In This Review

No Standard Oil: Managing Abundant Petroleum in a Warming World
No Standard Oil: Managing Abundant Petroleum in a Warming World
By Deborah Gordon
Oxford University Press, 2021, 368 pp

Gordon is trained as a chemical engineer but thinks like an economist. She favors the preferred intervention of economists for addressing climate change, namely taxing greenhouse gas emissions. But she stresses that not all fossil fuels generate the same emissions: differences in crude products and refining techniques mean that the emissions produced by otherwise equivalent amounts of oil and gas can vary by a factor of ten. Thus, simply taxing gas at the pump but neglecting emissions along the supply chain may fail to shift the production of fossil fuels toward cleaner sources, unnecessarily raising costs while squandering opportunities to curb climate change. Better emission-related data, reported by companies subject to stronger government oversight, can inform better policy. Gordon emphasizes that there is no silver bullet for the climate crisis. Fossil fuels, like it or not, will still be in use in 2050. But they should be priced more appropriately, in line with their social costs. They should be produced using clean refining techniques and supplemented with clean energy sources developed through collaboration among the public sector, the private sector, and academia.