Posted by: energyblogwalter | January 30, 2006

book review: The Empty Tank by Jeremy Leggett


I had finished this book last month and I was impressed by the author’s depth of technical and scientific understanding. Technical but not dry, you can tell he was a teacher. Leggett was a geologist and also trained oil people to become Oil People. He knows the profession, the companies, and the parts of the world where the oil industry works and lives. Here he provides a window into this world and is teaching us about what makes this industry tick and its challenges at the end of oil.

He’s now an active Greenpease environmentalist. The subtitle for the book is Oil, Gas, Hot air, and the Coming Global Financial Catastrophe. Yes it’s a thriller, and we’re all invited! That the end of oil wll eventually happen is not really news to anyone especially in the oil industry. However since new supply hasn’t arrived, and it’s in the interests of many powerful businesses and lobbies to keep people dependent on oil, its untimely demise in either in my lifetime or in the next couple of years, will suck the life out of the world economy as nothing else before, and so goes on being ignored. What wonderful bad planning.
To summerize, his analysis gives a compelling timeline for 2007 or this decade that due to the political pressures put on companies, insurance and governments, the oil at peak is going to slam us pretty hard, and we better wake up and smell the solar panels.

Sobering analysis and enough technical information to split the rhetoric from the practical, I’d recommend this book for a higher understanding of our shared fate. As for the timeline, we’ll have to wait and see.

My only quibble, and hence the four star rating not five, would be the last chapter. Although the conclusions drawn are backed up by ample evidence and analysis, this was already the case made prior and the final chapter was largely unnecessary. This I found to be a bit of a rant and may detract some readers who by the end of the book would by then be supporting the author’s positions. However, based upon his obvious credentials and passion for his industry over his working lifetime, I suspect a lot of it is a release of frustration on the denial of movement toward a non-oil based economy. I can forgive that and since it doesn’t detract from the core points in the book itself, my four star rating remains.


  1. The AC of Tomorrow? Tapping Deep Water for Cooling

    Jeremy comments on thermal cooling for housing. In case anyone is interested, here’s a version on a massive scale in Toronto. If I had a house though, I’d probably try to put a tube below ground surrounding the house foundation providing a similar benefit. This has been done too. Usually in new housing developments, but on it’s own it would probably be too expensive.

    Smaller versions may be more vertical in practise to get the cooling benefit of soil.

    For more information the company is Enwave.

  2. As a Canadian, we’re always told about the Tar Sands will protect us etc. It was interesting to note the energy requirements of natural gas (which is also being depleated) to produce oil from tar sands and for me that called into question the notion of wasting energy to make energy.

    The tar sands oil will not be there in time and in the scale required for Canada. Local sources of power generation are looking far more economical.

  3. […] Next time your government talks about adding nuclear, or a gas power station in your city, see if they can answer to geothermal. This is all similar to another post regarding using the lake for air conditioning. All a whole lot cheaper and a faster return on your taxes too, regardless of scale. […]

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