- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: New Society Publishers; 2nd edition (June 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0865715297
- ISBN-13: 978-0865715295
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
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- #192 in Books > Engineering & Transportation > Engineering > Energy Production & Extraction > Fossil Fuels
- #571 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Public Affairs & Policy > Environmental Policy
- #1025 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Public Affairs & Policy > Economic Policy
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The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies Paperback – June 1, 2005
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The world is about to run out of cheap oil and change dramatically. Within the next few years, global production will peak. Thereafter, even if industrial societies begin to switch to alternative energy sources, they will have less net energy each year to do all the work essential to the survival of complex societies. We are entering a new era, as different from the industrial era as the latter was from medieval times.
In The Party's Over, Richard Heinberg places this momentous transition in historical context, showing how industrialism arose from the harnessing of fossil fuels, how competition to control access to oil shaped the geopolitics of the 20th century, and how contention for dwindling energy resources in the 21st century will lead to resource wars in the Middle East, Central Asia, and South America. He describes the likely impacts of oil depletion, and all of the energy alternatives. Predicting chaos unless the U.S.-the world's foremost oil consumer-is willing to join with other countries to implement a global program of resource conservation and sharing, he also recommends a "managed collapse" that might make way for a slower-paced, low-energy, sustainable society in the future.
More readable than other accounts of this issue, with fuller discussion of the context, social implications, and recommendations for personal, community, national, and global action, Heinberg's updated book is a riveting wake-up call for humankind as the oil era winds down, and a critical tool for understanding and influencing current U.S. foreign policy.
Listen to an interview with Richard Heinberg from WRPI.(2004-11-30)
About the Author
Richard Heinberg is widely acknowledged as one of the world's foremost Peak Oil educators. A journalist, educator, editor, lecturer, and a Core Faculty member of New College of California where he teaches a program on "Culture, Ecology and Sustainable Community, he is the author of six previous books including The Party's Over and Powerdown.
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Top Customer Reviews
It would be easy to dismiss this apocalyptic vision as alarmist nonsense if only the "Peak Oil" proponents weren't so bloody convincing. By and large, they are a sensible, reasonable-sounding group of Cassandras, who dispense their grim forecasts as soberly as the subject allows. Virtually all of them rely upon the pioneering work M. King Hubbert, a research geophysicist who, in the mid-1950s, created a model to estimate the productive life of energy reserves. In 1956 Hubbert used his model to predict that oil production in the continental United States would peak sometime between 1966 and 1972. U.S. oil production did , in fact, peak in 1970 (and has declined by 50 percent since), and Hubbert and his forecasting model, dubbed "Hubbert's Peak," passed into the arcane lore of petroleum geologists. Other petroleum scientists have refined Hubbert's model and have applied it to global petroleum reserves. Although results differ depending upon the variables used by different researchers, the consensus is that the "Hubbert Peak" of worldwide oil reserves will occur sometime between 2004 and 2007. In other words, as I sit at my keyboard writing this review the high noon of petroleum-based industrial civilization may have come and gone, and the whole human enterprise may be inexorably descending into twilight and darkness. Sic transit gloria mundi - with a bullet.
If the Cassandras are right, and the end of the world is imminent, it has received remarkably little coverage in the conventional media, although the internet hosts many excellent websites that the curious or concerned citizen may consult to learn as much as he or she would like about the post-petroleum world to come. Recently this state of affairs has started to change, and several good books have been published on "Peak Oil" and its consequences. First among these, is Richard Heinberg's "The Party's Over," a sober, detailed contribution to the literature, which clearly and fluently describes the fossil fuel bender the industrial world has been on for the past 100 years, and what we can expect to follow from it. Although Heinberg does his best not to induce white-knuckled panic in his reader, the picture that emerges from his book is absolutely frightening, particularly the notion that, at this late date, we can do nothing to prevent the catastrophe from occurring. At best - that is, if the entire human race sets aside all its disputes and immediately mobilizes its combined efforts to solve this one problem - the scale of the catastrophe might be reduced. At worst, in 50 to 100 years time, the greatest disaster in human history will have taken place, and the relatively few survivors of this disaster will dwell in a stateless, Hobbesian world that will make present-day Liberia look like Shangri-La.
Or so the argument runs. Perhaps Heinberg and the other "Peak Oil" prophets are wrong. Perhaps Hubbert's model is defective and world oil production will not peak tomorrow, or next week, or next year. Perhaps the USGS's estimate of world oil reserves is correct and the peak of production will not occur until 2020. Perhaps a previously overlooked, gigantic new field, the equivalent of three or four Saudi Arabias, will be discovered and delay the peak until the early years of the 22nd century. Perhaps. But the point is, Heinberg et al. will inevitably be right someday. Someday, worldwide production of cheap, high-grade crude oil will peak, and the longer that peak is delayed, the more horrific the following decline will be, unless the nations of the world take immediate action to prevent the disaster. This preventive action will entail much more than just developing an adequate replacement for cheap petroleum; although, as Heinberg makes clear, no alternative currently on the drawing board appears to be sufficient. Rather, if we are to avoid the catastrophic consequences of "Peak Oil" we will have to drastically rearrange our affairs - politically, economically, socially. Or, to be blunt, capitalism, certainly as it is currently practiced, will simply have to go. Unfortunately, it is difficult to conceive of a socio-economic system less capable of dealing with the coming crisis than neo-liberal capitalism. But there it is.
Of course, if Heinberg and the other proponents of Peak Oil are right, time has already run out for Petroleum Man, and there is little that can be done to avert doomsday. We shall see. This morning (March 5, 2004) the front page of USA Today warns that record gasoline prices will continue to rise, and there is a likelihood of gas shortages this summer. The "Nation's Newspaper" also reports that the loss of 2.1 million jobs in the USA during the last three years appears to be permanent. Both of these developments fit neatly into the predictions of "Peak Oil." One thing is certain: we live in interesting times. Anyone who wants to learn just how interesting these times are is well advised to read and ponder "The Party's Over." We've been warned. Will we act?
As Richard Heinberg emphasizes continually in this book, the decline in world oil production seems imminent, along with the ensuing decline in national industrial economies which rely on oil, the United States being by far the biggest example. Per capita energy use by Americans is five times the world average, Heinberg writes, and he makes it abundantly clear that this waste and extravagance cannot continue much longer, and no number of Iraqi type excursions will make a difference. Heinberg writes that this decline of energy availability and use can be achieved peacefully with individual countries cooperating with each other, or violently with nations squabbling over the remaining oil. However, one thing stands out very clearly now, back in the 1970's during the initial problems with energy shortages due to the Arab oil embargo, it should have been a wake-up call to our leaders to develop sustainable energy sources then, it was not done, our short-sighted leaders failed us. But as Heinberg says, corporate leaders are also at fault, with their massive self-interest at risk, they could make less money if the country shifted more to alternate energy sources, and their lobby is very strong on Capital Hill in Washinton, D.C.. If that alternate energy program was began on a massive scale in the 1970's we would probably be in much better shape now, in terms of our energy future, but as Heinberg states in this book, at this late stage our options are limited. The massive industrial military machine the United States has is given attention here also, as Heinberg writes, this massive allocation of resources can and should be directed to more pressing concerns, the citizens of the United States do not need a military budget that equals the rest of the world combined (we are'nt going to fight the Soviets, that is now clear).
This volume also covers alternate energy sources today, and what they can do to help us in the future, again, as Heinberg says, we have began with too little and too late to prevent a collapse of our industrial way of life. How large of a collapse will it be? No one is certain. Heinberg also touches on the subject of overpopulation and immigration. Did you know that approximately 90% of the population growth in the United States over the next 50 years will be due to immigration? This is an area that has been neglected, and as Heinberg says, it is politically sensitive and politicians rarely stick their necks out in areas such as this. Also, in terms of overpopulation, have we, due to the use of oil in creating a large world food supply, exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet? This is another area Heinberg writes much about.
Heinberg envisions, after the world oil supply peaks and begins it's inevitable decline, a slower paced, more idyllic lifestyle, and as he says, probably a more agreeable one, at that, to most people.