Peak of the Devil: 100 Questions (and answers) About Peak Oil
By Chip Haynes
Satya House Publications 2010, 223 pages, $14.95
Peak oil is no laughing matter, but we may have reached a point where the only way to introduce newbies to the topic is with some humor thrown in. That’s the approach Chip Haynes takes with Peak of the Devil, 100 Questions (and answers) about Peak Oil.
For the most part it works.
Haynes’s primer on peak oil seems designed for those who have either never heard about peak oil, or have just been introduced to the topic.
The easy to read format, coupled with Haynes’ disarming approach, takes the reader through the basics of peak oil in simple, straightforward language that bypasses the typical foray into technical Hubbertisms that most peak oil books cover in minute detail. Its like peak oil for your mom, the public school front desk secretary. She’s intelligent, curious, cares about the world, but likely isn’t already reading any peak oil books, nor clocking time at the Savinar cafe of doom. What Haynes does for her (or the male newbie counterpart) is break the news gently, one wisecrack at a time.
There’s enough accessible technical information to ground the book in the geological and economic realities from which the oil crisis arises, but the rest is more about what it means for the individual, community, and world across a variety of fronts including food, transportation, safety, work, and what to tell the kids.
And what does it mean?
A decided middle-of-the-roader, Haynes eschews both the “Mutant Zombie Biker” narrative and the “flying cars and robot maids” of George Jetson’s world. Instead, Haynes advances a positive outlook that borders a little close to idealism about a sunny new world where we all bike to nearby jobs, enjoy our neighbor’s company, and grow endlessly producing gardens with a new found appreciation for our own labor.
Not that he doesn’t pepper the book with some hard realities about coming down from the exuberant ride across a century of fossil fuel abundance. It’s just that he softens the blow with a vibe reminiscent of Garrison Keillor. Sometimes Haynes is repetitive, and sometimes his jokes are a little too self conscious, but more than a few are genuinely funny and, I think, right for the target audience.
Haynes anticipates the kind of questioning process the average person goes through when confronted with peak oil, deftly handling the response for an “average” audience. It’s no The Long Emergency or Peak Everything, but it just may be the bridge book that gets the reader to dig even deeper and take action in his or her own life. The book includes a nice resource guide to websites and further reading in the back.
I highly recommend the book for anyone you want to reach on the peak oil issue but who you’ll influence better with an animated velvet glove rather than an intellectual iron fist. It’s also the perfect book for your son’s frat house bathroom or the bathroom of any friend who throws a lot of parties. Put that puppy in there and let each powder room denizen discover peak oil while sitting down. At least that way they wont crap their pants when they read the news.