Two Perspectives on Our Oil Future
These two books couldn’t be more different, yet some of their conclusions are remarkably similar. The Party’s Over by Richard Heinberg is a treatise about our running out of oil and the impacts this will have on societies worldwide. Much of the book is depressing and leaves readers with a helpless feeling that our failures to recognize the limits to petroleum (and other resources) will almost certainly have dire consequences: collapsing economies, failing transportation systems, food shortages, inadequate energy for heating and cooling, environmental damage from desperate efforts to make up for petroleum shortages (even though pollution and carbon dioxide emissions from oil consumption may drop), public health crises, and political upheaval. Heinberg has done exhaustive research into patterns of resource consumption, drawing heavily from the M. King Hubbert school of thought. (Hubbert was the geologist who predicted—heretically—in 1953 that U.S. oil extraction would peak less than 20 years later—in 1970. He was dead-on in that prediction.) Heinberg concludes that the peak in global oil extraction “will probably be reached between 2006 and 2015.” A very telling chart shows the historical or projected peak oil extraction in several dozen other countries. The date of peak oil extraction is significant because that is the year in which demand begins exceeding supply and prices begin escalating rapidly. ...