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Book Review of: The Myth of the Oil Crisis

Overcoming the Challenges of Depletion, Geopolitics, and Global Warming


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Review of The Myth of the Oil Crisis, by Robin Mills (Paperback, 2008)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)


Mills is highly qualified and highly credentialed to write this book. And that shows throughout. The reader quickly realizes that the book is authoritative, just from the way Mills presents the material. Unlike many (supposedly) nonfiction writers today, Mills uses facts and logic to credibly analyze an issue, without a single instance of fallacious reasoning anywhere. That alone is remarkable. And it's why his conclusions differ from the ones we hear from the less intellectually endowed and less intellectually honest people who write for what I call the "mudstream media."

Turn to the back of the book, and you find extensive backnotes and an exhaustive bibliography. Skim through the book, and you find charts, graphs, tables, maps, illustrations, and other visuals that further polish the credibility level of this author and this book.

What about Mills' qualifications? Mills is originally from the U.K., where he earned a Master's Degree in Geological Sciences from Cambridge University. Today, he lives in Dubai and is the Petroleum Economics Manager for the Emirates National Oil Company in Dubai. He has degrees in geology and economics, and was previously a geologist for Shell. He speaks English, Arabic, and Farsi, and is a member of the International Association for Energy Economics and Association for Petroleum Negotiators.

So, he's not exactly your armchair oil economist but is instead someone who lives and breathes this stuff. Yet, he writes in an easy to follow narrative that is high on factual content but low on jargon. He does use acronyms, but he provides the full text at the first instance of use and there's a table of acronyms in the front of the book.

One conclusion that Mills isn't qualified to make and that he makes anyhow is that humans are warming up the earth, mainly by spewing carbon dioxide into the air. This theory is plausible if you ignore the fact that earth had much higher temperatures during periods of much lower carbon dioxide and if you can explain why Mars is sharing our north pole warming trend. To buy the doomsday scenario of oceans rising (as described by Al Gore), you also have to rewrite the laws of physics that govern why ice, boats, and other objects float in water (they displace their volume). Put ice cubes in a glass of water, and measure the initial water level and the water level after the ice melts.

So far, none of the Gorons or other global warming "experts" has explained these and other "data conflicts" in a way that doesn't require belief in the Tooth Fairy as well (we also know that Al Gore doesn't believe his own line of malarkey or his personal behavior would be quite different). The waste reduction and efficiency-improvement goals of the Gorons, however, are worth pursuing in their own right for other reasons.

Where Mills writes on what he knows, there does not appear to be a single hole in data or logic. That fact makes this book a "must read" for anyone concerned about what nonsense Congress will saddle us with next. One of the current "stupidity first" plans we are suffering from thanks to Congress is the ethanol subsidy program, which is wreaking havoc with world food supplies under the guise of "reaching energy independence" while doing almost nothing to reduce oil dependency due to the amount of oil needed to grow, transport, and process the grain.

Other stupidity enhancements are in the pipeline, so to speak, because Congress never rests in its job to make a hash of everything. Readers of this book will be well-armed with solid understanding and the facts to back up objections to future stupidity enhancements Congress may want to foist upon us. The book may also help undo some existing nonsense such as Daylight Wasting Time, which causes us to burn lights an extra hour each morning but is justified by Congress as an "energy savings measure."

Another advantage to readers of this book, beyond simply being well-informed for the purposes of fighting back against bad public policy, is the sense of security that comes from knowing the truth while being continually pummeled with alarmist propaganda. Mills identifies problems that do exist, but then shows that first of all they are not as dire as they are made out to be and then shows what solutions are either already coming online or soon will be.

Much of the text is devoted to looking at the amount of oil that is actually available. When referring to the size of existing oil reserves, the alarmists use numbers that are low by orders of magnitude. Mills shows why these numbers are low and provides substantiated and corrected numbers. This correction of conventional disinformation is a common theme throughout the book, just as the title portends.

I noted earlier I disagreed with Mills' views on global warming. We have one other point of disagreement, as well. On page 235, he refers to the New York Times as "respectable." Yet, I have found their articles so biased that it's apparent to me their internal mantra is, "If you can't distort it, don't report it." Maybe Mills was just being polite.

This well-written book consists of an introduction, nine chapters, and then a conclusion. The convention for publishers is to not count the introduction as a chapter. For some reason, that convention is not followed in this book. So, Chapter 1 is the introduction and is titled as such. The book begins with Chapter 2. It ends with Chapter 11, "Conclusion," which is only two pages long. The meat of the book is in the middle nine chapters.

Chapter 2 puts forth the views of various factions, such as geologists, economists, militarists, and environmentalists. Mills' presentation seems fair and balanced. He also addresses another group, which he labels neo-luddites. His presentation of their views is less charitable, but more charitable than they probably deserve. I have heard the neo-luddite arguments elsewhere, and find them to be without merit.

Chapter 3 provides a factual account of the oil industry's bust and boom cycle since 1986, and shows how we got to where we are today.

In Chapter 4, Mills provides an expert analysis of what our conventional oil supply actually is. The material here necessarily gets dense, as though Mills is wanting to leave no wiggle room for counterpoints. And it's important he does that, because the book is about exposing the myth of an oil shortage that is just around the corner and will purportedly usher in social doomsday. This chapter is pretty much the fulcrum of this book, and it's the most heavily backnoted chapter.

Chapter 5 bolsters the previous chapter by providing a country by country account of the world's major oil provinces. This chapter is almost as heavily backnoted as Chapter 4. In Chapter 6, Mills provides an expert analysis of what our unconventional oil supply actually is. He also takes pains to define what this concept means and how it's misused by alarmists. Add conventional to unconvential supplies of oil, and you can see we aren't running out of oil any time soon. Chapter 7 looks at natural gas, and takes on the related topic of a looming gas shortage.

Chapter 8 looks at why oil producers do what they do. It examines the interaction between supply, investment, and geopolitics. One of the subtopics, resource nationalism, is instructive for our times. Chapter 9 looks at energy conservation and other options for reducing oil demand. And it provides hard data showing substantial progress has already occurred in these areas. Chapter 10 is titled, "Green Oil" and it addresses what that title suggests.

If you want to be disinformed about one of the most important subjects of our time, stick with the newspapers and CNN. If you want to know what you're talking about, consider this book essential reading.



About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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