Book Review – $20 Per Gallon

Joanna Schroeder

$20 per gallonWhy are so many people in denial that the price of gas will rise again, and continue to go up? Why are businesses and towns who are already drowning under the weight of higher energy prices not doing more to wean themselves off of oil? Could the high cost of oil take out behemoth companies like Wal-Mart? The answer is yes, according to Christopher Steiner in his new book, $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better.

The $6 gallon of gasoline could be reality in the U.S. in three to four years, says Steiner, and he predicts that will kick start some dramatic changes in how we live and where we work. Steiner notes that as big as the changes were when gasoline topped $4 per gallon in 2008, most of America denied it would stay that high.

In an interview on NPR, Steiner commented, “I think $6 is a serious tipping point for Americans psychologically. We’re going to say at that point. There is no turning back. This is reality. Let’s change how we do things.” And this could come sooner then many Americans think as several energy experts have predicted that a barrel of oil will top $200 and it could happen as soon as the end of 2009 or early 2010.

One possibility Steiner proposes in his book is that Wal-Mart’s business model will succumb to the high price of gasoline and consumers will return to buying mostly local goods sold by local merchants. This also means the concept of “Big-Box” stores which were built on the back of cheap gasoline could vanish into a time capsule.

A “Big Box” in many cases (or most cases in terms of Wal-Mart) is located on the fringes of town and suburbs rather than city cores. When prices soar above $14 per gallon, two things will happen. “One, obviously, is that people will not be carelessly gallivanting about town in their cars anymore….People will walk or travel to stores less than two miles from their home.”

“The second big banana, and the biggest reason for Wal-Mart demise–at least Wal-Mart as we know it now–will be the outrageous cost of maintaining the retailers vast distribution and product network.”  Say bye bye birdy to cheap pens from China.

Before you hyperventilate, Steiner says our lives will be better. Huh? We’ll no longer get our vegetables from 1,500 miles away but from our own community. No more driving, we’ll take very fast trains. And the driving we do will be with electric cars. No more rual living, we’ll be living downtown. Ultimately we’ll be healthier and happier people.

I’ll let Stiener convince you of that when you read $20 Per Gallon. You can read this book or any book I review by visiting my book store.

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