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Half Gone: Oil, Gas, Hot Air and the Global Energy Crisis Paperback – 10 Nov 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Portobello Books Ltd (10 Nov. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846270049
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846270048
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.4 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,696,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


...a valuable contribution to the library of what is essentially subversive literature… Jeremy Leggett is a fine writer. -- Colin Tudge, The Guardian

A fast-moving, easily readable polemic whose unashamed populism does not obscure the weight of its argument. -- The Sunday Times

“His personal insights are fascinating… the writing is always clear and conveys complicated but important technicalities in very accessible terms.” -- Daily Mail, David Shukman, BBC Science and Environment News correspondent

From the Publisher

'I hope this book will not be an obituary for the human species. But the denial and double-think it exposes suggest that, unless we change pretty smartly, we can expect to be overtaken by the catastrophes Leggett documents. His book demands to be read.' - George Monbiot

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Be afraid. Be very afraid. Do not read this book if you want cheering up. Do not read it if you are easily disturbed. But if you want the unvarnished truth about the reality of the energy and climate crisis, this one of the best sources around. Packed with facts and figures, it is an authoritative account of how on the one hand we at the “topping point”, the point of “peak oil”, when the market are about to go into panic stations over a shrinking supply of the resource that keeps the wheels of the global economy turning, while demand for that resource is rising. And on the other hand, Leggett explains how the burning of that resource is about to bring us catastrophic climate change.

Jeremy Leggett is ideally placed to tell this story, having worked at the heart of the oil industry, and then jumped tanker, to work as chief scientific advisor to Greenpeace. Once you have read this book it is unlikely you will ever view our profligate energy consumption the same again. It will probably scare you into urgent action. It did me!

“Half Gone” is a story of two halves, firstly about global oil reserves, and secondly about the climate disaster that is looming from our addiction to oil. Reserves have been exaggerated by the oil producing nations and the oil companies, because for a variety of reasons it has been in their short term financial interest to do so. The same nations and industry have been among the fiercest opponents of action to limit damage to the world’s climate, which Leggett also documents in convincing detail.

“Half Gone” contains some remarkable facts.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
These words concluded an article on global warming by Melanie Phillips, columnist on the London Daily Mail, published on 13 January 2006.
Ms Phillips is not alone in suffering from a delusional state on this issue, as you learn from this book.
Geologist Jeremy Leggett recounts that Colin Campbell and Chris Skrebowski - both with oil industry backgrounds - organised a seminar in July 2004 to warn members of the UK Parliament about the coming depletion of oil. In 2004 there were 659 MPs in the House of Commons, of whom a mere three attended.
In Part One he details the run-up to what he calls "the topping point". Like other writers on this issue, he argues that it lies somewhere between 2005 and 2015.
He is pessimistic about the discovery of new oil fields - the peak year for oil discovery was, he claims, 1965 - and he is also pessimistic about what he calls "unconventional" oil, such as shale and tar sands.
Like other writers he believes they will demand at least as much energy in recovery as they will offer.
The second part of the book is a detailed examination of global warming. He cites the view of Sir David King, the UK government's Chief Scientific Adviser, that global warming is a greater threat than any weapons of mass destruction.
He poses the question: how much warming, how much danger? and forecasts that, at current rates, CO2 concentrations will reach 700 parts per million, as opposed to the 300 ppm in the 400,000 years up to the beginning of the last century.
By this scenario global temperatures are set to rise by the so-called "hockey stick" curve.
He again quotes Sir David King as believing that 550 ppm is way above the danger threshold.
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Format: Paperback
Half Gone deserves the widest possible readership. It has two things going for it that make it different from other similar books:

Firstly, this maybe the only book that successfully ties together the different strands of the Peak Oil and Climate Change arguments, along with their economic implications and suggestions about what can be done about it. These are separate problems on the face of it but they will probably both reach a crisis point over the next few years and paradoxically one (Peak Oil) may give us the economic impetus we need in society to address the other (Climate Change). I cannot imagine a better discussion of the complexities and interactions of these issues (political, economic and scientific) than is found in this book.

The second major strength of Half Gone is that it's so well written. Jeremy Leggett is a scientist by training and it shows; Half Gone very clearly argued and reasonable in tone throughout. It communicates the knowledge and understanding of the author and is a pleasure to read.

The message of Half Gone has serious implications for us all, whether we are worried about the price of fuel, stock market investments or biodiversity. In short, buy it, read it soon and act accordingly!
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Format: Paperback
Jeremy Leggett delivers an argument in two parts. Firstly, he informs us that we have used half of the petroleum that ever existed, that oil production has peaked (or very soon will - he was writing in 2005), and that no amount of exploration will find new reserves sufficient to change that. As the oil industry in particular and business in general have avoided confronting this inevitability, the belated realisation will trigger, he suggests, an economic depression disproportionately greater than the subsequent long slow fall in oil supply will merit. In making his first assertion Dr Leggett is dealing in his area of expertise, as a former oil-industry geologist and consultant. As for his second argument it should be pointed out that he is not an economist, and that we are currently dealing with "triple digit" oil prices without economic meltdown, but nonetheless he makes the argument effectively.

The second part of Leggett's argument is a rehearsal of the standard man-made global warming one. He uses what appears to be the Michael Mann "hockey stick" graph from the third IPCC Report some years after it was pretty thoroughly discredited, although (cleverly?) he uses a version from the Meteorological Office. In talking about a 50 metre rise in sea levels caused by the melting of ice he might be said to out-Gore Al Gore, but the arguments are essentially those of the IPCC's report, put succinctly and effectively. It will come as no surprise to learn that Leggett was also Greenpeace's chief scientist for some seven years. The point of this second point of the argument is to remind us that, even if oil was not running out, we should be doing all we can to avoid burning more of it anyway.

Leggett then goes on to explain what we should do about it.
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