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By Robert Rapier on Apr 2, 2012 with 27 responses

Power Plays is Published


Power Plays: Energy Options in the Age of Peak Oil

My new book — Power Plays: Energy Options in the Age of Peak Oil — has been published. A press release issued last week describes the book in some detail:

Robert Rapier Reflects on Energy Options in the Age of Peak Oil in his Latest Book

Here I want to describe a bit about the evolution of the book, discuss what’s in it, and finally provide contact information for reviewers who would like a copy.

It was less than a year ago that I was contacted by Jeff Olson, a Senior Editor at Apress, which is a division of the large global publisher Springer about writing “a book for educated laypeople on today’s energy issues.” I had been contacted a couple of times previously about writing a book, but the timing wasn’t right for various reasons. This time, I felt like I could pull it off, and around the first of August 2011 I actually sat down to write the first words. Eight months and 272 pages later, it was published.

I knew some of the things I wanted to cover if I ever wrote a book, so I just started to write and began to organize things later on. I think the final product is very balanced; most people would not describe this as a liberal book or a conservative book, but rather a book that highlights the pros and cons of energy policies from across the political spectrum. Far right conservatives will likely see it as liberal book, and far left liberals will see it as a conservative book, but I think 80% of the people in between the extremes will see it as apolitical.

It took several iterations to settle on the final Table of Contents, but here is the finalized ToC, with a short synopsis of each chapter:

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. All About Energy: Dependence and Disconnect

This chapter explains why energy is important in our lives, and gives a brief overview of topics such as “Energy Misconceptions” and “Energy Politics” that are covered in more detail later in the book. I also list some of the questions that the book will answer.

Chapter 2. Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power: Powering Modern Civilization

This is the first of three chapters that give background information on the energy sources we utilize. This chapter covers the history of oil, coal, natural gas, and nuclear power, and discusses production and consumption numbers for several countries. I try to put our energy usage into recognizable context, such as the number of times the largest domed stadium in the world could be filled with the world’s daily oil consumption.

Chapter 3. Renewable Energy: Energy of the Past and the Future

I start out this chapter by discussing some of the nuances of sustainability and renewable energy, and then I cover major sources of renewable energy such as biomass, wind, solar power, hydropower, and geothermal power. There is a sidebar in this chapter on Energy, Power, and Units of Measurement.

Chapter 4. Energy Production: From the Source to the Consumer

The previous two chapters described various sources of energy as well as production and consumption rates, and this chapter gets into how some of the fossil energy sources are produced. Safety and environmental considerations are discussed. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and the trade-offs from fracking are covered. There are sidebars on Oil Shale Development and Methane Hydrates.

Chapter 5. Global Warming: How Do You Stop a Hurricane?

This is the first of a few chapters that get into more controversial subject matter. This chapter discusses the science behind climate change, and looks at the challenging prospects for reining in carbon emissions. I explain some of the arguments made by both proponents and opponents of the idea the humans are primarily responsible for climate change. To be crystal clear, this is not a chapter that attempts to make a case for or against manmade climate change, but is instead an attempt to explain to readers why different sides have taken the positions they have taken. It is my attempt to shed light on the debate itself without arguing just one side. I take a close look at the emissions and emissions growth around the world, which I think will be eye-opening for many readers. There is a sidebar on Sulfur Trading Markets, which examines whether they are a good model for carbon emissions trading.

Chapter 6. Peak Oil: Myth or Threat to Civilization?

I first talk about the history of peak oil — including some mythology surrounding M. King Hubbert’s 1956 prediction of when oil would peak in the U.S. Hint: He was actually skeptical that oil would peak in 1970, even though he is widely credited with “nailing” the 1970 peak. I discuss what peak oil really is, some of the misconceptions, the probable consequences, the Peak Lite and Long Recession concepts, and some of the criticisms of peak oil. There are sidebars called Peak Oil: It’s All About Flow Rates and Net Energy and Government Reports on Peak Oil.

Chapter 7. Nuclear Power: Practical Solution or Environmental Disaster?

This chapter looks at the history of nuclear power, and contrasts and compares opposing viewpoints. Nuclear accidents are discussed, and the concept of risk assessments is discussed in some detail. There are sidebars called How Nuclear Power Works and Thorium Reactors and Fusion Power.

Chapter 8. Risk and Uncertainty: Energy Security Challenges

Here I cover some of the major threats to energy security besides peak oil. I write about OPEC, growing oil consumption from emerging countries, and the implications of declining energy return on energy invested (EROEI). The concept of EROEI is explained in some detail, along with the caveats that should be understood in order to properly use it as a tool. There is a sidebar called Overstated OPEC Reserves?

Chapter 9. Reducing the Risks: Policies to Enhance Energy Security

Here I focus on several ideas that could help move countries away from dependence on imported oil – and ultimately fossil fuels in general – while also making sure energy supplies are adequate during the transition. I talk about fossil fuel taxes, proposals that would fund alternative energy and mass transit using some government revenues from oil production, and the need for an Open Fuel Standard. There are sidebars called How Much Oil? and The Price of Energy.

Chapter 10. Investing in Cleantech: A Guide to Technical Due Diligence

This chapter is a guide for those wishing to sort out hype from reality, particularly when dealing with alternative energy technologies. The steps required to take an idea all the way through to commercialization are discussed, and the challenges are highlighted. There are sidebars called Levels of Scale and The Challenge of Scaling Up.

Chapter 11. The Race to Replace Oil: Alternative Transportation Fuels

This covers many of the contenders to replace oil, including methanol, ethanol, mixed alcohols, DME, natural gas, drop-in gasoline replacements, and distillate replacements. There are sidebars called The Zubrin Experiment: Methanol Versus Gasoline and The Pickens Plan.

Chapter 12. Oil-Free Transportation: Alternatives to the Internal Combustion Engine

This chapter covers another major piece of the puzzle to replace oil: Transportation that is independent or largely independent of oil. The chapter covers hybrids, electric cars, electric rail, bicycling, and walkable communities. There are sidebars called Plug-In Hybrids, Fuel Cell Vehicles, A Developing Nation, and Elasticity of Transportation Supply.

Chapter 13. Corn Ethanol: Past, Present, and Future

This chapter covers the history of ethanol policy in the U.S., discusses some of the controversies surrounding the use of corn ethanol as fuel, and lays out some specific ideas that would make the industry more sustainable in the long-term. There are sidebars on The MTBE Phase-Out and E85 Case Study: Iowa.

Chapter 14. U.S. Energy Politics: The Elusive Goal of Energy Independence

This chapter covers the history of energy policy in the U.S. over the past eight presidential administrations. I discuss what worked and what failed and why the overall result was an escalation in the level of dependence on imported oil. I draw parallels between the current resurgence of oil under the Obama Administration with the resurgence that took place during the Carter Administration. There are sidebars called Political Games with the SPR and The Keystone Pipeline Debate.

Chapter 15. The Road Ahead: Planning and Preparation

In this chapter, I summarize and explain the three tenets that drive my views on energy and the environment. I emphasize the uncertainty of the future, and of the need to have contingency planning based on various possible outcomes.

What I am really trying to do with the book is to get people to think about energy in a different way. I want people to understand that all of our energy options require trade-offs, and sometimes we aren’t even aware of what those trade-offs entail. In the process of trying to drive that point home, I try to shed light on some of the more controversial energy issues, and provide interesting energy trivia for readers.

If you want to arrange a review copy of the book, or would like to get in touch with me over the book, please contact Sadhika Salariya, sadhikasalariya(at)apress(dot)com or phone her at 202-620-8061.

Thanks for Your Support

In closing, I want to thank my regular readers as well as the audience at The Oil Drum both for the support you have shown, and the feedback that helped make this a stronger book. I have learned so much over the past few years through interactions with readers, and I hope to continue those lively discussions for many years to come.

Link to Original Article: Power Plays is Published

By Robert Rapier

  1. By BBM on April 2, 2012 at 10:59 am


  2. By Jeff on April 2, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Thank you Robert, looking forward to reading it

  3. By Tom G. on April 2, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Congratulations Robert!  You know what they say – the first book is the hardest.  Any ideas where you might go from here?

    Tom G.  

    • By Robert Rapier on April 2, 2012 at 3:39 pm

      Any ideas where you might go from here?

      Hi Tom, 

      It depends first of all on how the book does, but secondly on whether I think there are other topics that I can cover that might be of interest to readers. I hit all of my big themes in this one; so if I did another I would have to delve into a lot of areas that I have potentially not covered before. I know a lot of people write a second book and just recycle a lot of material from a previous book. I won’t do that if I write a second book.


      • By Tom G. on April 2, 2012 at 6:10 pm

        I really like your belief system Robert when it comes to writing a new book.  If the following  subject[s] were not covered in Power Play, here are some subjects I would be interested in.       

        1. How can we create a society that takes the price of energy seriously

        2. Conservation and energy efficiency – whats the difference?

        3. What is the difference between miles per gallon and the dollar cost per mile and which would be of more value to society. 

        4. At some point in our future are we going to have to ride a bike to work when its 30 degrees outside

        5. What form of mass transit system[s] should we be building to go between major cities.  Put another way; could mass transit systems be designed to be cost effective between major U.S. cities.  

        6. How can I tell how much [in dollars] it costs to run an appliance and why are the yellow energy efficiency tags hidden inside of refrigerators.  

        7. What are some easy to remember facts about oil that I can use to convince my brother to  get rid of his SUV

        8. Is there anything to this cold fusion thing I have been hearing about, and;

        9. How do I calculate how much a gallon of gasoline will cost when a barrel of oil is  $200 

        And finally, is Sadhika Salariya the individual we contact to order a signed copy of your book?    


        • By Robert Rapier on April 2, 2012 at 6:22 pm

          And finally, is Sadhika Salariya the individual we contact to order a signed copy of your book?    

          Some good questions there Tom.

          I am not sure how we handle signed copies; a lot of people have asked for them but the publisher has not asked me to sign any. If you have a Kindle, she will send you a free review copy if you will put a review up on Amazon. She asked for contacts willing to do this, so if you have a Kindle and are willing to review it, drop her a note.

          Cheers, Robert

          • By Tom G. on April 2, 2012 at 9:02 pm

            Sorry Robert I don’t have a Kindle only a PC.  I will however contact her since I have a couple of ideas how personalized copies of your book could be handled. 

            Have a great day Robert.  Oh wait a minute; I almost forgot; you already live in paradise.  How silly of me.  

            Tom Garven

            Lake Havasu City, AZ 

  4. By Benny BND Cole on April 2, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    A hearty congrats to RR. 

    I remain an optimist, but I will read this book word for word. 

  5. By KLR on April 2, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Hmm…”Power Plays are published.”  ;)  Reminds me of the ad copy for Hitchcock’s film The Birds:  ”The Birds is coming!”  


    Congratulations from me as well, I’ll snap up a copy, and thanks for all your great work over the years.  Have enjoyed your sound research and balanced perspective ever since you had the temerity to suggest to the TOD audience that HL might not actually be 100% reliable at prediction of a nation going into declining oil production, which of course was met with lots of outraged howling.   

  6. By drunyon on April 2, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    I am on Chapter 13 now.  The themes will be familiar with readers of this blog, but very logically presented.  My wife does a lot of investing, I am trying to get her to read it when I am done to help her understand the “big picture” of the challenges with both replacing oil, and vetting new companies.  Thanks!

    • By Robert Rapier on April 3, 2012 at 1:00 am

      If anyone is willing to do a quick review on Amazon, it would be greatly appreciated. 

      Cheers, RR

      • By drunyon on April 3, 2012 at 6:04 pm

        done.  Good luck on book sales!

        • By Robert Rapier on April 3, 2012 at 7:08 pm

          Thanks Dave. Greatly appreciated.


  7. By Jeff Crunk on April 2, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Happy to pile on.  Congratulations on the achievement!  I’m adding the book to my reading list.

  8. By rjn3 on April 2, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    If  you make as much money as you should, were the world aright, please afford every member of congress a copy! Most of them would have to consider it an “eye opener”!

    Keep up the good work.

  9. By RBM on April 2, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Congratulations on the book, Robert !!

    And thanks for all your online contributions through the years.


  10. By Bob Rohatensky on April 4, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Good for you!

    I bought a Kindle copy and I’ll post a review when I am done. I have a little comment: There are dozens of books that return on a search on Amazon for “Power Plays”. It is a very common title for books including a Tom Clancy series, several business books and a few romance novels. I guess picking a title based on a common term like that makes for easier initial recognition, but doesn’t it make finding your book difficult if you don’t remember the author’s name?

  11. By Robert Rapier on April 4, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    I guess picking a title based on a common term like that makes for easier initial recognition, but doesn’t it make finding your book difficult if you don’t remember the author’s name?

    The publisher suggested the title; I was more concerned about similar books called Power Trip and Power Hungry, but the publisher felt like “Power Plays” would be an eye-catching title.

    Sales have spiked today. The book is #1 in two Amazon categories and in the Top 10 in several others.


  12. By Russ Finley on April 5, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I’ve read 2/3 of it. The level of detail seems about right for  your target audience of educated lay people.

    • By mac on April 5, 2012 at 4:44 pm

      Could not the waste heat be used to generate electricity like AGS geothermal or as Ford is doing in some of their auto plants ?

  13. By mac on April 5, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    The geothermal plants in Alaska are reverse engineered heat pumps derived from well known air conditioning / heat pump technology that’s been around for 30 or more years.  No need for any massive breakthrough.

  14. By mac on April 5, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Can I purchase your book on-line ?  I live in the sticks and it’s 50 miles to the nearest bookstore in Waco, Texas. (100 mile round-trip)

    • By Robert Rapier on April 5, 2012 at 6:17 pm

      Sure. The link in the article takes you to Amazon. Right now it is #1 in a couple of categories on Amazon, and Top 10 in several others.


  15. By Bob Rohatensky on April 13, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    I finished reading it last night. I think you did a very good job of laying out a responsible snapshot of the energy situation and the text flows well through the topics. I generally agree with your point-of-view and opinions and have read your blog posts for the last five years or so, so I didn’t find much that was new (to me) or controversial, but I would recommend it to anyone interested in developing an educated and realistic point-of-view of the energy situation.  Good job!

    • By Robert Rapier on April 13, 2012 at 4:57 pm

      Thanks Bob. I think some will be surprised at what I had to say about ethanol — particularly those who haven’t followed my postings closely. 

      Some friends were upset about what I wrote about climate change, but as I told them my purpose was not to argue one side or the other, but rather to explain what those sides are saying. They didn’t like, for instance, that I repeated some of the arguments from the skeptics, essentially saying “Those arguments are invalid.” I said that it doesn’t matter because I am giving you their arguments, not weighing in on their validity. I am trying to help people understand what both sides are saying.

      Cheers, RR

  16. By mac on April 14, 2012 at 2:42 am


    Having your comments edited lately ???

    Same for me, 

    As you know,  I think EVs have some potential but when I said something “Negative ” on a certain EV website,  all my comments were magically erased.

    Oh well……….

    • By Robert Rapier on April 14, 2012 at 3:54 pm

      Robert. Having your comments edited lately ???

      Was this directed at me, and if so what is it in reference to?


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