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In an urgent follow-up to his best-selling Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller, Jeff Rubin argues that the end of cheap oil means the end of growth. What it will be like to live in a world where growth is over? Economist and resource analyst Jeff Rubin is certain that the world's governments are getting it wrong. Instead of moving us toward economic recovery, In an urgent follow-up to his best-selling Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller, Jeff Rubin argues that the end of cheap oil means the end of growth. What it will be like to live in a world where growth is over? Economist and resource analyst Jeff Rubin is certain that the world's governments are getting it wrong. Instead of moving us toward economic recovery, the measures being taken around the globe right now are digging us into a deeper hole. Both politicians and economists are missing the fact that the real engine of economic growth has always been cheap, abundant fuel and resources. But that era is over. The end of cheap oil, Rubin argues, signals the end of growth--and the end of easy answers to renewing prosperity. With China and India sucking up the lion's share of the world's ever more limited resources, the rest of us will have to make do with less. But is this all bad? Rubin points out that there is no research to show that people living in countries with hard-charging economies are happier, and plenty of research to show that some of the most contented people on the planet live in places with no growth or slow growth. But bad or good, it's the new reality, and Rubin reveals how our day-to-day lives will be drastically changed.


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In an urgent follow-up to his best-selling Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller, Jeff Rubin argues that the end of cheap oil means the end of growth. What it will be like to live in a world where growth is over? Economist and resource analyst Jeff Rubin is certain that the world's governments are getting it wrong. Instead of moving us toward economic recovery, In an urgent follow-up to his best-selling Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller, Jeff Rubin argues that the end of cheap oil means the end of growth. What it will be like to live in a world where growth is over? Economist and resource analyst Jeff Rubin is certain that the world's governments are getting it wrong. Instead of moving us toward economic recovery, the measures being taken around the globe right now are digging us into a deeper hole. Both politicians and economists are missing the fact that the real engine of economic growth has always been cheap, abundant fuel and resources. But that era is over. The end of cheap oil, Rubin argues, signals the end of growth--and the end of easy answers to renewing prosperity. With China and India sucking up the lion's share of the world's ever more limited resources, the rest of us will have to make do with less. But is this all bad? Rubin points out that there is no research to show that people living in countries with hard-charging economies are happier, and plenty of research to show that some of the most contented people on the planet live in places with no growth or slow growth. But bad or good, it's the new reality, and Rubin reveals how our day-to-day lives will be drastically changed.

30 review for The Big Flatline: Oil and the No-Growth Economy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Roland Bruno

    I've read more books than most on the topic of oil and economics. This is a brilliant analysis on the current state of affairs in the world economy and how oil impacts life as we know it. If you ever wanted a crystal ball to see the future, read this book because it's as close as you're going to get. Followers of Kunstler will love this book too. I've read more books than most on the topic of oil and economics. This is a brilliant analysis on the current state of affairs in the world economy and how oil impacts life as we know it. If you ever wanted a crystal ball to see the future, read this book because it's as close as you're going to get. Followers of Kunstler will love this book too.

  2. 4 out of 5

    James

    "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine." "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Richard Reese

    Jeff Rubin is the former chief economist at a major Canadian investment bank. His book, The Big Flatline, gives readers an opportunity to see Peak Cheap Energy through the eyes of someone from the executive suites. He spent 20 years flying around the world, hanging out with the rich and powerful, and this was a mind-altering experience. In the process, he lost the rose-colored glasses that are mandatory in his field, and this cost him his job. Rubin’s overview of the current geopolitical state of Jeff Rubin is the former chief economist at a major Canadian investment bank. His book, The Big Flatline, gives readers an opportunity to see Peak Cheap Energy through the eyes of someone from the executive suites. He spent 20 years flying around the world, hanging out with the rich and powerful, and this was a mind-altering experience. In the process, he lost the rose-colored glasses that are mandatory in his field, and this cost him his job. Rubin’s overview of the current geopolitical state of affairs is fascinating. Energy costs far more than it did a decade ago. Oil was $30 a barrel in 2004, and $147 in 2008 (crash!). Since energy is the driving force behind the global economy, this sharp increase is a game changer. When energy is cheap, we can grow like crazy, but triple-digit oil prices slam down on the brake pedal. High energy prices are not a passing storm, they’re here to stay. Perpetual growth is never a free lunch. The inevitable approach of genuine scarcity guarantees rising prices. In the world of geology, resources are the amount of oil in the ground, and reserves are the amount of oil that can economically be extracted. For example, the Canadian tar sands contain 1.6 trillion barrels of oil resources, but only 170 billion barrels of reserves (11 percent of total). As an economist, Rubin focuses on the price trends in energy, but the energy industry is paying close attention to EROEI (energy returned on energy invested). In the good old days of high-profit gushers, it was common to invest one calorie of energy to produce 100 calories of oil (100:1). By 2010, typical EROEI was about 17:1, and some are predicting 5:1 by 2020. Rising prices enable the extraction of difficult and expensive non-conventional energy. At some point, declining EROEI makes extraction pointless, regardless of market prices. Consequently, most of the oil in Canadian tar sands will be left where it is. (The EROEI of tar sands now in production is about 3:1, and 5:1 for shale deposits) The world of coal is a similar story. Coal resources are enormous, but coal reserves are far less than proclaimed by industry cheerleaders. Anthracite is premium coal, and its production peaked in 1950. Grade B bituminous coal peaked in 1990. There is abundant grade C coal, lignite, which contains only a fifth of the energy in anthracite, and is especially filthy to burn. Since grade C coal is so low in energy, it cannot be shipped long distances profitably. The coal industry is also constrained by EROEI, and much of this resource will be left in the ground forever. As we zoom toward a static no-growth economy, it would be intelligent to prepare for it, to make the transition less turbulent. We aren’t. The end of growth is intolerable, inconceivable, and unacceptable. There is only one path forward, by any means necessary — a beautiful recovery followed by an eternity of perpetual growth and heavenly prosperity. Rubin gives us a dope slap. Recovery is impossible. The era of wasteful excess is behind us. Turn your brain to the ON position, pay attention, and prepare for a new reality. Following the 2008 crash, governments borrowed vast sums of money bailing out pathologically reckless banks. The trendy deregulation movement of the ’80s and ’90s dismantled prudent time-proven rules that prohibited bankers from behaving like spoiled two-year olds with other people’s money. Bailouts created enormous strains for many nations. As a consequence, “central banks are running printing presses almost nonstop to kickstart economic growth.” As the value of the dollar declines, we’ll pay even more for energy, and dig a grave for growth. Flooding the economy with new money will do nothing to encourage recovery, because it does not address the core problem, energy scarcity. But it is creating catastrophic levels of debt that are guaranteed to inflate the misery down the road (beyond the next election cycle, hopefully). Greece has a dim future, and Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Italy are not far behind. Debt-crippled economies will be helpless sitting ducks when the next recession strikes. In the first half of the book, Rubin describes the global mess, as he understands it, and he does a great job. It’s important information, and it’s coming from a lad close to the inner circle of the banking industry, not wild-eyed radical extremists from the Sierra Club, or crazy doomsters like Richard Heinberg. It’s a triple-shot of full-strength reality, and it brings many issues into sharp focus. In the second half, he makes a heroic effort to recommend strategies for responding to the mess. His goal is a fairly smooth transition to a static economy, which he presents as a realistic possibility. For readers who have not been making a serious effort to understand the complex challenges of the Earth Crisis, Rubin’s analysis will be soothing. The future isn’t roaring with danger. Everything will be mostly OK, sort of. The magic of the marketplace will rescue us by continually raising the prices on our bad habits, forcing us to live slower and lighter. If governments raise taxes on energy, we’ll use less. We don’t need more regulations on corporations. If governments do nothing, we’ll still use less, because of ever-growing energy costs. Mature people should be mindful of climate change, because it is not a trivial problem, but our fear of climate disaster exceeds the actual threat. The gloomy IPCC warnings are based on silly energy resource projections — in a hundred years, we will not be consuming more energy than today. We’ll be forced to quit our addiction to hydrocarbon fuels before emissions have time to cause catastrophic problems. Manufacturing jobs will come back home, as rising energy prices drive up the cost of moving products across long distances. The benefits of cheap Asian labor will be lost to rising shipping costs. Transportation costs will also encourage the recovery of localized economies. The food we eat will travel far fewer miles. Local farm labor needs will provide exciting new careers for folks abandoned by obsolete industries (i.e., investing, insurance, real estate, etc.). Trained as an economist, Rubin has an outlook focused on cost trends in the here and now. He doesn’t slam nuclear energy, because it produces respectable output numbers every day. It doesn’t matter that we have yet to figure out a safe and permanent way of disposing the waste, which can remain extremely toxic for many thousands of years. It doesn’t matter that deactivating reactors can cost as much as building them, because the bill is sent to taxpayers and unborn generations, not today’s stockholders. Critical thinkers who are well informed about the complex challenges of the Earth Crisis are not likely to be soothed by Rubin’s vision of the future, but his discussion of the present is excellent. This should not be the only book you ever read. Rubin concludes with wise advice: “As the boundaries of a finite world continue to close in on us, our challenge is to learn that making do with less is better than always wanting more.”

  4. 4 out of 5

    Keith Akers

    Jeff Rubin argues that the economy is not going to grow and that we need to get used to this idea. It seems to me that Rubin really understands the relationship between peak oil and the economy -- the latter is dependent, ultimately, on the former. This is a good book because Rubin can bring economic discussion back down to earth. You need cheap energy to make stuff; if all you have is expensive energy, you are going to wind up with a bunch of expensive stuff, and people aren't going to buy as m Jeff Rubin argues that the economy is not going to grow and that we need to get used to this idea. It seems to me that Rubin really understands the relationship between peak oil and the economy -- the latter is dependent, ultimately, on the former. This is a good book because Rubin can bring economic discussion back down to earth. You need cheap energy to make stuff; if all you have is expensive energy, you are going to wind up with a bunch of expensive stuff, and people aren't going to buy as much of it. I like the book because it is surprisingly upbeat and because he has unconventional takes on some contemporary energy issues. He is full of "practical applications" for his insights, citing the Arab revolt, the Danish experiment in wind energy, and the Keystone pipeline controversy. I'm not sure I agree with him on all these points -- but it is refreshing to see that we're not all marching in lockstep behind a single "peak oil" point of view, so I'm happy to encourage him to keep writing. Among his unconventional insights (not all of which I agree with) are the following. Rubin correctly understands that the Arab revolt is really about food; food riots initiated the Arab revolt. On the Keystone pipeline, he asks whether if the protestors are successful and shut down construction through the U. S., whether this will simply mean that Canada will build another pipeline to the Pacific ocean and ship all that tar sands oil to China. In Denmark, he says that the real Danish innovation is not so much wind energy (almost all of the rest of their energy comes from coal), but their reduction of total energy use. He questions whether we should try to "save" the economy at all: with luck, the tanking of the economy could save the planet from global climate catastrophe. In an interesting sideline not directly about the economy, he questions the whole "catch and release" approach to fishing, saying that it probably kills more fish that just catching and killing a limited quota. His previous book,Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization, talked about the end of globalization due to the decline in oil; now he's talking about the economy as a whole. The current book is better. In his previous book, he emphasized the end of globalization; now he makes it clear that this means that local economies won't be growing, either. It's not just a "transportation" issue. Therefore, I recommend this book to one and all. It's a good introduction to the peak oil problem for people who are coming to it for the first time, because he understands the real-world implications. But for those who are familiar with the peak oil literature, he offers some interesting and rather different ways of looking at and understanding contemporary economic issues.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hava

    I spotted this book on a library display and immediately checked it out. I have read quite a few books and various articles on peak oil, and am a committed locavore whenever possible. This is a subject that many people choose to ignore because the facts are not pleasant; among those people choosing to ignore reality being virtually the entire political world. This book tackles that large problem, along with many other topics relating to peak oil, and does so in such a readable and interesting way I spotted this book on a library display and immediately checked it out. I have read quite a few books and various articles on peak oil, and am a committed locavore whenever possible. This is a subject that many people choose to ignore because the facts are not pleasant; among those people choosing to ignore reality being virtually the entire political world. This book tackles that large problem, along with many other topics relating to peak oil, and does so in such a readable and interesting way, it's like you're having a conversation with the author. Like I said, I've read several books on peak oil, and this is BY FAR AND AWAY the easiest for the layperson to read. I finished it in one day because I just couldn't put it down. That's not normally the case for books on peak oil. This is the perfect book for people who want an easy-to-read and easy-to-understand introduction to the peak oil idea. He takes some assumptions that are gospel in some circles, and turns them on their head. If you have very strong opinions on the topic and are not open to reconsidering any of them, then this is not the book for you. Actually, I think this is JUST the book for you, because I feel it's important to be open to new ideas and possibilities, but you may not agree with me. ;-) My only critique of the book is that I thought there would be more hands-on info on how to thrive in a no-growth world. What professions are best to be in? What are some good long-term goals people should put into place in order to adjust to this brave new world we're about to enter? The author touches only very lightly on the topic, and for that reason, I'd knock a half star off if Goodreads let me, but alas, it does not. As it is, the book was otherwise so superb, I decided to go ahead with a five-star rating. He has written another book called "Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller" - I look forward to reading that next.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Randall Wallace

    Great topic. This book is a bit dry for two reasons. 1. The subject matter is going to make it dry. 2. The author isn't THAT exciting so don't expect to be riveted. What will you learn? 1. Denmark and most other greenish countries largely use dirty coal. 2. the importance of Barotrauma 3. that the permanent end of growth is at hand and why 4. the year coal peaked in the US 5. End of growth will mean a dramatic lowering of emissions and will slow climate change and make the air more breathable fo Great topic. This book is a bit dry for two reasons. 1. The subject matter is going to make it dry. 2. The author isn't THAT exciting so don't expect to be riveted. What will you learn? 1. Denmark and most other greenish countries largely use dirty coal. 2. the importance of Barotrauma 3. that the permanent end of growth is at hand and why 4. the year coal peaked in the US 5. End of growth will mean a dramatic lowering of emissions and will slow climate change and make the air more breathable for all of us than those who don't think about things would think. 6. other stuff. I have to read everything on this topic (of peak oil/end of growth/collapse and curtailment/geopolitical and financial reasons for endless war) and so I continue to do so. I've read over 100 books on this subject and would recommend others first, however I'm glad I read this book because it made my understanding stronger. I'd recommend to readers first Pat Murphy's Plan C, Richard Heinberg's Peak Everything, Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed's A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: and How to Save It or Jerry Mander, the Capitalism Papers.

  7. 4 out of 5

    H Wesselius

    There is a noticeable amount of recycling from his previous book but there's enough new analysis to make reading worthwhile. In addition, he moves beyond economic analysis to addressing social and political. Rubin avoids generalized future prognostication and presents a tightly written analysis. By focusing on our energy needs and its effect on our economy, he avoids saying everything and nothing. Instead we get a substantive and sensible look at a future economy that is both pessimistic and opt There is a noticeable amount of recycling from his previous book but there's enough new analysis to make reading worthwhile. In addition, he moves beyond economic analysis to addressing social and political. Rubin avoids generalized future prognostication and presents a tightly written analysis. By focusing on our energy needs and its effect on our economy, he avoids saying everything and nothing. Instead we get a substantive and sensible look at a future economy that is both pessimistic and optimistic. Pessimistic in that our present consumption can't continue and energy like any other commodity shortage will cause conflict; optimistic in that we will slow down, manufacturing will return and economies will reward local effort or activity.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Griffith

    Same as End of Growth (title in Canada)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    Anyone that wants to to know why the economy is not improving should read this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    William Hettich

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mauricio

  13. 5 out of 5

    Warren Hosseinion

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rick

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sam Geckler

  16. 5 out of 5

    Edwin

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nick Scott

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mary Stanik

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bart

  20. 5 out of 5

    Wei Ning Cho

  21. 5 out of 5

    Giancarlo

  22. 4 out of 5

    Palgrave Macmillan

  23. 4 out of 5

    Pierre-louis Vezina

  24. 4 out of 5

    Arthur

  25. 4 out of 5

    Donna Parker

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sansculo

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dwk833

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sebastian

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