A Tank Of Gas, A World Of Trouble

August 14, 2006 at 10:12 pm
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When I blasted the generally poor reportage about energy in my last blog, I was unaware of this outstanding piece published by the Chicago Tribune a week earlier. But it’s burning up the blog charts now. It’s long, so download the complete PDF and read it at your leisure, but do check it.

The author, Paul Salopek, has done what no one had ever done before–indeed what most said couldn’t be done–and that’s to trace a tankful of gas back to its oil fields of origin. But aside from that feat, he’s done his homework about the various perspectives on the future of oil, and has come up with a sensible, balanced, and mostly correct conclusion.

It also has some well-done and very pithy appendixes (listed as “Sidebars” in the Web version) that do a decent job of covering the peak oil debate, the nature of oil, and the debate over the Saudi peak.

A Tank Of Gas, A World Of Trouble

By Paul Salopek

Chicago Tribune

Published July 29, 2006


Seriously, read it. It’s great, and a compelling bit of journalism, not your usual dry stuff. I give it an A+. I hope he wins his third Pulitzer for this one.


Update Saturday August 26, 2006:

Paul Salopek imprisoned in Darfur and charged with spying

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 /PRNewswire/ — Paul Salopek, who was traveling in Africa to report on the culture and history of the Sahel for National Geographic magazine, was detained by Sudanese authorities and on Aug. 26 charged with espionage in a North Darfur court in El Fashir, Sudan. National Geographic magazine vigorously protests this accusation and appeals to Sudan for his immediate release and the release of two Chadians assisting him.

Update September 9, 2006:

Salopek, his driver and his interpreter were released after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir pardoned them on September 9.


  1. GREAT Article!!! (and welcome back!)

    Thanks for sharing… so, if we were actually charged the ‘real’ price for a litre of oil, wouldn’t that just push even more $’s into the bank account of big oil co?

    The one thing that has suprised me is the resiliency shown so far in the global economy – even after all economists claimed that the psycological barrier of $50/barrel of gas would have disasterous effects on the economy. What I wonder is – how much more elasticity remains in the global system – another $100, $200, $500??? When does the house of cards collapse – housing boom, consumer debt, all of it….



    Comment by Anonymous — August 15, 2006 @ 1:49 pm

  2. If the true cost of a gallon of gas incorporated all the hidden and “externalized” costs, it would probably be done via a tax, as they do in Europe, and the revenue would be used to subsidize mass transportation and the like. So the additional revenue wouldn’t just go into the pockets of the oil companies.

    At what oil price the resiliency of the economy fails is a good question. Many observers, myself included, have been surprised at our ability to keep the economy moving with oil over $70/bl. I have seen some models that say $85 is the tipping point, others $100+. But we are already seeing the first signs of demand destruction, so we shouldn’t think that all is well at the current price.


    Comment by Anonymous — August 15, 2006 @ 2:38 pm

  3. funny, just this morning I heard on the radio that walmart posted for the first time ever a decrease in revenue, so to did home depot. both blamed on the rising cost of oil.

    up here in Canada, the housing market is beginning to cool, but condo’s are on a tear. Calgary has seen a 50% increase in year over year housing costs due to the proximity to the oil patch.

    there is a real shaky foundation… it pisses me off seeing 1 day after the end of ‘hostilities’ that gas at the pump has dropped nearly 10 cents a litre…

    I cannot imagine that the elasticity of the economy has much more room, either in the increase of oil price, or the duration of current prices. too many industries are currently absorbing these increased costs who will soon be forced to dump them onto the consumer. with the state of indebetedness, there is not much wiggle room left…



    Comment by Anonymous — August 16, 2006 @ 10:47 am

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