Priming the Pump for $20/Gal. Gas: Interview with Chris Steiner

Jul. 10, 2009 4:04 PM ETWalmart Inc. (WMT)80 Comments
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By Lara Crigger

As you're filling up your tank this weekend, it'll be hard not to think about the cost. Back when gas was $4/gallon, many of us made seemingly radical changes to our lifestyle, cutting back how much we went out to eat, riding the subway more, even moving closer to work.

But $4 gas was only the tip of the iceberg, says Chris Steiner, author of the new book "$20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better" (Hachette Book Group, June 2009). According to Steiner, a staff writer at Forbes magazine, gas prices could top $20 per gallon soon - dramatically changing every aspect of life as we know it.

Recently, HAI's associate editor Lara Crigger sat down with Steiner to discuss why the Chinese will drive up gas prices, what's behind the death (and rebirth) of globalization, and why Wal-Mart is doomed to extinction.

Lara Crigger, associate editor, (Crigger): So tell us a little about "$20 Per Gallon."

Chris Steiner, author, "$20 Per Gallon" (Steiner): Simply put, the book is a thought experiment on what life would be like at higher gas prices. The chapters of the book are arranged by increasingly higher prices - Chapter $4, Chapter $6 and so on, up to Chapter $20 - and they address changes that happen at each level. Some changes happen gradually; it's not like you hit $12/gallon and boom, the suburbs disappear. But I pick critical inflection points for each event and describe what the future would be like as the price of oil marches up.

Crigger: In your book, you pinpoint the rising middle class in emerging markets, like China and India, as a key factor in higher gas prices (something Hal Sirkin also said

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