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Book review : The Last Oil Shock by David Strahan PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 26 March 2007

David Strahan’s book ‘The Last Oil Shock’ smartly covers the subject of Peak Oil in a way that makes it very educational to newcomers but at the same time sounding fresh and interesting to those well-read on this topic.

Strahan is an award-winning investigative journalist.  This is visible throughout with his countless interviews with key insiders in energy, politics and economics, used to highlight and reinforce the arguments laid out.  His knowledge and understanding of all aspects of Peak Oil has been fermenting for almost a decade and it is clearly distilled in this book for the reader.

The story is a familiar one.  World oil production is expected to peak soon, no alternative forms of energy can replace it sufficiently, we’re not preparing for it let alone admitting it, and many of our systems will struggle to cope with the decline of oil, especially our financial, trade and agricultural practices.  Spiking oil prices, recessions, depressions, and worldwide struggle follow.  But Strahan takes the reader through this with expertise, revealing something new to even old eyes.  The words jump into the reader’s head; it is a page turner, written often with wit, flourish, insight and sometimes contempt.  It is a timely book too, contextualising the story of oil around the current tensions in the Middle-East.  I dare say it portrays the real ‘Real Story’ for the invasion of Iraq and the threats now directed towards Iran from an oil hungry USA.

There is plenty to praise about ‘The Last Oil Shock’.  It is not a technical book, but where necessary the data is presented in a comprehendible manner that will not deter the average reader.  He masterfully builds the case for concern.  However, he also presents and deconstructs the arguments of the Peak Oil deniers and dubious official figures.  The reader is left with little doubt that we are staring trouble right in the face.  What makes this book even more interesting are the revelations that have not been covered before, such as the extent to which No.10 may really understand Peak Oil, and why.

The likely consequences of Peak Oil are also dealt with, but done so in a way that alarms without appearing to be a goggle-eyed doom-monger.  Every argument presented is solid and backed up.  Strahan reveals the apocalyptic possibilities without appearing apocalyptic himself.  Nor does he limit his analysis to Peak Oil.  Climate Change is clearly addressed, and the phrase ‘Short Fuse, Long Fuse’, a title for the chapter dealing with Peak Oil and Climate Change, is apposite for a fundamental difference between the problems.  With this he exposes why organisations such as Greenpeace are not pushing the Peak Oil message when in theory it provides extra impetus for climate change mitigation strategies.  Is this a book that should be read by people interested in Climate Change?  Absolutely.

Some may criticise it for not being technical enough, but that is not the purpose of this book.  The ‘back of the envelope’ calculations throughout illustrate the problems perfectly and for the average reader do not need to be more technical.  

The book is subtitled ‘A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man’, but this is misleading.  It is not entirely a survival guide but more accurately ‘The Case for the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man.’  Equally, the solutions proposed towards the back may be insufficient for some, but this book should inspire people to read further on solutions and mitigation, about which much is now written.  I found the policy suggestions to be entirely sensible and the personal action to take also rewarding.  After a couple of hundred pages describing how bleak the situation appears, it was pleasing to see Strahan did not leave the readers in total despair.  Hope, to some extent, exists. 

Previous Peak Oil books will have appealed mainly to those who just wanted to know more about the subject anyway, having perhaps heard about it on the Internet or from a friend first.  ‘The Last Oil Shock’ is simply a highly interesting and very readable book in its own right, one that would appeal to almost anyone.  It will shock, outrage and inspire the reader.

People need to get hold of this, read it, pass it on and then do something positive with the valuable knowledge they have gained.  Strahan produced two documentaries on Peak Oil for the BBC, and we will be well served if this book gets picked up for production and seen by the millions that need to know what is inside this book.

'The Last Oil Shock' by David Strahan is released on 3rd April 2007

Click here to order it. 


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