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Societies beyond Oil

Societies beyond Oil

John Urry



What would a de-carbonised society be like? What are the implications of a general de-globalisation for our social futures? How will our high-carbon patterns of life be restructured in a de-energized world? As global society gradually wakes up to the new reality of peak oil, these questions remain unanswered. For the last hundred years oil made the world go round, and as we move into the century of 'tough oil' this book examines some profound consequences. It considers what societies would be like that are powering down; what lessons can be learned from the past about de-energized societies; will there be rationing systems or just the market to allocate scarce energy? Can virtual worlds solve energy problems? What levels of income and wellbeing would be likely? In this groundbreaking book, John Urry analyzes how the twentieth century created a kind of mirage of the future that is unsustainable into even the medium term and envisions the future of an oil-dependent world facing energy descent. Without a large-scale plan B, how can the energizing of society possibly be going into reverse?
'A brilliant book. A pioneering effort to fill a yawning gap in sociology - the lack of a sociology of energy.' Lord Giddens, Lab, House of Lords, London 'In this fascinating book John Urry writes the paradigmatic narrative of the power of oil, which made the modern dream: a highly mobile civilization. We (the globalized world) can neither live with oil nor without it. What future modernities, then, are lying beyond oil?' Ulrich Beck, Institute for Sociology, München 'One of Europe's most celebrated social thinkers offers an incisive, at times disturbing, analysis of the obstacles to breaking our civilization's carbon addiction.' Michael Ryan Davis, U. C. Riverside 'A remarkably comprehensive survey of a huge field. To this vital subject area, John Urry brings his own unique understanding drawn from a deep study of issues around mobilities. Refreshingly clear and flowing with style, the book sparkles with insights and ideas.' Platform,
John Urry is a Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University. He is the editor of the International Library of Sociology; Co-editor of Mobilities and Director of the Lancaster Centre for Mobilities Research. His recent books include Automobilities (2005), Mobilities, Networks, Geographies (2006), Mobilities (2007), Aeromobilities (2009), After the Car (2009), Mobile Lives (2010), Mobile Methods (2011), The Tourist Gaze 3.0 (2011) and Climate Change and Society (2011).

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
About the author ii
Title page iii
Copyright iv
Table of contents v
Acknowledgements vii
Introduction: The Problem of Energy 1
Energy 1
Oil 5
Summarizing the argument 12
The problem of oil is 42 17
PART I Oil Dregs 19
Chapter 1: Oil and the Crash of 2007–08 21
Oil and money 21
Neoliberalism 23
Sprawltown 29
Conclusion 35
Chapter 2: The Century of Oil 36
Humans and nature 36
The origins of oil civilization 39
Figure 2.1 Sources of global carbon emissions, 1800–2010 49
Conclusion 52
Chapter 3: Consuming Miles 53
Consuming from afar 53
Dubai 56
From neighbourhood lives 60
Places for consuming 67
More consumers 70
Conclusion 72
Chapter 4 : Carbon Capital 75
Energy inequalities 75
Establishing carbon capitalism 76
Combating environmentalism 79
The noughties 89
Conclusion 95
Chapter 5: Peaking 97
Peak oil thesis 98
Figure 5.1 The discovery and consumption of oil, 1900–2030 99
Figure 5.2 North sea oil production, 1965–2010 101
Tough oil 103
Political peaking 108
Climate change and multiple crises 110
Conclusion 113
Chapter 6: The Chinese Century? 115
Oiling Chinese development 115
Chinese urbanization 123
Cars in China 127
Supertankers 129
China’s emissions 131
Conclusion 133
Chapter 7: The Curse of Oil 136
There will be blood 136
Oil and ‘troubled waters’ 139
Norway 149
Democracy and oil 151
PART II Social Futures 155
Chapter 8: Magic Bullet Future 157
Energy and its futures 157
Magic bullet of hydrogen 159
Technological fixes 163
Conclusion 165
Chapter 9: Digital Lives 166
Digital worlds 166
Digitizing manufacturing 170
Digitizing social life 174
The costs of going digital 181
Conclusion 185
Chapter 10: Resource Fights 187
Recent resource wars 187
Future wars 192
Conclusion 199
Chapter 11: Low-carbon Society 202
The green shoots of a powered-down future 203
Figure 11.1 Social globalization across the world, 1970–2008 204
Figure 11.2 Vehicle miles travelled in the USA 1992–2011 (12-month average, billion miles/day) 206
Systemic powering down 210
Reverse gear 219
Chapter 12: After Easy Oil 224
Catastrophism 225
The power of capital 232
Conclusion 239
Notes 241
Introduction 241
Chapter 1 243
Chapter 2 245
Chapter 3 247
Chapter 4 250
Chapter 5 253
Chapter 6 256
Chapter 7 259
Chapter 8 261
Chapter 9 262
Chapter 10 265
Chapter 11 267
Chapter 12 270
Bibliography 274
Index 287