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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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The other surprizing fact is that the turning point is long before you run out of oil. Heinberg shows data that indicates that half of the oil is still left in the ground when the returns start to diminish. And it appears that that we are within a few years of reaching that point.
So we've used up about half the "available" ( i.e. feasible to extract from an energy perspective ) oil. Now oil production starts to decrease. What happens next is anyone's guess, but Heinburg presents some detailed discussions on the possiblities. Don't assume that a coal, nuclear, or "hydrogen" economy are going to be as easy and profitable as the petroleum economy we are leaving behind.
I've read lots of books about energy and the environment, and this is definitely one of the best.
This book provides both a solid history of how we got to where we are and why we continually dismiss the known future consequences of not providing for energy conservation and alternative energy; and it also provides a very finely presented review of what the author calls the "banquet of consequences" across transporation, food and agriculture, heating and cooling, the environment, public health, information storage and transmission, and the over-all geopolitics of oil.
Had we all read this book, The Long Emergency, and Crossing the Rubicon prior to Dick Cheney's taking us to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, we would have realized that invading and occupying those two countries is about the oil catastrophe and Wall Street's need for drug money to provide liquidity (a point made in Rubicon, not in this book).
Cheap Oil has been the Fool's Gold of this era. Unhappily, the fools (We the People) have ended up with our pocket's picked, and Wall Street and a few very large immoral organizations have ended up with the Gold.
The party is indeed over. The only question that remains is: can we repossess the Commonwealth from those that have stolen it using profits from cheap oil?
Another, highly recommended book is "The Energy of Slaves" by Andrew Nikiforuk, who shows with frightening clarity how cheap energy has corrupted us.