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VINE VOICEon 23 September 2010
Central question on everyone's mind, given the importance of crude oil in our lives is - are we running out of the crude stuff? No one discounts the fact that oil is a non-renewable and finite hydrocarbon, but the positions people take on either side of the peak oil hypothesis evoke fierce emotions. The author of this book - Steven M. Gorelick - examines both sides of the argument and allied topics on the subject at length.

Neither side, their respective stances and arguments are free of some pretty major assumptions, Gorelick notes. He examines data and market conjecture that both supports and rejects the idea that the world is running out of crude oil. In a book of just under 250 pages split by five detailed chapters, Gorelick has tackled the subject head-on. Prior to entering the resource depletion debate, he charts the landscape, outlines the history of the oil trade and crude prospection, exploration and logistics in the first two chapters.

Following on from that, the next chapter discusses the resource depletion argument followed by a refreshingly well backed-up chapter offering counter arguments to imminent global oil depletion. The veracity of the research is simply unquestionable and the figures are not substantiated by rants or guesswork, but by a methodical analysis which makes the author's argument sound extremely persuasive.

Gorelick notes that while the era of "easy" oil may well be over, how much oil is extracted from difficult sources remains to be seen. I quite agree with the author that the next or shall we say the current stage of extraction and prospection would ultimately be dictated by the price of oil. Many commodities traders believe a US$50 per barrel price or above would ensure extraction from difficult to reach places. However, that is not to say that a high price equates to the planet running out of oil according to the author.

Every key topic from the Malthusian doctrine to M.K. Hubert's approach, from Canadian Oil sands to drilling offshore and the relative cost of imported oil for consuming nations has been discussed in context of the resource depletion debate and in some detail. The text is backed-up by ample figures, graphics and forecasts from a variety of industry recognised sources, journals and organisations. Unlike a straight cut bland discourse, the narrative of this book is very engaging.

It may well be data intensive, but if the whole point of the book is substantiating an argument - then the data adds value and makes for an informed argument - for which author deserves full credit. In all my years as a journalist who has written on oil and follows the crude markets closely, I feel this book is the most engaging, detailed and well written one that I have come across in its genre. I am happy to recommend it to commodities professionals, economists, students and just about anyone interested in reading up on the oil depletion debate.
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