Joseph Tainter – The Energy Crisis and the End of The Industrial Age


Published on May 4, 2013

First published August 7, 2012

The Energy Crisis and the end of The Industrial Age with Dr Joseph Tainter of Utah State University. Dr Tainter is perhaps best known as the author of The Collapse of Complex Societies and amongst various other publications he also co-authored Drilling Down: The Gulf Oil Debacle and Our Energy Dilemma. The discussion focusses on areas covered by both books, specifically the energy that industrial society depends on for its survival and continued growth and what happens when the supply of this energy begins to decline on the road to running out.

Topics discussed include: peak oil, the 2010 Gulf oil disaster, competition and conflict for resources, renewable energy, decline of technological innovation, the green movement and sustainable development, the energy/complexity spiral and the collapse of society.

For more than a century, oil has been the engine of growth for a society that delivers an unprecedented standard of living to many. We now take for granted that economic growth is good, necessary, and even inevitable, but also feel a sense of unease about the simultaneous growth of complexity in the processes and institutions that generate and manage that growth. As societies grow more complex through the bounty of cheap energy, they also confront problems that seem to increase in number and severity. In this era of fossil fuels, cheap energy and increasing complexity have been in a mutually-reinforcing spiral. The more energy we have and the more problems our societies confront, the more we grow complex and require still more energy. Our demand for energy, our technological prowess, the resulting need for complex problem solving and the end of easy oil are now conspiring to make the end of the industrial age a certainty. It’s no longer a question of if, but when.

Many more interviews at

Environment Ethics

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