of crops, growing veg on rooftops in cities, Teh Wonder of Nukular Power, etc.), your mileage may vary (har de har har. mileage. ha. sorry).

Perhaps the most useful to me section of the book was, in fact, quite weak: the part about trains. I had not realized how much passenger travel by rail in the US was suffering in the 1930s, and how the Zephyr revived its fortunes for a while. I have not read much about trains (altho of course I support them in general and in specific in basically every case), altho I liked the Acela and would take it again and of course being walkable/bikeable to commuter rail with half-hour service was a house buying criteria for us. The numbers on how much it would cost to increase the speed of the line between Detroit and Chicago, for example, were a revelation. While I don't believe this was great coverage of trains, it was enough coverage of trains to make me want to do a little more exploration of the space. It's entirely possible that a reader who had not yet encountered, say, green roofs, might find this a great opportunity to go research that and learn more.

Perhaps worth flipping through on the New Books shelf at the library.
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