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Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller [Hardcover]

Jeff Rubin
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 19 2009 0307357511 978-0307357519 First Edition
What do subprime mortgages, Atlantic salmon dinners, SUVs and globalization have in common?

They all depend on cheap oil. And in a world of dwindling oil supplies and steadily mounting demand around the world, there is no such thing as cheap oil. Oil might be less expensive in the middle of a recession, but it will never be cheap again.

Take away cheap oil, and the global economy is getting the shock of its life.

From the ageing oilfields of Saudi Arabia and the United States to the Canadian tar sands, from the shopping malls of Dubai to the shuttered auto plants of North America and Europe, from the made-in-China products on the shelves of the Wal-Mart down the road to the collapse of Wall Street giants, everything is connected to the price of oil

Interest rates, carbon trading, inflation, farmers’ markets and the wave of trade protectionism washing up all over the world in the wake of various economic stimulus and bailout packages – they all hinge on the new realities of a world where demand for oil eventually outstrips supply.

According to maverick economist Jeff Rubin, there will be no energy bailout. The global economy has suffered oil crises in the past, but this time around the rules have changed. And that means the future is not going to be a continuation of the past. For generations we have built wealth by burning more and more oil. Our cars, our homes, our whole world has been getting bigger in the cheap-oil era. Now it is about to get smaller.

There will be winners as well as losers as the age of globalization comes to an end. The auto industry will never recover from this oil-induced recession, but other manufacturers will be opening up mothballed factories. Distance will soon cost money, and so will burning carbon – both will bring long-lost jobs back home. We may not see the kind of economic growth that globalization has brought, but local economies will be revitalized, as will our cities and neighborhoods.

Whether we like it or not, our world is about to get a whole lot smaller.

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Product Description

Quill & Quire

For more than 20 years, Jeff Rubin has been known as one of Canada’s top economists, and a major voice for the energy sector. In Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller, Rubin uses that background to project what our world will look like in the near future, as oil reserves dwindle and global economies suffer. This book is not aimed at economists and money managers, though. It speaks directly to the average reader, and should serve as a dire warning of the severe consequences of oil dependency in our everyday lives. With its central argument that a combination of rapidly dwindling oil supply and ever-increasing oil dependence will cause a continuing cycle of worsening recessions and depressions, this book projects a bleak future. As transportation and environmental costs increase due to high oil prices and carbon regulation, Rubin argues, international trade will dry up and the age of globalization will end. The resulting fallout will force governments and businesses to create and support localized economies, and eschew international trade and transport. In the tradition of writers like George Monbiot and Sir Nicholas Stern, Rubin presents some difficult truths that readers may find intimidating. Dense with statistics pointing to the inevitable collapse of the world as we know it, this book may not be an encouraging read. Unlike Monbiot and Stern, who put forth a plan to slow the collapse, Rubin’s focus remains squarely on preparing readers for the kind of world that is coming, rather than trying to slow that inevitable outcome. In a world where consumption in developed countries shows little sign of slowing and oil usage is skyrocketing, we need someone with Rubin’s background to predict what the likely results will be. Rubin’s perspective clearly falls more into the realm of futurism than economics, but because he excels at taking complex economic data and applying them to the everyday lives of his readers, this book functions successfully as both explanation and warning. Rubin is sure to incite controversy with some of the central ideas in this book, but given that the world he envisions seems increasingly likely to materialize, Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller could turn out to be the exactly the book that readers are looking for, or that they need.


"The book is a great read, and one that should be required for anyone with a long-term interest in Canadian energy, transportation, manufacturing or agriculture."
— The Globe and Mail

"Jeff Rubin is not your typical eggheaded senior economist.... And the controversy that has dogged his work is about to hit the boiling point.... So get set. If Jeff Rubin says something is coming, you better listen. Love him or hate him."
— Canadian Business

"Should be mandatory reading for all corporate executives."
National Post

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
92 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now, this is what a wake up call looks like! May 22 2009
As a student of international political economy and a retired journalist who knows how diligently those who benefit from consumption driven economic growth have tried to prevent "peak oil" from going mainstream, I cannot imagine a better introduction for the masses.

After a 20 year stint as chief economist for CIBC World Markets, Rubin is a figure in a position to know. The book is a searing indictment of the flat-earth stupidity that marks today's disciples of popular economic theory. He exposes a painfully obvious oversight: Conventional economic "wisdom", blinded by the dogmatic adherence to supply and demand thinking has overlooked one thing - MORE SUPPLY CAN'T COME ON LINE IN RESPONSE TO INCREASED DEMAND IF NATURE IS LIMITING THE SUPPLY.

Theory falls when facts kick you in the teeth. We have been listening to economists when we should have been listening to petroleum geologists.

With credit to Kunstler, Heinberg and other leaders who paved the way for him, Rubin is someone the suits will take seriously, if for no other reason than he was one of them. There is a lot of shame to go around among our academic, corporate and political leaders. Whether they are malicious, myopic or in denial, this book is going to make holding their noses high at cocktail parties a much sweatier and nerve-racking affair.

In a tight, conversational style with substantial cheek, Rubin embarrasses a civilization with this book and begs them to explore rationality and begin preparing for a harsh dose of reality. The cheap energy binge party is over - we'd better get set for the hangover.

Thanks Mr. Rubin
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Back to a future of calluses again? May 25 2011
The book's central theme is that oil is at the very foundation upon which the world economy prospers or falls. Take oil - that is cheap oil - out of the equation, and the world we know ceases to exist.

The author makes compelling arguments why the supply & demand curves do not apply where one is confronted with a diminishing resource and convincingly shows that oil really is a diminishing resource. As if that were not in itself disquieting enough, he goes on to discuss the added demand pressures from newly developing giants such as India and China as well as the `cannibalization' of significant supplies by OPEC countries through excessive internal subsidies. Jeff Rubin also demonstrates that the West, despite all its efforts in becoming more energy efficient, is actually using more oil than ever before through the rebound effect. Ethanol perhaps, or wind turbines to get us off the oil fix? The author's economic scalpel dissects and finally discards them both for good reasons.

The reader is always led back to oil, and by the time you get that far, it sounds compelling that oil is at the root of everything, from recessions to economic bubbles. Whether it is inflation or deflation, financial derivatives, Wall Street greed or lax bankers and regulators - all is attributable to oil according to Jeff Rubin. I am no economist, but that is where I think the book looses its way and the oil-theme begins to take precedence over every other economic complexity to drive home the point. Yet, almost as a footnote, the author also contradicts his theme on several occasions, not the least by conceding that inflation in the postwar years (Korean War) and later in the aftermath of the Vietnam War was primarily caused by racking up massive deficits from financing these conflicts.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrifying, Thrilling and Sobering July 9 2009
By J. Tobin Garrett TOP 1000 REVIEWER
I had high expectations for this book, and was not disappointed. Not only is Jeff Rubin an entertaining writer who knows what he is talking about, but he's also not afraid to take risks and go against some mainstream thoughts surrounding peak oil, energy efficiency, free trade, pricing carbon, spending money on failing auto industries and road infrastructure, and biofuels.

It may not be the most uplifting book, but its importance is paramount. Rubin first examines the global oil scarcity issue, and the economics of scarce oil and ever increasingly difficult and energy intensive oil production, and then he goes into issue surrounding environmental effects of oil, global trade effects, and transportation effects (which is, of course, tied with trade).

It's a frightening read at parts, but thrilling as well. Rubin has some great ideas surrounding the implementation of a carbon tariff on imported items in order to level the playing field for home companies that are dealing with carbon taxes (in B.C.) and a soon to be carbon cap and trade policy. This would give the comparative advantage back to home companies as the carbon tariff on what was once cheap imported items would increase the price on those imports if they were made using cheap, but dirty energy. Couple that with high transportation costs, and home manufacturing will look a lot more likely. Not to mention better for the environment.

The "Going Local" chapter is Rubin's speculation about the effects peak oil will have on our lifestyles here in the developed nations, looking at our food, coffee, electronics and a host of other items which are assembled globally.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read
This book looks at the world economics after Peak Oil with down-to-earth research. Better than most on this topic. Read more
Published 10 months ago by toscane
1.0 out of 5 stars What a load of garbage
I know, the sky is falling, the sky is falling. As I write this, three, count 'em, three years after this book was published, oil is languishing at $80 a barrel, and will probably... Read more
Published on June 21 2012 by Pepi
5.0 out of 5 stars A serious eye-opener
I have always suspected that sustained growth in an oil-based economy was a crazy idea. This book is of the first I have read where an economist with a compelling tale and a real... Read more
Published on June 20 2012 by RotmanStudent
1.0 out of 5 stars rubin
The author's message is that the world is running out of oil. He repeats this message in dozens of different ways and it becomes very boring.
Published on Jan. 21 2011 by iceman
3.0 out of 5 stars Borrow It and Bring a Neo-Con Closer to Home
Jeff Rubin knows his stuff. As an economist for CIBC world markets for many years, he creates a vision for our future that is based on an extraordinary amount of detail. Read more
Published on Dec 20 2010 by Oothoon13
5.0 out of 5 stars To better understand you world, and economics
As a stock market investor, I wanted to learn more about the most traded commodity. The bonus was that I is that I also got to better understand how our entire world... Read more
Published on Nov. 16 2010 by Fred
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong Argument for Peak Oil
Jeff writes a very strong argument for peak oil. The book was interesting throughout but tailed off a bit in the last quarter of the book, where some of the examples seemed a... Read more
Published on July 16 2010 by G. Hansen
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting and provocative
I found the book easy to read and the predictions soberingly realistic. The problem that I find is that the statistics on the actual available petroleum supplies--is difficult to... Read more
Published on June 9 2010 by T. Bui
4.0 out of 5 stars Why your world is about to get smaller
Easy to read, gives a very interesting and plaisable point of view on the whole oil vs. world economy situation and presents this in an easy to understand format. Read more
Published on June 3 2010 by G. Carson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
For any person who reads for knowledge, this book is superb. Jeff Rubin's credentials are impeccable and he draws on the research of several of his fellow workers at CIBC World... Read more
Published on May 20 2010 by D. Hansford
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