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Richard Heinberg, The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial

Societies (Gabriola Island, British Columbia: New Society Publishers,


Acknowledgments. “Students at New Catton’s Overshoot (1980) identifies

College.” Jay Hanson ( (vii). human strategies for “expanding the
human carrying capacity of our
Foreword. By C.J. Campbell, founder of environments” (20). Takeover: land,
the Assn. for the Study of Peak Oil fire, parts of total food web through
(ASPO). Oil and politics. Published on horticulture, agricul-ture, animal
eve of war (ix-xii). husbandry, and slavery (20-23). Tool
use: humans as “prosthetic animals”
Introduction. Epigraphs from Jean (Catton); four categories of tools
Baudrillard, M. King Hubbert, and E.F. depending on energy needed for use and
Schumacher (1). “Core message”: manufacture (23-26). Specialization:
“industrial civilization is based on the turning humans themselves into tools
consumption of energy resources that (26-27). Scope enlargement as a way
are inherently limited in quantity, and of overcoming Liebig’s Law (27-28).
that are about to become scarce” (1). Drawdown: use of non-renewable
Aims of book (2). Four sets of attitudes: energy supplies (28-31). Drawdown’s
(a) energy is a market commodity; the dangers and liabilities (31-32). Joseph
market will solve the problem; (b) Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex
hydrocarbons threaten the environment Societies (1988) emphasizes that
(author’s favorite); (c) petroleum “strategies for energy capture are
geologists who say that oil will run out, subject to the law of diminish-ing
and that a crash program is needed; (d) returns” (33). Complexity requires higher
politicians engaging in blame games (3- energy flows; problems are met through
5). Outline of book (6). increased complexity; eventually “the
marginal return on investment in
Ch. 1: Energy, Nature and Society. complexity . . . deteriorates, first
Epigraphs from Ludwig Boltzman, Leslie gradually, then with accelerating force”
White, and Isaac Asimov (9). Energy and (34). “Collapse” may mean withdrawal of
earth; conservation and entropy (10-11). individuals or groups, or takeover by
Systems, isolated and closed (11-12). another society (34). E.g. ancient Rome
Fuels (12). Earth as closed system (12). (35). Discovery and colonialism and
Solar energy: 1,372 watts per sq. meter fossil-fuel discoveries as two “growth
(12-13). Producers (autotrophs) and surges” in “energy subsidies” for the
consumers (heterotrophs), depending on West (36). U.S. history in light of these
source of energy (13). Herbivores; ideas: Europe’s early advantages and
primary, secondary, and tertiary motivations (grains, traction animals,
carnivores; photosynthesis; aerobic population pressures) (37-38). Slavery,
respiration; anaerobic respiration (13-14). colonialism as takeover (38-40). 19th-
Ecology: study of food cycles or webs, century invention, exploration, and
and energy flows (14-15). Liebig’s Law extraction fueled by energy-resource
on population limits (15). Stable and advantages (40). Enforcement of free
unstable systems (16-17). Ecological trade as scope enlargement (41-42).
succession: pioneer, exotic, and
colonizing species; population blooms, Ch. 2: Party Time: The Historic
overshoots, and dieoffs (17-19). History, Interval of Cheap, Abundant Energy.
economics, and politics as Epigraphs from Kenneth Boulding, Bill
“subcategories of ecology” (19). William Richardson, Barbara Ward, and
Chateaubriand (43). Two-century Containment” assigns Iraq’s and Iran’s
“Petroleum Interval” or “Industrial export quotas to “nations of the lower
Bubble” has transformed society as well Gulf” ― citing Stephen C. Pelletière, Iraq
as providing energy (44). In medieval and the International Oil System: Why
Europe, energy sources were wood (heat America Went to War in the Gulf (2001)
& light) and human & animal power (76-77). In 1990s, U.S. policies sought to
(motive power) (45-46). Animals require secure non-OPEC oil sources and backed
food (47). Watermills and windmills (47- energy companies like Enron (77-78).
48). Sailing (48). Iron, requiring charcoal Energy politics further steepened the
(48-49). Europe reaches population “industrial pyramid” (78). Economic
saturation (49-50). Coal as an activity increasingly geared to
alternative to wood (50). Coke, made speculation & mergers (78-79).
from coal as charcoal from wood (50-51). Abandonment of conservation was
Mines lead to development of steam “tragically wrongheaded” (79-80).
engines for pumps (51). Transportation
needs lead to railroads (51-52). Ch. 3: Lights Out: Approaching the
Steamships (52). Gas & chemical Historic Interval’s End. Epigraphs
industry spin off (52). Wage labor (52- from Ernest Partridge, Paul Ehrlich, Mike
53). Trade & military extend around the Bowlin (ARCO CEO), Saudi saying (81).
world (53). U.S. slower to convert to coal Oil in Saudi Arabia key to “real strategic
(53-54). Coal dependence peaks in early objectives” of both U.S. and al-Qaeda
20th century (54). Meanwhile, oil (82-84). Energy prices crucial to
developed to supply lighting market economies (85-86). Mass media ignores
(kerosene) (54-55). John D. Rockefeller’s this fact (86-87). M. King Hubbert (1903-
Standard Oil controls 80% of U.S. oil 1989) and his career (87-88). In 1956,
business by 1880 (55). Other discoveries Hubbert correctly predicted that U.S. oil
& companies: Nobel & Rothschilds in production would peak between 1966 &
Russia (Shell), Royal Dutch in Dutch East 1972 (88-90). His mistaken 1990-2000
Indies break monopoly (56). Gasoline & prediction for global peak has been
natural gas provide new markets (57). refined by successors to a decade later
Electricity as carrier of energy (58). (90). Hubbert on incompatibility
Electrification: Thomas Edison’s DC loses between ecological system based on
to Nikola Tesla’s AC (58-60). Electricity matter & energy, essentially finite, and
transforms work and everyday life (60- the monetary system based on interest
61). Oil, 1900-1949 (62-63). and infinite, and therefore not adapted to
Transformation of agriculture through the former (90-91). “Holistic and
Haber-Bosch ammonia synthesis (1909), interdisciplinary thinker” (92). Colin J.
motorized farming and petrochemical- Campbell, author (with Jean Laharrère) of
based pesticides & herbicides (63-64). 1998 Scientific American article
Transportation: automobile, automotive concluding oil peak before 2010 (92-96).
industry, highways, aviation (64-68). Kenneth S. Deffeyes, 2003-2009 (96).
Warfare: both by and for oil (68-69). L.F. Ivanhoe emphasizes that “the facts,”
Summary of geopolitical events related both geological and political, will
to oil, 1950-1986 (69-74). 1970s thinking determine the shape of the decline
on energy: Jeremy Rifkin, Amory Lovins, curve; peak 2000-2010 (96-97). Walter
Paul & Anne Ehrlich (74-75). 1980s Youngquist (Geodestinies [1997])
dismissals of energy conservation emphasizes declining “net energy” yield
concerns (75). Gulf War as consolidation of extraction (97-99). L.B. Magoon,
of U.S. “control of Middle East”; Iraq poster calling peak oil “The Big Rollover”
embargoes make Iraq “swing producer of (99). Matthew Simmons, investment
last recourse” and policy of “Dual banker (99-100). Roster of other
“Cassandras” (101). Richard Duncan’s energy decline” (168-69). Nearly all
composite list of peaks; global: 2006 money represents debt (170). Extreme
(103-04). Hubbert skeptics or “oil economic and financial dislocations are
cornucopians”: Peter Huber ― rejected “likely during the energy transition” (171-
for fallacious analogy (102, 105); Bjørn 72). With transportation more expensive,
Lomborg, U. of Aarhus, Denmark, “an cars will be rare, roads will deteriorate,
appeal to unspecified discoveries and to and commercial air travel will be totally
hopeful but vague promises” (105-12); transformed (172-75). Energy-intensive
Mi-chael C. Lynch’s rejection of peak oil modern industrial agriculture will not be
depends on “unreason-able” estimates of sustained; the organic and ecological
reserve growth and future discoveries agricultural movement and the
(112-17). Different views reflect contrast biotechnological movement propose
between “monetary cul-ture” mindset diametrically opposed approaches;
and “matter and energy” mindset (118- population will decline, probably to under
20). Inset: Global oil extraction peak 2 billion, either through voluntary
predicted 2006-2015 (118-19). Social methods (birth control) or involuntary
choice of “monetary culture” view is “the methods (war, pestilence, famine) (175-
path of least resist-ance” (120-21). Rest 79). Increased cost of heating & cooling
of book assumes 2006-2015 oil peak will lead to high mortality, food system
(121). changes, and increased pollution (179-
80). General environmental
Ch. 4: Non-Petroleum Energy consequences are unpredictable (181-
Sources: Can the Party Continue? 82). Waterborne diseases, plague, TB,
Epigraphs from Wendell Berry, Barbara diphtheria, new diseases like AIDS, and
Farhar, Herman Daly, Paul Ehrlich, USDOE the effect of net-energy decline on the
(123). Oil’s energy characteristics (124- medical system will make the public
25). Natural gas: supply and transport health consequences severe to horrific
problems (125-28). Coal (128-32). (182-84). Energy grid changes will
Nuclear power (132-37, 139). Inset: impact information infrastructure (184-
Energy evaluation criteria (138). Wind 85). Politics will affect the transition
(139-42). Solar power (142-46). (185-86). Individualism of the Right vs.
Hydrogen (146-48). The problem of a social obligation of the Left (186-87).
transition to a hydrogen economy (148- Democracy as “an attempt on the part of
49). Hydroelectricity (149-50). people living in modern complex
Geothermal power (151, 154). Two societies to regain some of the autonomy
tables evaluating EROEI (energy return and egalitarianism that characterized life
on energy invested, or net energy) (152- in the hunter-gatherer bands of our
53). Tides & waves (154). Biomass, distant ancestors” (187). Neither left nor
biodiesel, and ethanol (154-57). “Exotic right ideologies are adapted to net-
sources” (157-60). Nuclear fusion (160). energy decline (187-88). Emergence of a
Conservation: curtailment and efficiency “global-justice movement advocating
(160-64). “Any strategy of transition will ‘globalization from below’” (189). Need
be costly” (164). “It will entail an almost to discard 19th-century-based
complete redesign of industrial societies” socioeconomic analysis (189). Truth
(165). morally preferable to demagogy (190).
Possible Rightist triumph, youth rage,
Ch. 5: A Banquet of Consequences. dissolution of nation-states (190). U.S.
Epigraphs from Kenneth Boulding, Daniel will play pivotal role in early 21st-century
Quinn, Mark Hatfield, George W. Bush, geopolitics (191). Incoherent U.S. Middle
Robert Louis Stevenson (167). How to East policies leading to great “internal
speculate systematically about “net- stress” for oil-rich Arab regimes (191-93).
Iraq as needed geopolitical insurance leverage on structures greatest (222).
against Saudi chaos (194). Competition Alternative energies and conservation
to control Caspian Sea region oil and (222-23). Agriculture (223-24). Finance
natural gas (194-95). Efforts to control and business: rescind corporate
Venezuela and Columbia (195). Chinese personhood (224-25). Population and
energy needs make conflict likely sooner immigration (225-29). U.S. foreign
or later, with South China Sea as policy: relinquish global dominance (229-
“fulcrum” (Michael Klare) (196-97). 31). Transportation (231-32).
British policy of support for U.S. Importance of activism (232-33).
“perhaps” due to energy strategy of Bibliography (233-34). World. Three
reliance on U.S. (197). Role of pipeline in kinds of international organizations: (1)
Balkans policy (197). U.S. “will suffer an corporations, banks, trade bodies; (2)
increasing decline in global influence . . . U.N. and its agencies; (3) NGOs (235-36).
the U.S. is well into its imperial twilight U.S.’s effort to preserve “privileged
years” (198). Countries that try to keep status” [Heinberg does not speak of
resources will be demonized (Iran, Iraq, “empire,” though he does speak of
Libya) (198). Civil wars likely in resource- “hegemony” – cf. a 2003 article in New
rich countries (199). These are not Dawn where he does speak of “empire”]
possible, but likely, events (199). and China’s industriali-zation are the two
Personal responses to the reality of our “great geopolitical question[s] we face”
situation (199-200). Richard Duncan’s (237). It is too late to avoid pain; not too
“Olduvai theory” (200). Most will prefer late to “find intelligent ways to manage
to believe cheerful prognostications [a bad situation]” (238). Successful
(200). Appeal to “realists” (201). “Global transition requires fundamental changes
societal collapse ― meaning a reversion to energy infrastructure, political system,
to a lower level of complexity ― is likely, and economic system (239). Rewards of
and perhaps certain, over the next few engaging with these matters: (1) better
decades” (201). Inset: 6 markers of understanding, including of the non-
decline: (1) global per-capita energy special nature of humanity, which has
production (declining since 1979); (2) responded to an energy subsidy like any
global net energy (probably peaked other species (240-41); (2) a salutary
1985-1995); (3) global energy extraction sense of what goals are achievable (241-
(probable peak 2006-2015 [cf. 118-19]); 42); (3) “my generation’s responsibility”
(4) gross energy production (same); (5) to “acknowledge that the party is over,
global economy (eventual but clean up after ourselves, and make way
unpredictable); (6) electricity grids (“may for those who will come after us” (242).
ultimately be unsustainable”) (202-03).
Endnotes. 12 pages.
Ch. 6: Managing the Collapse: Bibliography. 9 pages. Approx. 102
Strategies and Recommendations. books, 36 articles, 4 web sites.
Epigraphs from Steven C. Wilson, Jimmy Index. 10 pages.
Carter, Ron Swenson, George W. Bush About the author. Four other books.
(205). Earlier recommendations from Writes monthly newsletter: “Museletter.”
Meadows, Meadows, and Randers; Teaches at New College of California.
Bossel; Odum and Odum (206-08). Lives in Santa Rosa, CA. Violinist. Born
Suggestions for the individual household 1951. Wife; Janet Barocco. Web site:
(208-11). Bibliography (212-13). Phone number &
Suggestions for community action (214- address: (707) 542-5452, 1604 Jennings
19). Bibliography (220-21). Nation: Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
change harder, corruption greater, but