Book Review | When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation

I left off last week's post – "Money Doesn't Grow on Trees, Industrial-Scale Renewable Energy Does" – by mentioning the existence of a rather excellent resource. By that I didn't mean an energy resource, but rather a book – a book that nonetheless gives a rather fine breakdown of our various energy resources and their applicability to a world in the midst of peak oil and declining EROEI levels. That book would be When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation by systems analyst Alice J. Friedemann.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Well done!

Cheers, and thanks for the re-post!

When people talk about sun and wind I think of my life during early 1950s in a small village in South India. Anything that needs to be dried (clothes, paddy, our body) we dried using sun and wind. During early night time we used castor oil lamp (bio-diesel); otherwise sun provided all the light we needed. During hot weather we opened all doors and windows and let the wind do the cooling.

It is true that such a life style is now difficult or impossible (for one thing the population is too large and the earth is warmer). But, at least we should try to move in the direction that lets solar and wind power is something individuals and villages use without outside help.

Anything that needs to be dried (clothes, paddy, our body) we dried using sun and wind.

And food too! I’ve been itching for some time now to put together a solar food dryer. You can see many different kinds if you do an Internet search for “solar food dryer”, although my favorite is definitely the Appalachian Food Dryer.

Like you say, we should definitely be moving in the direction of using the energy that comes free and accessible to us all, no outside resources needed (besides some basic building materials).

p.s. Here’s a good article on the Appalachian Food dryer, which I first saw mentioned in the book The Solar Food Dryer by Eben Fodor:

There is a good reason that some substitute for oil is being sought and that electricity generating renewables are touted as the answer to fossil fuel depletion- without some substitute for fossil fuel, industrial civilization cannot continue. When the trucks stop running, most people, especially in rich countries, would die. Since almost all people are motivated to keep living, any proposed ‘solution’ to fossil fuel depletion will have a great deal of attraction.


we’d be much better off using that fossil energy to convert away from industrial agriculture

we need a plan for emptying cities and establishing small eco-agrarian farms for everyone so they can eke out a living growing their own food using muscle power.

Creating such a plan is not easy. I can just imagine Donald Trump setting an example by turning Mar-A-Lago into a collection of small subsistence farms using the clubhouse as a communal barn. But getting Trump on board would be the easy part. How do we convince everyone to give up everything they are doing now to live in a tent or shack and grub in the dirt in some corner of a played-out ex-industrial farm field?

How do we convince everyone to give up everything they are doing now to live in a tent or shack and grub in the dirt in some corner of a played-out ex-industrial farm field?

That is the hardest part isn’t it? How many people would willingly want to cultivate potatoes rather than be couch potatoes of one sort or another? How many people are willing to voluntarily downsize their material expectations? Doesn’t look like very many, which I suppose means that reading between the lines is a rather crucial skill to have right about now. :wink:

Spot-on. Thanks for posting.

I would just add that when you consider how ridiculously easy it is to store heat as compared to storing electricity it really starts to sink in just how delusional people have become.

Very few people alive today in the wealthy industrialized countries have known anything except the grotesque comfort and convenience of electricity on demand and internal combustion engines powered by liquid fuels on demand.

They would rather swoon for Elon Musk than consider giving up their cherished lifestyle for even one moment.

I had a flash of incite with the bit about money as a proxy for energy. Economists love to use proxies for things they can’t or won’t quantify directly. This is why so much economic analysis is garbage. That and outright fraud and indoctrination. Economists often assume that all of the necessary information is included in the price. They disregard externalized costs. But, the externalized costs are still costs that will come due at some point. In the case of oil it’s contamination and global warming. Then there’s the cost of being left in the lurch when oil is no longer viable as an energy source. If the economist deal only in proxies then those costs are easy to ignore because everyone else is doing it and there is no price penalty. I’ve noticed that economists who do include the externalized costs are soon expelled from the orthodoxy. It seems there’s a version of reality that sells and one that doesn’t.

Good point regarding the relative ease of storing heat. Solar water heaters, passive solar homes, etc. sure do make a whole lot of sense.

And then there’s the whole approach of treating oil (and other energy sources) as if it were nothing but a mere commodity, making it even easier to miss out on the fact that cheap energy underpins our modern-day economies. I missed out on ECON 101, which I figure saved me a bunch more of un-learning.

This all relates to a certain article in The Economist from a few days ago, which I’ll get to next post.

Nice summary of the book and the subject, Allan.

Maybe a bit off topic, but what’s with the price of these books from Springer. Here in Canada, on “When the Trucks Stop Running” lists for $70.79. Even used, it’s $39.79 or more. This for a 113 page book.

I paid over $50 for Nafeez Ahmed’s book, which you also reviewed. Excellent book, but just as pricey.

A good service you are providing by writing such good summaries of these books for those who can’t afford them.

Funny you mention that as just last night I was chatting with a friend of mine about Springer’s book prices. Down here in Australia When Trucks Stop Running is going for $80, while Nafeez Ahmed’s Failing States, Collapsing Systems actually runs between $114 and $140! Books can be pricey down here.

But yeah, Springer titles are generally pricey in the first place. I take it that that’s because Springer is an academic press which, although it puts out a lot of titles, it has such a low readership base on each of those that it has to charge more to recoup its costs. But that’s just my guess. I don’t know if they really expect the average Joe to be purchasing their books, so if a person does like one of their titles perhaps they could request their library to purchase a copy?

I’ll try to get a better answer for you about this and will update this comment once I learn more, and might very well touch on this in my next Springer book review.

Enjoyed…I wrote a column for our local paper a few years ago titled, “When the trucks stop running” telling them when that happens the food shelves will be empty in 3 days, I suppose to try and scare people into pumping up the local food production. And there are people who want to do it except that it is so difficult in the current economy. I notice a lot of the problem comes down to human behavior, which we all know has been conditioned by systems, the social management system comprised of schools, media and various business networks, all in service to the macro-economic system. Within that privately controlled system money is created as debt, once known as usury, which has the greatest influence on human behavior, which is why it was once banned by every religion. It is the centuries old global monetary system that is behind the monocultural agriculture model. I wrote a song a couple years ago, the chorus goes, “I heard money don’t grow on trees, gotta get a new kind of money.” What kind of money? Nations world around need to reclaim their sovereignty, which they have all ceded to the global monetary system, and issue there own money spent into their economies for the general welfare, which as we know is to recreate the viable local economies. We can unplug and run to the hills but for the planet we need to create the political will to change the system to sovereign money issued as a national asset, not debt. Such a change creates what I call the Economics of Care which will have profound positive effects on human behavior.

Perhaps you’re wrong about money created as debt as being such a big problem, but if you are then I’m wrong with you. I’ve written a bunch on that already here on FF2F (and will continue to do so), and from what I can tell it’s not the banks that need to be nationalized but the currency. Might that actually happen? I’m not so sure about that, and I suppose that implies the need for local currencies that aren’t created as debt, doesn’t it?

I’ll look forward to what you can turn up on this subject, Allan.

I ran a printing and sign company for about 20 years, and we got into producing short runs of perfect bound books for people who wanted to self publish. We would have charged $8 to $10 Canadian each to print and bind a run of 100 books the size of Ahmed’s, and recommended that they sell for $20.00. Here in rural Southern Ontario very few if any would have sold for $70 each.

I’ll look more into it for the next post, but just taking a look at the inside cover of their latest book that I’m going to review, I noticed that it’s printed on acid-free paper. As are the others that I’ve read. I imagine that that alone is going to up the price of each book a fair amount. And in comparison to what you could charge via your setup, well, not only does Springer have to cover its costs due to what I imagine are low print runs, but they also have a to pay for all the marketing and salaries and shipping, etc. And the acid-free paper. Nonetheless, I’ll see if I can shed any more light on this when I publish my review of their next.

Acid free paper is one of those things that printers make a big deal of, but in fact I would have been hard pressed to find paper that wasn’t acid free. Only the cheapest mass market paperbacks are printed on paper that isn’t acid free.

All the publishers that are turning out books on the kind of subject we’re interested in are3 suing acid free paper (New Society, Chelsea Green, etc.) When you’re turning out short runs of books (up to a few thousand or so) there no point in scrimping on the paper quality.

So I don’t think the acid free paper is the issue. Marketing, salaries, shipping–all those are no doubt factors. But all the publishers have approximately the same costs and most of them are turning out books priced between $15 and $30.

I wonder if they are giving a bigger share to their authors? But that sounds improbable…

Anyway, sorry if I am going on to much about what is really just a side issue.