Update on US natural gas, coal, nuclear, and renewables

On August 6, I wrote a post called Making Sense of the US Oil Story, in which I looked at US oil. In this post, I would like to look at other sources of US energy. Of course, the energy source we hear most about is natural gas. We continue to be a net natural gas importer, even as our own production rises.

Figure 1. US natural gas production and consumption, based on EIA data.

Figure 1. US natural gas production and consumption, based on EIA data.

US natural gas production leveled off in 2013, because of the low level of US natural gas prices. In 2013, there was growth in gas production in Pennsylvania in the Marcellus, but many other states, including Texas, saw decreases in production. In early 2014, natural gas prices have been higher, so natural gas production is rising again, roughly at a 4% annual rate.

The US-Canada-Mexican natural gas system is more or less a closed system (at least until LNG exports come online in the next few years) so whatever natural gas is produced, is used. Because of this, natural gas prices rise or fall so that demand matches supply. Natural gas producers have found this pricing situation objectionable because natural gas prices tend to settle at a low level, relative to the cost of production. This is the reason for the big push for natural gas exports. The hope, from producers’ point of view, is that exports will push US natural gas prices higher, making more natural gas production economic.

The Coal / Natural Gas Switch

If natural gas is cheap and plentiful, it tends to switch with coal for electricity production. We can see this in electricity consumption–natural gas was particularly cheap in 2012:

Figure 2. Selected Fuels Share of US Electricity - Coal, Natural Gas, and the sum of Coal plus Natural Gas

Figure 2. Selected Fuels Share of US Electricity Production – Coal, Natural Gas, and the sum of Coal plus Natural Gas, based on EIA data.

Coal use increased further in early 2014, because of the cold winter and higher natural gas prices. In Figure 2, there is a slight downward trend in the sum of coal and natural gas’s share of electricity, as renewables add their (rather small) effect.

If we look at total consumption of coal and natural gas (Figure 3), we find it also tends to be quite stable. Increases in natural gas consumption more or less correspond to decreases in coal consumption. New natural gas power plants should be more efficient than old coal power plants in producing electricity, putting downward pressure on total coal plus natural gas consumption. Also, we are using more efficient lighting, refrigerators, and monitors for computers, holding down electricity usage, and thus both coal and gas usage. Better insulation is also helpful in reducing home heating needs (whether by electricity or natural gas).

Figure 3. Layered US consumption of coal and natural gas, based on EIA data.

Figure 3. Layered US consumption of coal and natural gas, based on EIA data.

Another factor in the lower electricity usage (and thus lower coal and natural gas usage) is fewer household formations since 2007. Young people who continue to live with their parents don’t add as much electricity usage as ones who set up their own households do. Low household formations are related to a lack of good-paying jobs.

Coal Production / Consumption

US coal production hit its maximum level in 1998, with production tending to decline since then. US coal consumption has been dropping faster than production, so that exports (difference between production and consumption) have been rising (Figure 4).

Figure 4. US coal production and consumption based on EIA data.

Figure 4. US coal production and consumption based on EIA data.

In 2012, about 16% of coal produced was exported. This percentage dropped to about 10% in 2013, with greater US coal usage.

Coal tends to cause pollution of several types, including higher carbon dioxide levels. It also tends to be less expensive that most other fuels, so world demand remains high. Worldwide, coal use continues to grow.

Nuclear and Hydroelectric

Hydroelectric is the original extender of fossil fuels. Hydroelectricity using concrete and metals became feasible in the 1800s, when we began using coal to provide the heat necessary to make metals and concrete in quantity. The first hydroelectric power plants were put in place in the US in the 1880s.  As recently as 1940, hydroelectric provided 40% of the United States’ electrical generation.

Nuclear electric power was the next major extender of fossil fuels. The first nuclear power was added to the US energy mix in 1957, according to EIA data. The big ramp up in nuclear began in the 1970s and 1980s. Similar to hydroelectricity, nuclear requires fossil fuels to build and maintain its plants making electricity.

If we look at the US distribution of fuels, we see that in recent years, nuclear has been a much bigger source of energy than hydroelectricity.

Figure 5. US Energy Consumption, showing the various fossil fuel extenders separately from fossil fuels, based on BP data.

Figure 5. US Energy Consumption, showing the various fossil fuel extenders separately from fossil fuels, based on BP data.

The above comparison includes all types of energy, not just electricity. The grouping GeoBiomass is a BP grouping including geothermal and various forms of wood and other biomass energy, including sources such as landfill gas and other energy from waste. Note that GeoBiomass, Biofuels, and Solar+Wind are hard to see on Figure 5, because of their small quantities.

If we look at hydro and nuclear separately for recent years (Figure 6, below), we see that nuclear has tended to grow, while hydro has tended to fall, although both now seem to be  on close to a plateau. Hydro tends to be more variable than nuclear because it depends on rainfall and snow pack, things that vary from year to year and month to month.

Figure 6. Comparison of US nuclear and hydroelectric consumption, based on EIA data.

Figure 6. Comparison of US nuclear and hydroelectric consumption, based on EIA data.

The reason why hydro has tended to decrease in quantity over time is that it takes maintenance (using fossil fuels) to keep the aging power plants in operation and silt removed from near the dams. Most of the good locations for dams are already taken, so not much new capacity has been added.

Nuclear power plant electricity production has grown even since the 1986 Chernobyl accident because the United States has continued to expand the capacity of existing nuclear facilities. I do not expect this trend to continue, for a variety of reasons. Not all such capacity expansions have worked out well. The capacity expansion of the San Onofre plant in California in 2010 experienced premature wear and is now being decommissioned. Many of the nuclear plants built in the 1970s are reaching  the ends of their useful lives. Unless we add a large number of new nuclear plants in the next few years, it seems likely that US generation of nuclear electricity will be falling over the next 20 years.

Other Energy Types

It is easier to see other energy types if we look at them as a percentage of US total energy consumption. The following is a graph of “renewables” as a percentage of US energy consumption, using EIA data:

Figure 7. Renewables are percentage of US energy consumption, using EIA data (but groupings used by BP).

Figure 7. Renewables are percentage of US energy consumption, using EIA data (but groupings used by BP).

A person can see that over the long haul, hydroelectric has tended to shrink as a percentage of energy consumption, as energy needs grew and hydroelectric failed to keep up.

The GeoBiomass category is BP’s catch-all category, mentioned above.1 It (theoretically) includes everything from the wood we burn in our fireplaces to the charcoal briquettes we use to cook food outdoors, to home heating with wood or briquettes to the burning of sawdust or wood pieces in power plants. It also includes geothermal, which is about 6% as large as hydroelectric, and is increasing gradually over time. Based on EIA data, biomass isn’t growing either in absolute amount or as a percentage of total energy consumed.

Biofuels are liquid fuels made from biomass used to extend oil consumption. In the US, the major biofuel is ethanol, made from corn. It is used to extend gasoline, generally up to 10%.  A chart of production and consumption shows that US biofuel production “topped out,” once it hit the 10% of gasoline “blendwall”.

Figure 8. US biofuel production and consumption, based on EIA data.

Figure 8. US biofuel production and consumption, based on EIA data.

Biofuels now amount to 5.7% of US petroleum (crude oil plus natural gas liquids) consumption. In recent years, the US is a slight exporter of biofuels.

Corn ethanol currently takes about 40% of US corn production, according to the USDA (Figure 9). Greater corn plantings would put pressure on land usage for other crops.

USDA corn use, from USDA site.

Figure 9. USDA corn use, from USDA site.

If someone figures out how to make cellulosic ethanol cheaply (perhaps from wood), it presumably will cut into the market for corn ethanol, unless the blend wall is raised to 15%. Without additional ethanol coming from a source such as cellulosic ethanol, such an increase in the maximum blending percentage would likely be problematic.

Wind and Solar PV

Wind and Solar PV are sources of US electricity, so really need to be compared in that context. If we compare nuclear, hydroelectric, and all renewable electricity other than hydro (including electricity from wood, sawdust, and waste, and from geothermal, in addition to wind and solar) we see that in total, all other renewables are approximately equal to hydro electricity in quantity:

Figure 10:  Hydroelectric, other renewables, and nuclear as a percentage of US electricity supply, based on EIA data.

Figure 10: Hydroelectric, other renewables, and nuclear as a percentage of US electricity supply, based on EIA data.

If we look at the pieces of other renewables separately, we see the following:

Figure 11. Wind, solar/PV and other renewables as a percentage of US electricity, based on EIA data.

Figure 11. Wind, solar/PV and other renewables as a percentage of US electricity, based on EIA data.

Wind energy has indeed grown in quantity. Solar/PV is growing, but from a very small base. The remainder, which includes geothermal, wood and various waste products, is growing a bit.

A major issue with wind and solar is that we badly need a “solution” to our energy problem, so these are “pushed,” whether they are really helpful or not. Some issues involved:

(a) Cost effectiveness. Studies (such as by Brookings Institution, Weissbach et al., Graham Palmer) show that wind and solar PV are not cost-effective for reducing carbon emissions. If we want to reduce carbon emissions, conservation or switching from coal to natural gas would be more cost effective.

(b) Peak supply or peak affordability (demand in economists’ language)? The peak oil “story” often seems to be that because of inadequate supply, oil and other fossil fuel prices will rise, and substitutes will suddenly become competitive. This story is used to support a switch to wind and solar PV and high priced biofuels, since the expected high prices of fossil fuels will supposedly support the high cost of renewables.

Unfortunately, the story is wrong. High prices of any fuel tend to lead to recession because wages don’t rise to match the high prices. Also, a country using the high-priced fuel tends to become less competitive compared to countries that don’t use the high-priced fuel. The net effect is that prices don’t rise very much. Instead, manufacturing moves to countries that use less-expensive fuels. Oil prices may fall so low (relative to the cost of oil production) that oil producers sell their land and increase dividends to shareholders instead; in fact, this seems to be happening already.

(c) Hoped for long-term life. If fossil fuels have problems, can “renewables” have long life-spans in spite of those problems? Not that I can see. It takes fossil fuels to maintain the electric grid and to produce any modern renewable, such as wind, or solar PV or wave energy. Wind turbines need frequent replacement of parts, and solar PV needs new “inverters.” Wood and biomass will have long lives, if not overused, but these won’t keep the electric grid operating.

(d) Apples to oranges cost comparisons. There are a few situations where wind and solar PV are used to substitute for oil–for example, on islands, where oil is used to operate electricity generation. In these cases, wind and solar PV are likely already competitive, without subsidies. In these situations, per capita use of electricity can be expected to be very low, because exports made with such high-priced electricity will be non-competitive in the world market-place.

The confusion comes elsewhere, where substitution is for natural gas, coal, or nuclear energy. Here, the savings to an electric company is primarily a savings in fuel cost, that is, the cost of the natural gas, or coal or uranium. The plant’s manpower needs and its cost of electric grid maintenance will be the same (or higher). There may be costs associated with monitoring the new sources of electricity added to the grid or additional balancing costs, and these need to be considered as well.

If we want to maintain the electric grid so we can continue to have electricity for a variety of purposes, the “correct” credit for intermittent renewables is the savings to the power companies–which is likely to be close to the savings in fuel costs, or about 3 cents per kWh on the mainland United States. This is far less than the “net metering” benefit (offering a benefit equal to the retail cost of electricity) that is often used for grid-tied solar PV. It is also generally less than the “wholesale time of day” cost of electricity, often used for wind.

Germany is known for its encouragement of wind and solar PV, using liberal funding for the renewables. This approach has adverse ramifications, including high electricity costs, less grid stability, closure of some traditional natural gas power plants, and rising carbon dioxide emissions. A recent article called Germany’s Electricity Market Out of Balance by the Institute for Energy Research summarizes these issues.


It would be great if we had a solution for our non-oil energy issues, but we really don’t. The closest we can perhaps come is scaling up natural gas consumption some, and reducing coal’s current portion of the electricity mix. We currently have a large amount of coal consumption relative to natural gas consumption (Figure 3), so we ourselves have good use for rising natural gas production, if it should actually take place.

The “catch” in scaling up natural gas consumption is a price “catch.” If the price of natural gas price rises too high relative to coal, then electricity production starts switching back to coal. If, on the other hand, natural gas prices don’t rise very much, not much of an increase in production is likely to be available. Producers would like to export (a lot of) natural gas to Europe, as a way of jacking-up US natural gas prices. This seems like a pipe dream. See my article The Absurdity of US Natural Gas Exports.

Nuclear is a big question mark. If the United States starts taking much nuclear off line, it will leave a big hole in electricity generation, especially in the Eastern part of the US. Germany and recently Belgium are starting to experience the effect of taking nuclear off line. It is hard to see how wind and solar PV can play a very big role in offsetting the nuclear loss.

Politicians need to have a “solution” they can call an energy savior, but it is hard to see that renewables will play more than a small role. Biofuels seem to have “topped out” for now. Wind and solar PV are still growing, but it is hard to justify subsidies for them, as part of the electric grid system. Solar PV does have uses off grid, if citizens want their own source of electricity, with their own inverters and back-up batteries. There are also business uses of this type–for example, to operate equipment in a remote location.

I have not tried to cover all of the various smaller items. There may also be growth possibilities for items that I have not discussed, such as solar thermal for heating hot water, particularly in warm parts of the United States.


[1] I have used BP’s GeoBiomass grouping for convenience, but I am adding together EIA data amounts. What is included in the “biomass” portion of GeoBiomass seems to vary from agency to agency (BP, EIA, IEA), because of different definitions of what is included. For example, is animal dung burned as fuel included? Is fuel that is gathered by a family, rather than purchased, included? I am using EIA data for US renewables in Figure 7, since its long-term data series is probably as good as any for the US.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to inadequate supply.
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984 Responses to Update on US natural gas, coal, nuclear, and renewables

    • Rodster says:

      Gail, i’ve been meaning to ask you since you are asked to speak on the subject of fuel and the economy in different parts of the world. Do Nations see the writing on the wall wrt a “collapse scenario”?

      • No, Nations don’t see the writing on the wall with respect to collapse scenarios. There are a few readers of this blog who are concerned about the issue (and invite me). But most audience members do not see the writing on the wall. And of course, audience members are not representative of the general population. They tend to be more academic, working in something related to energy to begin with. The group in India a couple of years ago were especially focused on how they could increase energy use (substitute fossil fuels for burning sticks and dung) for their population. They had no clue that this might not be possible, long term.

        • Harry says:

          This is at once amazing and unsurprising. Less than three years ago I was just Joe Blow with a passing interest in peak oil. Now I am convinced that a couple of decades hence, the vast bulk of humanity will have succumbed to starvation, violence and disease and the world will be one big nuclear exlusion-zone. No sane person would take such an assertion at face value. To reach and accept this conclusion has for me been a highly time-consuming and emotionally harrowing journey with ‘truth’ the only reward. I can well understand why few would wish to embark on such a journey and even fewer would complete it.

          • Jarle B says:


            likewise. I used to be a prisoner of the common thought regime, and had a blind faith in techmology (as a known western comedian calls it). The awakening has been long and hard, and it would not have happened if I hadn’t wanted it to happen. From my current standpoint I have no problem understanding that a typical person finds my way of seeing things as far out.

          • Paul says:

            Likewise… it has been a journey that started with a video about the problems with exponential growth — which lead to me questioning the narrative that progress is a good thing — that the industrial revolution was a good thing — which lead me to this blog which connected all the dots.

            If one is logical it is impossible not to reach the conclusion that you have — the current system cannot continue — even if as the green brigade suggest… we were to find an new energy source — that only makes other problems worse — even stopping population growth is no solution as it only collapses the global economy…

            There is no if — there is only when…

            I am not so sure we have decades of this left — I think the next bomb that hits the economy sets off an unstoppable crash — that is why the central banks are doing absolutely everything in their power to fight a deflationary spiral…

            Then of course there is something that they cannot control — which is peak oil — conventional is peaked — shale etc countering that … for now … when shale peaks (2 yrs max?) — unless there is another stop gap solution — then I think we are done.

            • Harry says:

              Paul, to be honest I only talk in terms of decades to cover myself, making concrete predictions about the timing of future events being such a fool’s errand. There are plenty of indicators out there, not least of all the burgeoning mismatch between oil costs and prices about which Gail writes so brilliantly, which suggest to me a very short time-frame indeed.

              Jarle, I got the Ali G reference! :)

        • Jarle B says:

          Gail wrote:
          “No, Nations don’t see the writing on the wall with respect to collapse scenarios.”

          This is so true. In spite of all the signs, politicians and businessmen in Norway are not worried, and say that in a few years everything will be fine.

          • I am wondering where Norway’s revenue will be coming from in a few years. The many investments Norway has made are likely to be much less productive than hoped for, as well.

  1. Paul says:

    I would agree — this is not much different than flinging cash out of helicopters to the masses in order to stimulate more consumption….

    See – the Fed is not out of ammo – yet! But they are getting increasingly more desperate:


  2. edpell says:

    Gail, wonderful post. On two point I would focus on the economic argument. 1) Islands already have expensive electric so they can switch to expensive renewables. They have no energy intensive industry now because of the high price and they will continue to have no energy intensive industry because of the high price. 2) It is expensive (due to capital equipment and losses in the process) to convert energy into different forms. Most energy can substitute for another in theory it is just a question of the cost. That is, tell an engineer it is not possible you will get an argument. Tell an engineer it will cost too much and they will happily agree.

    • You are right. All of these issues are cost issues. Cost issues get hidden, when a person starts talking amount of oil that is technically recoverable and other non-financial concepts.

      The idea of substitution needs to always consider cost of substitution–both capital cost, and ongoing cost.

  3. theedrich says:

    To confirm (source:  Tom Whipple) yet once again what Gail has been repeatedly pointing out:

    “A more recent development having serious long-term implications for the oil industry is the growing disparity between the cost of producing a new barrel of oil from the Canadian oil sands or deep below the ocean and the selling price of that oil.  A recent study points out that many planned oil production projects are simply not economical at today’s oil prices, which have been relatively stable for the past five years as costs continued to soar.  Oil companies are already cutting back on new drilling projects which will have little impact on current production, but will be very significant five years or so from now.”

    Notice the words “serious” and “growing.”  In other words, quite independently of actual extraction or political upheavals in MENA, the financial squeeze on the oil companies will require government support (if not takeover) by 2020.  We are coming down to the wire, which means that America’s wars will no longer be optional.

  4. tagio says:

    Sorry, @wadosy, about the name error. Just call me Tagoee or something.

    • wadosy says:

      i’m probably too stringy and gristly to eat… you know, if it comes to that

      but instead of a crossbow, i’ll go for a guitar…

      your reference to daryl and his crossbow… that’s a coincidence… lately i’ve been hung up on those youtube videos of “daryl’s house… i dont have a TV, so it’s been hours of discovering new talent on that show…

      and i’ve been thinking that for a while now…. if you play and sing good enough, they wont eat you


    • wadosy says:

      The arrow hit him squarely between the eyes.

      “Eat! Eat! Eat!” the Pope’s child cried.
      crippled as a kid by “A Canticle For Leibowitz”

  5. tagio says:

    @wadowski, I assume you are being facetious in wondering how a billionaire is prepping to insure the survival of his entitled offspring for the next Feudal Age. I don’t know about billionaires, but none of the millionaires I work with as a corporate attorney in the NYC metro area give any sign of ever considering the possibility of TEOTWAWKI based on resource constraints, financial collapse and supply chain contagion, or 400+ possible Fukushimas. They’ll talk about climate change because that is comfortably distant, but I’ve never heard them speak of the things that are talked about on Gail’s site. Since the 2008 crisis, they’ve essentially doubled down, working/trying even harder to make more money and making their kids work harder at climbing ladder of success. “Reality” for these people, IN GENERAL, is far more driven by, and related to, the social reality of the class to which they aspire than what we in the lower orders might call actual reality, which still has some connection with the physical world. They need to eat at the right restaurants, own the right cars, travel to the right vacation spots, send their kids to the right schools, etc., think the same thoughts, as signaled primarily by the NYT and other establishment mouthpieces, etc., so as to evince to others their proper place in the social order – or more accurately, the place that in that order that they aspire to. They are less prepared emotionally for the possibility of TEOTWAWKI than the television-addled members of the former middle class, who are at least are doing some meager form of mental preparation for complete societal breakdown by watching shows like The Walking Dead, and thinking about getting one of those cool crossbows like Daryl has.

    • xabier says:


      Spot on! Less prepared in their materialism for profound change, in fact, than the late Roman aristocrats – more powerful than your clients in their direct power over others – at least those who took seriously the Christian themes of the world as a Vale of Tears, Apocalypse, renunciation of wealth, etc.

      • Paul says:

        Interesting comments….

        From my experience the wealthier highly educated people I know tend to be far less receptive to the end of BAU discussion than many of the intelligent — though not so educated nor wealthy people I know.

        I was having a conversation with a log cabin builder and one of his comments was — no sense in saving since this is all going to be over soon — pursuing this further I inquired why he thought this way — as he said we are like a bacteria consuming the earth — we have used up the easy oil and other resources etc etc ….

        I suppose the reasons for this are a) the highly educated tend to be part of a BAU cult — BAU solves everything according to their mantra and b) when you are worth tens or hundreds of millions of dollars you cannot envision every being poor — the thought is so abhorrent to people who spend their weekends strolling about the Hamptons with sweaters tied around their necks and feeling oh so pleased with themselves… that they must dismiss it.

        Meanwhile the log cabin craftsman lives pretty close to the ground hunting and fishing and chopping wood for heat… and making a few extra bucks working on small construction projects during the summer…. the fall would not be so far literally

        And perhaps more importantly — psychologically….

        A friend’s daughter teaches in a high end private school that caters to the banker god crowd… when Lehamn busted their game wide open her daughter was telling her how many students were coming in traumatized and in tears in the following days — because their parents were traumatized and in tears because they thought they would no longer be able to stroll with their sweaters around their necks through the Hamptons any longer…. I suppose they also envisioned having to do the dishes for themselves — oh heaven forbid….

        Now if that gets then reaching for the triple strength Xanax… what would happen if they found themselves in a situation where they had to claw at the ground to try to grow their own food…

        I can imagine they’d choose to down the entire family sized jar of Xanax hoping to put an end to things then and there…

        • InAlaska says:

          Paul, I think you are spot on with this assessment. The elite, some of whom I am related to, have no desire to look this beast in the eye. The cognitive dissonance is to severe and what they have to lose is too great. The log cabin builder, on the other hand, sees on a daily basis how the world is put together and intuitively knows how wrong the whole system is.

    • edpell says:

      Tagio, you should see the beautiful backup farms your clients have in Northern Dutchess County and Columbia County. Not to mention providing their table in Manhattan with clean safe meat right now.

    • Sorry to burst your bubble, but that niveau you are describing just consist of relative paupers.. Those are the hired midrange service elite at best, few notches down from the true systemic ownership elite, which is definately diversified among economic sectors and continents and is preping.

      • MJx says:

        As the Godfather pointed it, this class of millionaires are “buffers” the for the super class. Basically act as high priests in ancient Egypt, that what lawyers role today in society really is now a days.

    • dolph09 says:

      Tagio, if that’s the case, they are not part of the super elite.

      A friend of mine I grew up with was valedictorian of our very large high school class, one of the smartest guys I know, worked for Microsoft for awhile, got a double masters from Harvard, and now works at a hedge fund in NYC.

      And he’s nowhere near the elite. They have to commute from a suburb because they find Manhattan too expensive and unlivable.

      But if you have a billion dollars and a corporate empire, you can bet alot of those guys are prepping in their own ways. Buying farmland, islands, resource companies, fine art, gold, anything real they can get their hands on. I bet you many of them know the score.

      The upper middle class is clueless.

      • InAlaska says:

        dolph09, I think you are right. Just because they are super rich elites doesn’t mean all of them are stupid. In fact, many of them are extremely intelligent and they know the score and are preparing for it just as much as some of us lumpen proletariate are doing. Their biggest disadvantage is that they don’t know how to do much for themselves.

    • tagio
      Not sure if you’re into podcasts but JMG gives a really interesting talk on the c-realm about our current level of denial.
      I know some don’t like him, but I find him very articulate on the subject.

      And if you want some interesting comments by a Nobel Prize winner there’s Daniel Daniel Kahneman at the Long Now. He’s very pessimistic about our ability to recognise and change and this is a comment built on decades of research.
      The comment comes towards the end of the talk in the Q and A.

    • edpell says:

      I would add the Integral Fast Reactor.
      “[Research] continues at a low level in studies and programs of the US Department of Energy and in programs around the world today, due to its ability to provide a truly inexhaustible energy technology for entire nations.”

      • InAlaska says:

        Where do I buy the stock?

        • Dan says:

          I lived in the Alaskan Bush for quite awhile. I can tell you as you probably well know it is a hard life (and fun) but one that I can only fathom in my nightmares without fuel (gas, diesel, oil, stove oil, and coal). That 500 lbs of moose meat doesn’t carry itself.

          • InAlaska says:

            Hello Dan. No, you’re right that life in bush Alaska without machines can be a challenge, but one year we used our dog team to pull the quarters out on our dogsled. It works just fine over tundra. Another year we back-packed one out. Once I shot a moose and it died next to the house. If you don’t have an ATV or can’t afford the gas, you better have a bunch of strong boys to help you carry the load. I have two chainsaws, but I also have a 2-man crosscut saw. I have a fuel oil stove, but also have two wood burners. When we lived above the arctic, I once took the boys skiing up on the north slope. I had them ski toward a small herd of caribou and they spooked over to where I was lying down in the snow, and we had a perfect ambush. Then we loaded up our sleds and skiied it all back to the road. We still use a lot of gas, though.

  6. Rodster says:

    “China Has Lost 55% Of Its Most Valuable Resource…WATER”

    roughly 60% of California right now is suffering “extreme drought” conditions. 30% of the state is in “severe drought”. And 10% of the state is only under “drought”. In other words, roughly the entire state – the 8th largest economy in the world – is facing a severe shortage of water.

    But if you think that’s bad, China is about to take over the spotlight yet again.

    A study by China’s Ministry of Water Resources found that approximately 55% of China’s 50,000 rivers that existed in the 1990s have disappeared. Moreover, China is over-exploiting its groundwater by 22 billion cubic meters per year; yet its per-capita water consumption is less than one third of the global average. This is astounding data. More than 400 major cities in China are short of water, with some 110 facing “serious scarcity”.

    • edpell says:

      I have seen people do calculations about what fraction of the food grown on the land people use. I guess we need to do the same calculation for what fraction of the rain fall in a nation is needed for human use (including industry and farming).

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear edpell
        Water is more complex in that nature can recycle it many times. Indeed, even when it reaches the ocean it is recycled as rainwater back on land. Permaculturists sometimes talk about how many times a molecule of water is used before it is lost to evaporation or runoff. Clever designs can keep the molecule circulating in a field for quite a while.

        So it is true that the amount of water that can be withdrawn from the Colorado River or the Ogallala formation is limited. The ability to use that volume of water to produce crops is not a simple function…it depends on the design of the agricultural system.

        To take a very simple example, a gallon of the water may be directed to drinking water, which is reused as gray water, which grows a plant which transpires the water which condenses on an over story leaf, which falls to the ground and is taken up by roots, which is transpired again, which is again condensed, and so forth.

        Don Stewart

      • edpell,

        Check the post below. I think you will find it interesting.

        Walter Haugen Says:

        Check out Joseph Tainter’s “The Collapse of Complex Societies” or my book “The Laws of Physics Are On My Side.” Tainter introduces marginal returns as the basis of his argument and it is relevant to your own. If the marginal returns fall below 1:1, it doesn’t matter if you have a high throughput (American empire today) or a relatively low throughput (Rome circa 100 AD). It is still relative to your input/output.

        Per my book, what we are doing now is replacing cultural behavior with massive doses of fossil fuel energy. Once we run short of cheap oil energy (either by price or supply) we have to constrict our energy use. If we don’t we get dieoff.

        Your solar business is still dependent on cheap oil, whether in the embedded energy of the infrastructure or just getting the workers to the jobsite and factory. My farming is also slightly dependent on fossil fuel energy, as I use 10 gallons of gasoline and my labor to grow 10,000 pounds of food per year. However, in my case I am 25-35 times more efficient than industrial agriculture, measured by input/output analysis.

        I am no fan of Greer, as I find him arrogant and wordy. However, he did hit on a winner with catabolic collapse. As for Diamond, he is the only one I have heard who understands the role of the 1st and 2nd derivative in plotting the inflection point where marginal returns change sign.

        Tainter alludes to this but doesn’t even use the term “inflection point” in his analysis. As for Kunstler, he has looked at the problem in depth and his “World Made by Hand” books look at the sociological effects – and are a good read too.


    • Paul says:

      Why not just print fresh water? :)

      • MJx says:

        It might buy us six more years! LOL

      • edpell says:

        InAlaska, there must be big rivers in Alaska that drain into the sea. The U.S. government can sell that water to the Chinese for taking more fed debt product. Federal budget balanced.

        • InAlaska says:

          yes, indeed, that is a brilliant idea. I live by the shore of one particularly massive river, fed by an enormous glacier that will still be here in 500 years come hell or global warming. I may have to go into water business. Perhaps a trans-Pacific water pipeline….

  7. yoananda says:

    Sorry to bother again with my “pic oil is dead” question again.
    What about this one that said : worldwide oil spending in % of GDP is very low, compared to the 80’s : http://oilprice.com/Energy/Oil-Prices/How-cheap-is-cheap-oil.html
    Especially : https://oilprice.com/images/tinymce/Staff1/rand4.png

    • A lot of things have changed since the 80s. Wages as a percentage of GDP are also lower now. Debt is higher now. We clearly weren’t doing well when oil prices were high before either, but at least we had available solutions then–something we don’t have now.

      One part of our problem is that US, Europe, and Japan use relatively more oil than the rest of the world. The rest of the world has grown in competitiveness now. The rest of the world can “eat our lunch” now when oil prices are high. We are at a competitive disadvantage with countries relying on coal, something that was not a big problem in the 1980a.

    • edpell says:

      I think this is misleading. The global GDP is way up due to economies fueled by coal.

  8. wadosy says:

    i need some help, here… i’m stumped

    say i i’ve been a very successful looter, stacked up $20 billion, but it’s tied up now mostly in stuff that’s not gonna be worth a plugged nickel once TSHTF… or so it seems to me…

    my goal is: i want to preserve my precious genes, which means i got to have acess to women who will make kids and i have to have a plance where those kids can live and have their own kids, and so on and on forever

    what do i do with my loot?

    pre-SHTF, can i buy land and hire protection and labor, establish an enclave? … or will there be places of relative calm where i can buy refuge? …but most of all, how do i preserve the wealth that will make … whatever… possible?

    did i joing the wrong clubs? …is there some global setup in place that will handle these problems, but i wasnt invited to tha party?

    please help me think this out

    • Paul says:

      You could do this http://www.forbes.com/sites/lauriewerner/2014/01/06/paradise-2-0/

      The only problem is that you will need security — if I was your chief of security — I might conclude that I have the might — and I might make you the pool boy… and take all your caviar and champagne for me and my guys with the guns….

      You would want to choose your security team carefully — very loyal, very stupid men… you might want to run psychological profiles on them to make sure none have streaks of independence….

      • wadosy says:

        paul, did you know that steve forbes is a PNAC signatory?

        …whaich probably is why forbes’ website denies peak oil…

        • Paul says:

          He can deny as he likes — he can rant and jump up and down and scream ‘I inherited daddy’s empire and I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth and I have never known what it is like to run out of money before the end of the month and there is no way that peak oil can exist because it means I eat dog food with the rabble under the bridge!!!’

          He can even dedicate half his magazine to peak oil denial stories….

          But he won’t be able to change the reality.

        • wadosy says:

          do you spose that’s a requirement to get in the club? …you got to deny peak oil and global warming to get included in whatever plan these people have to preserve their wealth and survive?

          • InAlaska says:

            I suggest that your mythical fellow stop trying to buy his way into everything. Instead of getting into the club, he ought to find a decent woman, have a big family, learn to do things for himself and teach his kids to do the same. If he and his family can handle firearms and grow there own food, then he can tell the club to go to hell.

    • wadosy says:

      air america pilots were notroriously bad with money… they made quite a bit… at least compared to the average wroking stiff

      but they’d invest in the godawfullest schemes, play the commodities markets where they routinely lost heir shirts because they werent in on the joke.. grand development schemes, mini-suburbs on unheard of islands… anything that was too good to be true

      the worst was those gold bracelets… heavy gold bracelets… supposedly, if you got shot down and survived the wreck, you could break off a link at a time and buy your way back to civilization…

      those bracelets impressed the stewardesses at least… which was probably what it was all about

      …tales of kinky threesomes in hong kong with northwest stews… i wonder if any of it was true

    • There is this misconception that everything is and will be lost in the great reset.
      Which is obviously not very history matching narrative, at least for shallow type of societal and governmental reshuffles. To your question, the strategy? Simply the smart or the generational wealth properly instructed, simply have it and prep for it all, and cover “all bases”. So, they own secluded properties and compounds in various climate zones from the high plateau jungle to tempered forrests, in various forms (like chateux and hunting lodge complexes or hidden private bunkers). They own some industries, some banks, some politicians and lobbyists, some media..

      In essence, they on purpose increase, but not guarantee chances of starting right away within the new cycle with noticable advantage. So far it worked like a charm during past centuries. However as we are most likely entering reset of longer cycle, say at least 250-500yrs wide, that might derail that trend and increase changes for completely new breed of elites taking over. Perhaps some weird combination of handson permaculturists with martial arts pedigree and or military experience.

      • edpell says:

        “permaculturists with martial arts pedigree” that just leads to such comic images LOL.

        Maybe more like specialization premaculturists and martial arts experts. Maybe throw in a good managers (yes there are a few good managers), a carpenter, a stonewright, a skilled cook, a weaver eventually, ….

        • Paul says:

          Rambo XX11…. a roided up Sly Stallone drags a plow around a field while firing an AK47 from the hip at marauding hordes ripping carrots out of the ground…


          • Jarle B says:

            Paul wrote:
            “Rambo XX11…. a roided up Sly Stallone drags a plow around a field while firing an AK47 from the hip at marauding hordes ripping carrots out of the ground… Exciting!”

            Rambo XX111: Norris and Schwarzenegger is hired as field workers/gunslingers, and the show goes on.

            • Paul says:

              Bringing us to the final installment of Rambo — Rambo The End — in which Sly is starving and eating hunks of grass — his body is riddled with tumors caused by radiation from exploding nuclear fuel ponds — he crawls to a cave entrance where he is found by the last remaining humans who live under ground — but he is too far gone and soon dies of total organ failure.

      • dolph09 says:

        Yeah this time we are clearly hitting various limits. There is no more “wealthy, unappreciated son from England moves to America and takes over steel industry” or “we’ll take your oil and give you weapons and bonds” anymore. All the countries of the world are full up, all of them have their elites. We are running out of resources and time, and therefore running out of games to play.

        If the elites don’t provide for their own population in some way or another (even with bread and circuses) it’s over for them as well. As can already be seen in parts of Europe and the Middle East.

        The American elites have lots of cards and tricks to play. They own North America and most of the world, so they’ll go on for a bit.

        • InAlaska says:

          Unfortunately, I think you might be right. One thing we know from history is that the elites seldom lose the game. They buy their way into the next set of good circumstances and keep transforming themselves into the future.

    • edpell says:

      Start with 60,000 acres in Paraguay and work from there….

  9. Adam says:

    Jokes that won’t work post-crash.


    You won’t be able to perform this one, and nobody would understand it anyway.

  10. John Drake says:

    When looking at the total US energy mix, it is very important to compare the EROEI of the various energy sources and to look at the evolving trends.

    It might also be interesting, from a geopolitical perspective, to compare the average US EROEI with that of its major competitors…

    • The networked system breaks when it breaks. I have difficulty connecting this with EROEI trends.

      Clearly the EROEI of coal is better than that of almost any other fuel, except perhaps previously installed hydroelectric, and perhaps previously installed nuclear. Thus countries using these fuels predominantly might have some advantage, unless the system falls apart completely. Renewables and oil are all on the relatively low end of the EROEI scale. Natural gas EROEI looks very good, unless one considers the energy of distribution all the way to final customers–something that brings it way down.

      EROEI of oil exporters will tend to look very good, regardless of what is ahead for them–depleting supply, inadequate price for oil, or revolting population.

      • John Drake says:

        You are correct in stating that a “networked system breaks when it breaks”.

        However the energy mix average EROEI may very well provide an important clue as to when the system is likely to break.

        For example, if the energy mix average EROEI of a country having a high tech complex society was to fall close to 10:1, you might expect “something” to trigger a “major break-up”. The laws of physics are in that regard simply unescapable.

        Hence, closely following the evolution of the energy mix average EROEI of the US and comparing it to that of its major competitors will provide interesting clues as to how close they are from “the precipice”… and how desperate they might become.

        Desperate tigers are most dangerous creatures…

  11. B9K9 says:

    Xabier, I apologize for not including you, End, Ed, et al, and of course our gracious host, in the group who actually “get it”. For convenience, Paul serves as a proxy for the regulars, and an effective foil to point out the futility in complaining about reality.

    His comment that humans are a “vile species” reveals some residual programming which many of us received. It taught him that we are somehow unique, with special burdens and obligations different from every other life form. These lies, of course, are what separate us from the PTB, which go about freely designing systems that favor them alone, with the full force of law, military and economics to support their control.

    Once you fully see the beautiful evil embodied in the truth, then it can become a subject of appreciation. The winners have so worked over the pathetic losers for so many millennia, that it becomes laughable when the propaganda is fully exposed for the charade it truly is. That’s the humor, and intrigue, in seeing this sucker play out.

    • Paul says:

      We most definitely are unique

      I am not aware of any other species on the planet that enslaves, murders for joy, rapes, pillages, steals, covets, genocides, destroys the planet, etc etc etc

      We are most definitely vile… a disgusting aberration on the planet… a mistake of nature perhaps?

      • MJx says:

        Thank God Ben Bernanke SAVED the human race to continue the above, right Paul?

        • Paul says:

          I doubt Ben shares my sentiments on the human species…. very few people do.

          • MJx says:

            Regardless Paul, you are grateful that he acted as he had. The only benefit was a DROP in Carbon emissions, something the denier gallery pointed to as proof a treaty was not necessary in Copenhagen. God Bless America!

          • Jarle B says:

            Paul said:
            “I doubt Ben shares my sentiments on the human species…. very few people do.”

            I do, Paul, I do.

          • Harry says:

            Paul, we also have Buddha, Beethoven, Da Vinci et al. It is unfortunate that we are not wise enough as a collective to overcome the biological imperative to maximize access to resources and reproduce like crazy – but this sort of polarized view of humanity is not a recipe for contentment. There are plenty of examples within the natural world (to which we belong, of course) of gratuitious cruelty, and almost every death is a violent one. Ever watched a cat toy with a mouse? Can you imagine if it had been the felines rather than the primates who had evolved opposable digits and higher cognitive function? Well, regardless, for the misanthropes amongst us justice is about to be served, and then some.

            • InAlaska says:

              And let’s not forget that no one promised us that life was supposed to fair or pleasant. Who said that we had certain inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Just a bunch of guys in wigs. Disappointment in humanity may be a misunderstanding of the natural world of which we are, indeed, a part of. Ever see a bear tear a salmon apart while it is still alive? Ever watch a pack of wolves wound and cripple a caribou and then harass it to death for days? Ever watch a marten go after a nest of baby squirrels? Ever watch hordes of deer starve because they overran their range? Why should we expect humans or nation states made up of humans to be any less cruel? Life is fundamentally cruel. It just so happens that the alternative is oblivion.

            • Paul says:

              When a salmon kills a fish it does it to eat – not to torture it.

              Animals do not do this http://www.theguardian.com/gall/0,8542,1211872,00.html

              Of this http://www.digitaljournal.com/img/4/9/8/8/0/7/i/8/5/8/o/congo-hands.jpg

              Or this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShCgGGqlrEU

              Or particularly this http://www.shrineofsaintjude.net/Hiroshima%20atomic%20bomb%20damage.jpg

              So we write poetry — and play the piano… other animals sing songs and dance too…

              What differentiates us from them is primarily our capacity for evil.

              ALL of us have this capacity — the Jewish community is a perfect example — abused horribly — and the minute they get the upper hand they abuse others.

              What’s the first thing usually out of the mouths of people who knew a mass murderer? — He seemed like such a nice quiet man — we are shocked.

              I stand by my comments – the sooner we are wiped off this planet the better. We are monsters.

            • Harry says:

              That doesn’t sound very “anti-doom” to me!

      • edpell says:

        Paul, you have not been reading your Jane Goodall. Chimps murder the group next door even when (especially when?) that group broke off from the first group. Infanticide of follow group members young is observed, rape just does not apply in their case, covet oh yes, genocide yes the group next door is systematically hunt to extinction.

        • edpell says:

          Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe by Goodall. In my opinion one of the most important scientific result in human history.

          • Paul says:

            Chimps are a derivative of the human species…

            That said they do not tick all the boxes that I have laid out — genocide of other species… enslavement of their own and other species…. etc etc etc…

            • InAlaska says:

              Perhaps we are acting just as nature “intended” for us to act. If you follow the school of philosophy that says that anything we do as a species is ok because that is how we were evolved on this planet. Everything has purpose and a design to it. None of us know what evolutionary directions the planet will go as a result of our genocidal, raping, pillaging, climate changing ways. It is possible that this course will lead to the next phase of life (and mind) on the planet.

            • Lizzy says:

              I agree with you, InAlaska. We’re not the masters of our fate completely. Though I wish, I wish…

            • Paul says:

              I agree with that statement. We were born this way… and because no other species acts as we do — I suggest we were are some freak of nature — some sort of mistake… an aberration from hell…

              Maybe we are actually what is referred to as ‘the devil’?

              That would explain a lot.

    • xabier says:

      No offence was taken B9K9.

  12. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All

    May I suggest the use of this video tour of Helen Atthow’s Montana home as a tool for thinking about life off the grid.

    We can see that Helen has solved certain problems pretty satisfactorily, but she is not independent of the larger society:
    *She grows a lot of her own food
    *The external inputs required for her food are small, but significant. In other videos, you will learn that she uses a small tractor with a mower attachment. She may buy seeds..I don’t know. She does not till extensively or apply industrial soil amendments and fertilizers and pesticides and herbicides.
    *In order to earn money, she grows crops which she sells in town, and doubtless transports those crops in a fossil fuel powered vehicle.
    *She heats with wood from her own property
    *She cooks with propane
    *She uses some electricity…but much less than most Americans…generated by solar panels. She also uses two batteries, two inverters, and a charge controller
    *She uses some electrical appliances: a computer, a refrigerator, electric lights, and a cell phone. Some of the appliances are DC and some are AC.
    *She uses some ‘appliances’ which do not use external energy, such as the cold box protruding through the wall and the root cellar
    *Her house is constructed to take advantage of the cycle of the seasons…collect warmth in the winter and remain cool in the summer. She actively manages the energy in the house, as opposed to setting a thermostat. The house is divided into smaller compartments to aid in managing the energy.

    We can think of alternatives to Helen’s set-up. For example, Ben Falk in the cold climate of the Green Mountains of Vermont, recommends a large wood cook stove as the central appliance. Such a stove combines the functions of heating and cooking and conviviality which Helen solves separately. She might also use a DC rice cooker instead of the propane stove…not as versatile, but pretty handy.

    We can also think of choosing to live as an isolated homestead rather than as an integrated part of a local economy in Missoula, MT. So that, for example, she would no longer be dependent on selling her products in Missoula to earn money. But such a choice probably requires the disappearance of taxes imposed by governments.

    If taxes disappear along with governments, then the purchased appliances probably also disappear, at least over a span of decades. The computer would no longer function as a communications tool, the cell phone would stop working. The electric lights will only last as long as the bulbs. She could not expect reliable deliveries of propane, but if she adopted Ben Falk’s big wood stove idea, she would still be able to cook and heat. DC appliances, such as the DC refrigerator and a DC rice cooker, might last for several years to a couple of decades. Appliances which continue to function in a collapse are very important because they reduce the inevitable stress of inventing new ways to live when things change. Putting the refrigeration issue off for a decade or two is a big plus.

    In a homestead scenario, one has to plan on reduced reliance on refrigeration. One never knows when the refrigerator might cease to function and there would be no replacement. This scenario implies that Helen would have to either plan her garden to be continuously productive of what she wants to eat each day, or else that she preserve the garden’s produce and live off her pantry. The pantry is more work, but is the way most women in horticultural societies spent much of their time in ages past. She may also build a spring house to provide cooling in the hot summer. And collecting ice during the winter and storing it for summer might be an attractive option to provide a little luxury.

    In a homestead scenario, Helen would probably add another level of subdivision of her space. She would add draperies around her bed to provide more insulation so that body heat would increase the temperature, making sleeping more comfortable. She would also probably wear warmer clothing indoors as she goes about her chores. She may also plan on sleeping outdoors in summer so that she radiates heat to the coldness of outer space…depending on the insect pressure. A mosquito net might be an excellent investment.

    Here are some of my conclusions:
    One, thinking about solar or wind or water power should be done with some ideas about the extent of collapse and be exquisitely sensitive to one’s local situation.
    Two, setting up a straw man scenario that involves the continuation of BAU, just with wind and solar instead of fossil fuels and nuclear, is a useless exercise.
    Three, actions taken now have consequences in a collapse.
    Four, since we cannot accurately predict the exact nature of the collapse, it makes sense to try for the preservation of degrees of freedom (e.g., Ben Falk’s big cook stove as opposed to a propane cook stove; or a DC rice cooker.)
    Five, since collapse has been (wrongly) predicted many times, those of us who have done less than Helen should refrain from criticizing her for what she has done. She is choosing to live well now, with an eye on the future. Can any of us do better than that?
    Sixth, Helen is not trying to ‘feed 9 billion’. Most of us have enough trouble trying to visualize rational behavior for a homestead or a small community. Trying to save the whole world is likely to lead to paralysis.

    Don Stewart

    • Good points. This subject is quite climate dependent.

      Lets recall the lesson of northern/alpine countries where the livestock had to be part of the house, either as added section sideways to the main house. Or these animals placed at ground level, while people living above it. Obviously, the latter case is more energy efficient as the lifestock heats the house better, however it’s more laborious/expensive since you have to build there proper stone/bricks vaulted celings against the sounds, smells and moisture evaporation. Well you can do it in the wood ceiling version too, but that would be perhaps too 3rd worldish/bronzeagish. This arrangement also ads lot of manual labour, you have to clean it for the animals regularly and then manage the compost externally and obviously feed the lifestock. Very good system overall historically speaking, even lower echelons of european country nobility lived like that till early 20th century, but you need either forced labor (peasants, or lots of own kids) or excess of money/resources to pay labor for such upkeep. Today, few decades later almost nobody does this straight animal cohabitation anymore.

    • Thanks for your comments. I especially like, “setting up a straw man scenario that involves the continuation of BAU, just with wind and solar instead of fossil fuels and nuclear, is a useless exercise.” We have a few readers who don’t understand this. Also, that it is very hard to feed 9 billion.

    • J says:

      Fantastic! But just like Orlov’s boat idea doesn’t scale, this doesn’t scale either. Just think of getting one tower of people converted to this living. How much would that cost? And more importantly there isn’t enough land. That doesn’t mean you and I couldn’t do it. Just that everyone couldn’t do it.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear J
        Who is supposed to bear the cost of converting a tower of people to Helen’s solution? I’m not going to pay for it. You’re not going to pay for it. The government surely will not pay for it.

        Some people will prepare…most won’t.

        Don Stewart

    • xabier says:

      I recommend the comments, and also blog, of ‘Cherokee’ on the Archdruid site, lots of practical stuff on off-grid solar – strengths and weaknesses – and permaculture: straightforward to take his principles and think about one’s own situation and locality.

      One thing he does point out is that the authorities where he has his farm are quite a pain, and generally behind the curve and obstructive.

    • edpell says:

      To the list connection to the larger community I would add clothes made globally using giant industrial looms, wood in the building made using full industrial system.

      When the electric goes out we have no heat from the oil furnace due to its electric pumps. We all sleep in the same room. It works quite well.

    • antares71 says:

      Hej Don,

      interesting material for a brainstorming.
      Regarding the stove I have plan to buy a Rayburn to redundant my future solar heat system. This one:
      I will use it for cooking primarily but if/when the solar heat in winter won’t be able to put up with my demand of heat I just put more log in the stove and deliver hot water to the radiator. What do you think?
      Regarding the refrigerator, I saw a video where a woman said that when her freezer will not function anymore she will “bury” it, that is the heat insulation capability of the freezer will still be there and putting it underground will guarantee constant temperature throught the year. I think I would give it a try.
      Regarding isolating oneself, I personally think it is a very bad idea, I would not do that. I reckon the best would be to stay in a small community, around 20-100 individuals and try somehow to complement each other provisions, that is a family breeds sheeps and exchange milk, meat and wool, another cows, another specialises in fishing etc…
      I agree with you that she at least is doing something, which is on itself deserving of respect.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear antares71

        Check out:

        I live in a place where a big wood stove would just get in the way. The inside temperature in my house would seldom drop below 50 degrees, with no external heat at all. Ben Falk lives in the very cold Green Mountains of Vermont. He makes interesting points about the difference that being in a cold, damp place makes versus being in a warm, dry place. What works in one may not work in the other. I am in warm and damp.

        I have friends who live in the mountains, and have big wood burning cookstoves. But Ben manages to get a lot more out of his stove than my friends do. Ben really applies the Permaculture principle of looking for multiple functions. I have spent some time in Vermont, and what he says sounds about right to me, although I never lived there.

        Agree with you on the ‘lone survivor’ not being a good strategy. You can look at log cabins of very isolated people on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Most of the cabins had a big loom so the lady of the house could weave cloth to make clothing. The light was atrocious, coming through very small windows. You wonder how any of them failed to go blind. Some people have characterized this type of backwoods living as one where a husband ‘wore out’ three wives. Alternatively, go visit a Shaker community, where there was specialization and a proper wood shop and a proper weaving studio and a proper dairy. It’s like Night and Day. Best choice by far is a community.

        Don Stewart

  13. Harry says:

    It seems to me that two things need to happen promptly if we (meaning pretty much all of us) are to have any chance of surviving our little plunge off the net energy cliff.

    1.) Food production needs to be relocalized. Or at least vegetable patches need to spring up in every garden and chicken farming needs to become the global hobby of choice.

    2.) Every nuclear power station must be decommissioned.

    Any ideas as to how we make this happen without prematurely instigating collapse?

    • Lizzy says:

      I agree with point no. 1, Harry, but can you please explain why the second one is necessary? Wouldn’t that be hastening electricity demise?

      • Harry says:

        Lizzy, it might well do. But of course the alternative is to let the nuclear power stations go ‘Fukushima’ or worse when the grid eventually goes down, because of course their cooling pools and safety systems are dependent on external, non-nuclear power sources. We have circa 435 nuclear power stations dotted around the globe, mostly in the northern hemisphere. It keeps me awake some nights.

    • Good luck!. As you just said, “The networked, hypercomplex system we have built functions as a totality or it does not function at all.”

      • Harry says:

        I know. I’m clutching at straws a little. We’re not only looking at the nuclear power issue but also the approx 1°C of additional global warming as we lose the cooling effects of industrial aerosols. I’m more than a little horrified that there seems to be nothing to be done by way of mitigation.

        I would suggest that those of you who are ‘prepping’ are either wasting your time or potentially keeping yourselves alive for experiences you’d have preferred not to have. Most will die as the system fails and they will be the lucky ones. It would seem sensible, and I use the word in its broadest possible sense, to live out your dreams on cheap credit now and then throw yourself a party with no hangover when collapse occurs.

        • xabier says:


          We have been having that End of the World party on cheap credit……

        • Jim King says:

          Harry, clutching at straws is realistic at this point, don’t you think?

          There can’t be very much time left, it seems. Go where you want to go, do what you want to do, while you still can, and hope you are not far away from home when confidence in the global Ponzi debt scheme wavers. Once things begin to unravel, the short AND long term futures will get bleak pretty fast.

          If it gets really bad, with most people succumbing soon, there might be hope for the survivors. Except for the nuclear power plants spewing radiation and the climate getting hotter and a lot more hostile in its extremes. Agriculture seems increasingly impractical.

          The financial prelude will be a walk in the park. We have already crapped in our nest enough to kill us. Mother Nature will figure out the rest.

        • Paul says:

          Harry – I am increasingly leaning in that direction — even if radiation does not get the survivors — life is without a doubt going to be so difficult that most people would wish it were just over with…

        • Pedro says:

          Prepping can be the best use of your time ever. It certainly has been for me. Now three years into living in the bush surrounded by rain forest with clean rainwater from the roof, a hillside spring and the river. Wildlife abounding (rabbits, wallabies, possums etc).
          Learning what veggies I can grow, wild plants I can eat, tending hens, and just enjoying life. Certainly beats the nine to five rat race in the city when I really did ‘waste’ most of my life.
          When the collapse occurs I have some idea what to expect thanks to Gail and others and have multiple plans figured out for most scenarios, equipment failures etc.
          Of course plans fail and I could easily be a victim on the first day but at least I will give it a try. Can only die once and probably won’t be pleasant but this will apply to everyone whether they ‘prep’ or not.
          Sorry for the other 7 billion but I can’t save the world. I will try to work with all my neighbours in the valley (all ten of them) and family members and try to enjoy each day as it comes or at least accept it with stoicism.

          • Paul says:

            It is definitely a bonus if one enjoys working on the land…. regardless of if my shift to the land will make a difference — I am glad I have done it.

          • InAlaska says:

            Yes, this seems to me to be the only rational response for people living within a system they can’t control. Just live your life the way you want to live it and where. Prepare as best you can to live as independently from the machine as is possible nowadays and enjoy life! Just don’t cut your finger on your garden hoe and die of infection while doing it!

  14. I read the article as short-term or even mid-term confirmation of plateau bouncing scenario. The western public could be still shaved off much more in terms of their energy consumption and creature comforts in order to allow some sluggish growth in the East/South. So, globally speaking the plateau would be more or less maintained. There is no reason, why this couldn’t be duct taped for few more decades mostly on coal and nat gas.

    I think as I mentioned previously, people here discount the viability of some semi autarchic global order (inclusive blocks of countries/regions) lasting say upto two or three decades from now, where much reduced in throughput global exchange of goods and capital still somewhat functions mainly in energy and food (currency swaps, barter), but most of the consumer fluff is eliminated for ever. The luxury stuff continues to flow. Precursors of this is what we see now anyways.

    And only after this “emergency” arrangement hits final limit, the true Seneca Cliff could occure, which would probably cement some elites into neofeudal position for centuries, while other big honchos will be parted with their real or virtual “wealth” in swift fashion. What is it going to do with most of the 8bln. soals and their living arrangements, especially those i nurban setting, on the planet by that point it’s up to imagination.

    • Harry says:

      I think your reduced consumption scenario overlooks both the calamitous effects of deflation/de-growth on financial systems and the vulnerability of supply-chains to cascading failures. The networked, hypercomplex system we have built functions as a totality or it does not function at all.

      • Again, the global financial system is changing rather quickly as we speak. Non USD/EUR swap payments are growing, including deals in energy and commodities. The manufacturing and large part of the science base had relocated already. Moreover even the US-EU alliance is melting away as evidenced by hints from German elites, e.g. just in during past month: top business journal favoring getting off the US overloards, former rightwing defence minister and 30yrs MP saying Germans are sick and tired of NATO etc.. And now even the old Gulf proxies are showing signs of going alone, ehm with another alliance.

        Do you really think the world ends in a heartbeat when US/London/EU gets a comma, do you really think it matters when derivative, bond and real estate bubbles evaporate? Perhaps for a US suburbanite dweller this will be like the end of his little world. But elsewhere.. ? Not so much.

        The general trend discussed here towards dislocation of this industrial civilization is right, however the idea of sudden universal collapse is not. This will be a straicase fall affair in several different houses (regions).

        • Harry says:

          “Do you really think the world ends in a heartbeat when US/London/EU gets a comma, do you really think it matters when derivative, bond and real estate bubbles evaporate?”

          Yes, in a word. Our interdependence and complexity means that collapse will be swift. The scenario outlined by David Korowicz in his ‘Trade Off’ paper and oft-referenced here seems likely to me: http://www.feasta.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Trade_Off_Korowicz.pdf

          • Paul says:

            Most want to read that entire paper — I’d suggest skipping to p. 56 where the punch line starts…

            What research was a real eye-opener for me when I first read it … one of the bigger pieces of the puzzle…

        • dolph09 says:

          Although we can argue about the specifics and timing, I agree broadly with the idea that the world moves on even if one or more foci fail.

          Past examples in recent memory are the British Empire and the Soviet Union. Remember, the managers of big systems always say the same thing: those degenerate savages can’t manage their affairs on their own! What will they do without our control and debt!

          And it turns out that humans on the ground find ways to survive.

          Now it’s America’s turn and many, many people have a problem with that. So they say the same thing: those Chinese are going to starve without us! those old and bureaucratic Europeans can’t manage anything!

          Well, we’ll see.

          • Harry says:

            The Chinese economy is primarily mercantile. They need a functioning world economy within which to sell their products. They are themselves teetering atop a $25+ trillion credit bubble. Understanding the extent of our global interdependence and the frankly terrifying vulnerabilities that stem from that has nothing to do with old-fashioned jingoism. For geopolitical reasons the Soviet Union developed into a uniquely self-reliant empire. Our current, globalized situation is very different:


    • The issue is governments and the financial systems holding together, as one attempts to shave off energy consumption. In past collapses, we know that governments were part of what were vulnerable. We have so much debt now, this is likely to play a role as well.

      • xabier says:

        Historically, for as long as they function and have coercive force, governments will turn the screws on the populace.

        When the Byzantine Empire was hit by plague (25% killed? 50%? who knows really), in the 6th century, farmers who survived found themselves liable for taxes even if they hadn’t been able to harvest and sell, and also liable for the taxes owed by their dead neighbours.

        It is to be noted that the IMF consistently advocates heavy sales tax increases to governments in trouble, regardless of the impact on those who are struggling .

    • Thanks! The Chinese system seems to be quite different from ours. As I understand the situation, political leaders are given goals they are expected to meet, and considerable flexibility in meeting those goals. I don’t know if this situation is part of what is behind the “ghost cities” or not. Clearly a lot of debt is generated from somewhere to finance all of this. How the lack of payback is hidden is not at all clear. It certainly does look like a bubble ready to burst.

  15. Stilgar Wilcox says:

    Your article Gail explains well the difficulties of the idea of switching from FF usage to non-FF.

    What we often neglect to acknowledge is we stumbled upon an energy legacy from previous eons of time, built an entire global civilization around it’s entropy without concern for limits, then at some point had an ah-ha moment of realization regarding it’s finite nature, saw the peak coming and pondered how we could substitute for that energy source, but with limited success.

    • Paul says:

      That’s a very concise summary

    • Jarle B says:

      Stilgar Wilcox,

      dead on!

    • dave says:

      Or said more simply: The Wile E. Coyote moment.

    • Mr Bill says:

      That ah ha moment occurred in 1972 with publication of “The Limits to Growth”.
      That year, the awareness of global limits was dramatically raised. I clearly recall that the week the book the book was published Wall Street took a brief nosedive. It took about two weeks for the kickback about all that computer simulation by some unknown academics being fantasy. It seems that ah ha moment died and mostly faded away close to 40 years ago. What sane direction is mankind headed currently?.

  16. T. G. Neason says:

    Gail, thank you once again for the effort that you put into these posts. You have a unique ability to connect the dots in an understandable presentation.

    You mentioned that house hold formation is lagging due to a lack of well paying jobs. That is true but the high level of student debt is another restraint on household formation. This debt has now exceeded a trillion dollars (more than outstanding credit card debt) and can rarely be discharged through bankruptcy.

    Any time there is a surplus of capital, there will be capital misallocation. The government has made student loans available to all applicants whether they are suited for higher education (unlimited capital). The education establishment has taken advantage of this free money and increased education cost to obscene levels.

    Finally, this high level of debt leaves these poor people with out the ability to cope with higher energy costs.

    • The issue of student debt is an important one as well. I know I have seen stories about people who cannot “make it” financially, taking out student loans with the idea of living on the proceeds and perhaps taking a course or two as well. Whether or not they are really planning to study and get a degree is less than clear.

      Of course, if students manage to graduate, the jobs many of the graduates are getting don’t pay all that well, either. And the new college graduates are taking the jobs high school graduates previously had, leaving more of them unemployed.

      The poor (in more than one way) students with the loans can’t get married, buy and home, and start a family, because they are so burdened with debt.

      • J says:

        This is apparently how the world population will shrink. People will be so poor that starting a family is not an option, and hence the decline sets in. Textbook Malthus.

        • edpell says:

          Snap and section 8. The too proud will not reproduce but everyone else is doing fine.

        • sheilach2 says:

          If you look at the situation in the Philippians, you will see that even abject poverty doesn’t prevent them from having many children. I’ve seen images of households living in shacks on stilts existing literally in sewage & poop filled water & getting their “living” from picking trash to sell & eating rotten fruit.
          Here in the US, poor people can have many children while living on food stamps & welfare, the more kids, the greater the food stamps & welfare but they are not living in luxury but in slums. They just don’t seem to care & have no sense of responsibility.

          Proud, independent people try not to have children they cannot afford but some people don’t care as long as someone supports them & their children they will keep on having them with different fathers who only stick around long enough to get them pregnant.

          The book “Limits to growth” showed that as death rates rose, so did the reproduction rate as parents struggled to replace the babies they lost to disease & starvation.
          Only extreme emaciation of the mother prevents her from having more children.

          • Paul says:

            If you get a chance to travel to Manila take a walk through Smokey Mountain — quite an amazing place — people waiting anxiously for each dumpster to arrive…

            The biggest problem in 3rd world countries re: population is not so much irresponsibility — I have seen surveys that indicate women despair at adding new mouths to feed beyond a certain level — BUT — they are poor so they have no money for birth control.

            In the philippines the wonderful catholic church exacerbates the problem by insisting followers NOT use birth control.

  17. John Doyle says:

    Does anyone know what is the oil input energy cost regarding the production of crop biofuels?
    I.e., how energy efficient are these crop biofuels? Do they contribute any value in the final analysis considering the loss of agricultural land, both in area and soil degradation, away from food production etc?

    • I know that there are quite a few different articles pointing to different deficiencies of crop biofuels. The USDA article I linked to pointed out that to get today’s high proportion of corn in the mix, crop rotations needed to change, to include more corn in the mix. Thus we are becoming more and more dependent on fertilizers to replace nutrients, rather than allowing crop rotation to provide part of the nutrient mix. We are using more marginal land as well.

      There is a fair amount of argument about the EROI of corn, but I don’t see that as being as important as the many direct and indirect issues with using so much land for corn. The EROI argument has to do with how much natural gas and coal are used (plus oil) to make liquid fuel. In a way, what we are doing is simply putting energy in a more convenient form, just as coal-to-liquid and gas or coal to electricity plants do.

      I think it is more important that we are depleting aquifers, using irrigation to grow corn in places where it is not meant to grow. (Energy required for irrigation is not included in EROI calculations, either, by the way.) And of course degrading the soil.

      Of course, biofuels are not at all sustainable without fossil fuels. Most folks don’t think about this. They see biofuels as a way of extending oil (or rather gasoline–something that voters use) supply, using a home-grown product that previously was subject to price supports. Politicians could therefore make farmers happy, cut price support costs, and hold down gasoline prices at the same time.

      • Mr Bill says:

        My complements on a thought provoking report. I found your site only recently, and I thank you for being here.

        As I followed the US government plan to encourage and subsidize “harvested” biomass, codeword mostly for corn, for ethanol production, in the early stage, it seemed to make sense, good for the gasoline consumer and good for the farmer. This is government planning without analysis. The law was passed to move forward.

        As I recall, the EROI calculations, after accounting for production, processing and hauling enery, etc, was unfavorable. The ethanol reinforced gasoline cost more than
        the non ethanol gasoline. A false premise in the law! And it is costing the public.

        But the law prevails, in spite of a false premise in the law. Now we have consumers, corporations, farmers, politicians, etc all muddled up in this ETHANOL FOR GASOLINE
        quagmire. (Even if the solution should take short order to overturn based on a false premise).

        I just cannot help but visualize all of these high caliber group members, collectively gather in a large octagon fighting ring. And the objective of each is to win at all cost. The winner will be declared CHAMPION. And they are oblivious to the needs and expectations of the audience, the public.

        Is that vission absurd?

        • The object of the game is to provide income for farmers and for various middle men who produce biofuels, and to reduce government spending. It is also to get government officials re-elected. There has been some benefit in “extending” the amount of gasoline–its price tends to stay lower, relative to diesel, than in the past. This also makes elected officials happy. The overall real benefit of the program is doubtful–soils are depleted faster, aquifers are depleted faster, marginal lands are put into production increasing erosion. With the heavy fossil fuel use and adverse effect on land use, CO2 benefits are doubtful.

      • sheilach2 says:

        I think too many here are overly concerned with the loss of electricity. But before all the lights go out, what you will be missing most in your life is FOOD & clean water! For every calorie you consume, it took about 10 calories of OIL to produce it.
        You can’t grow food with electricity & we won’t be able to produce enough electricity with renewables to power the farm machinery or transportation, neither will we have the energy left to produce electric farm equipment.
        This means we will have to return to a system of farming with a large human labor input.
        Working animals would need farmland to feed themselves leaving less land to feed humans.
        No matter what we could do now, there are simply too many of us, we are committed now to a mass die off. We will be contending with mass immigration of billions of people fighting to escape starvation/dehydration. This has already been happening in southern Europe with thousands of Africans trying to escape wars & abject poverty. The US has be inundated with tens of thousands of immigrants from central america escaping drug lords & poverty.
        May as well party on while you still can.

        • I agree. Also, I wonder how many of us will end up living in our existing locations. If we need to move in order to have food, will we really be able to dismantle solar panels and take them with us? (I expect their best use in the new location would be for water pumping, not running iPhones.)

          • InAlaska says:

            This is true. Electricity is a luxury not a necessity. We’ve only had it for about 150 years out of 10,000. Life is possible, even nice with out it. Of course, we need it for the modernity part and to keep nuclear reactors from melting down, but hey, lets not let perfect get in the way of good.

        • Coilin MacLochlainn says:

          Sheila, – I agree with you. We must soon return to labour-intensive farming of a permacultural kind. But how many industrialised nations are preparing for this? Where I come from, Ireland, the powers that be are investing everything they’ve got in bigger, more heavily industrialised farms, in beef and dairy predominantly, and totally dependent on oil; this is a policy with no future whatsoever. And all this at the expense of soil health, environmental quality and communities of traditional small farmers that in the past supported and fed all of the people in their area. The current corporation-led approach is the worst possible agricultural policy at this time, built on short-termism and pandering to wealthy farmers and huge multinational corporations. Everyone else suffers, and the viability of the farming tradition as we know it moves closer and closer to wipeout.

          • xabier says:


            Same pattern in England as in Ireland – not just a lack of understanding but a clear irritation with small farmers, and a government and bureaucracy entirely in the pockets of the huge industrial farming concerns.

            Electorally it is insignificant, as farming hardly employs anyone at all. Economically, it is seen as a minor industry, and potentially a source of great costs to government if livestock disease strikes, or flooding.

            Essentially, they want agriculture to go away. Insane.

  18. Fred132 says:

    “Nuclear power plant electricity production has grown even since the 1986 Chernobyl accident because the United States has continued to expand the capacity of existing nuclear facilities. I do not expect this trend to continue, for a variety of reasons.”

    Neither do I. I’m not even convinced it makes economic sense to build nuclear power plants in the first place:


    • A person could write multiple articles on nuclear, and the issues associated. As the article linked points out, the front end costs are very high now. This is especially the case in countries that are trying to increase safety requirements. I expect that costs are considerably lower in countries that are willing to cut costs, such as India and perhaps China. There are a lot of other issues, including:
      (1) What happens, if we have a loss of fossil fuel capability to keep up the power plants and decommission them? How about simply a loss of grid electrical power?
      (2) Can we really keep up uranium supply for the lives of the plants? I know that there is theoretically reprocessing, but these plants are expensive and haven’t been built yet. IIRC, there are also US laws against them.
      (3) Excessive dependence on natural gas isn’t good either. Do we really have alternatives other than nuclear that “work” and have low CO2 emissions? Aren’t we kidding ourselves with offshore wind and solar PV? Even onshore wind does not scale up well, unless there is a lot of hydro backing it up, and nearby use for the electricity.

      • J says:

        As long as emitting carbon has no cost, the winner is clear. I suspect that we can’t add a price to carbon emissions since that will bring about the end of the world that much faster. That said, if California doesn’t get substantial rainfall in the next 5 years we will face a migration from CA to other states. Seattle/Bellevue is already the fastest growing city in the US. At least it rains here although less than it used to and the city is scrambling to keep up with the amount of new cars added to the system.

        • If only some countries have taxes on carbon, and there is no tax on imported goods made with coal, carbon taxes tend to shift production to the countries that don’t have carbon taxes, particularly those using low cost fuels, like coal. In general, carbon taxes tend to be counter-productive, as far as I can see.

      • edpell says:

        Once through nuclear reactor use less than 1% of the energy. They will be gone when cheap uranium is gone. Fast reactors can happily burn all that 99% good spent fuel. The big concern is that slow reactors can never blow up like a nuclear bomb but fast reactors can blow up like a nuclear bomb. If you though a simple accumulated hydrogen explosion was bad (Fukushima) just wait. Of course blowing the plant to little pieces spread across the one mile neighborhood (mostly) will mean simple clean up just scrap off the top foot with a bulldozer.

  19. timl2k11 says:

    Thanks for the link to the article “Germany’s Electricity Market Out of Balance”. I had heard that wholesale electricity prices in Germany were very cheap, which some people seem to be pointing to as a plus, while retail customers are paying a rather (relatively speaking) expensive price for electricity. Perhaps electricity should be more expensive though. How to guage if wind and solar are providing any net benefit to Germans? The intermittency issue seems to be a major problem that very few people truly understand. If you have a sunny and windy day great, but what do you do when it is calm and cloudy? Does the intermittent energy ever offset the extra energy and carbon costs required to stabalize the system? Without some very cheap and efficient way to store wind and solar, they both seem like ill-advised solutions to our energy problem. In fact, for now they seem to be making things worse, not better. Same with electric cars. The batteries are waaay too expensive, not even close to being economical! It’s insanity some of the things people think are solutions to our oil problem. For better or worse, as your article shows, coal remains cheap and will probably be leaned on increasingly as crude oil becomes less economical.

    • I expect that the electricity problem is a major contributor to Germany entering into recession as well. We will see what the next few quarters bring.

      • J says:

        Do you know if they could start up 1-2 or their nuclear plants if they wanted to? Or have the started dismantling them?

  20. Ikonoclast says:

    Interesting analysis as usual. Gail’s is the only site on the Internet that I can find which regularly questions our global energy future and links it to limits to growth. The great majority of the public seem to be living in a fool’s paradise and have no idea what is coming. Whilst I am not quite as gloomy as Gail, I still don’t see much reason for hope. Let me explain.

    Fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas, methane clathrates) – Oil is the most useful, transportable and “flexible” fuel. It is ideal for transport needs apart from the pollution/CO2/climate change issue. It has many other industrial uses too. Oil is going to be impossible to replace. Natural gas ticks most of the boxes that oil ticks. Coal is very dirty pollution-wise. In terms of delivering energy, Gail’s graphs show that fossil fuels have peaked. The one possible exception is tundra and sea-bead methane clathrates but if we use or destabilise these deposits (mass clathrate release) we will totally cook our planet. It will be very hard to impossible to replace all that fossil fuels do and the amount they do.

    Nuclear – Gail is right. Production of nuclear energy will stay flat at best until 2050 from when it will decline due to peak uranium being past.

    Hydro – Gail is right again. Hydro is on a slow decline for the reasons Gail outlined.

    Wind/Solar – Wind and solar are likely to be considerably better than Gail predicts. It could save some regional patches but not the world. A Wind/Solar and almost totally electrical economy could work if we accepted much simpler lives. It would need about 1/3 the energy of a fossil fuel economy as it is much more efficient. Heavy machinery and farm machinery would have to be electrical too as well as mass transit. The feasibility of all this might be doubtful though. Only time will tell.

    Prediction – Collapse will occur. Indeed it has started in MENA, the Eurozone and other areas. Some regions might be able to transition to simpler living standards and a very modest wind-solar economy with some electrical grids still operating. Possibly 500 million to 1 billion people might be on the planet in 2100.

    • How do you support today’s governments on Wind/Solar? Doesn’t work, that I can see. Living simpler lives won’t be enough.

      • dolph09 says:

        I can see some enlightened smaller countries going for a bit longer on solar, if they are able to also muster enough force for defense, and reduce the welfare state.

        As for the modern warfare/welfare government of America, nothing can save it at this point.

        • xabier says:

          Defence is an important consideration: in discussing technologies we overlook the fact that they depend on stable social structures, and these are more than likely to be overwhelmed by violence, either directly or by indirect effects of wars (ie supply chain destruction).

          A European friend commented the other day that this is ‘like living in the late 3rd century Roman Empire, with the equivalent of the Thirty Years War ‘(in which everyone attacked everyone else and ruined Germany for a century at least) going on in the Mid -East. he has a point…

    • Question one should ask oneself is if its possible to build windmills from windmill power faster than they are worn down – if so you have a sustainable system of renewable energy. I believe its possible, especially with some help from hydro electric and biofuel.

      I worry more about us not getting off the fossil fuel train before it wrecks havoc with the climate of this planet.

      • edpell says:

        I think we can safely assume that all the FF that can be extracted for an equivalent cost of $100/barrel oil will be extracted and burned. The question is how much of that existing.

        • Suppose the $100 barrel oil is located in the Middle East, and the Middle East gets involved in a broad war. Are you assuming this oil will still be extracted? Quite a bit of the oil might be in Iraq. Who will build the necessary infrastructure amid war? Isn’t your assumption that $100 barrel oil will be extracted a fairly optimistic one, basically assuming that BAU can continue for quite a while, in a lot of oil exporters?

          • InAlaska says:

            Gail, you are right. Libya has still not reached the production levels it had prior to ousting Ghadafi. Neither has Iraq. War disrupts BAU including production of oil. War is basically a big entropy machine. It destroys things that take energy to restore.

            • xabier says:


              War is so often sawing off the branch on which you sit: you get the wood, and a broken neck too….

              The Ukraine is a perfect illustration of this futile war process. In order to reassert control over the Russian areas the central government is currently bombing its own infrastructure to pieces in the east, and it seems incurring debt to its allies for the funding of the army. If it wins, it will, as an already bankrupt state, be faced with huge expense to reconstruct the infrastructure. But ‘patriotism’ demands war and sacrifices……

              There is a parallel here with the way in which the Roman Empire devastated rebellious provinces -above all in what are now France and Spain -in its last years, in order to assert a status quo which was effectively finished.

        • Jim Lovejoy says:

          Even leaving aside Gail’s very pertinent caveat, coal use in developed countries would seem to be going out. I believe that over 50% of current US coal plants are within 10 to 20 years of the end of their design life. Very few new coal plants are being built in the US now, I don’t see that reversing to any great extent. If the economics aren’t here today with today’s interest rate, I don’t see the economics getting favorable in the future.

          India is going against new coal plants, mostly from an economics, and coal supply security standpoint, which leaves China. But we’d need enough organization that shipping coal from the US to China would be viable.

          • I think that there is a good chance all fuels decrease together. Coal is shipped by oil, for one thing. Any kind of electricity generating unit needs replacement parts. These often require supply chains from around the world. Electricity transmission requires a lot of maintenance and repairs, especially after major storms.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Dear Gail
              Have you noticed the orchestrated PR campaign to make the secret 9/11 commission report public? There was a clip of a Republican congressman yesterday where he said that on every page he found that his beliefs about 9/11 were wrong. He strongly encouraged every congressman to go to the room where the report is kept and read it. ‘We owe it to the families of the dead’.

              Now…a lot of people think the secret report implicates the Saudis.

              The two largest oil exporters are the Saudis and the Russians. I stated months ago that NATO was setting up the Russians by fomenting a situation where the ethnic Russians would be used for target practice by the Ukrainians, which Russia will find intolerable, which will lead to a war that NATO thinks it can win, which will lead to NATO control over Russian oil and gas.

              Now, Saudi behavior will be found to have been ‘intolerable’ and a war against them, and possibly other Persian Gulf states, will likewise result in NATO control over Persian Gulf oil.

              So NATO ends up controlling a very high percentage of the oil and gas in the world, including domestic supplies in the US. This gives a military organization the power to dispense oil and gas as it sees fit.

              Don Stewart

            • What I see is that it is the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 report, and various folks are using the occasion to raise questions.

              Mike Lofgren at Truth-Out.com raised the issue of Saudi Arabia fomenting and subsidizing Jihadist movements. http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/25190-how-to-read-a-government-commission-report-an-inquiry-into-the-9-11-commissions-10th-anniversary-report
              Ron Paul claims that there is a redacted 9/11 report that hasn’t been made possible.

              I suppose your theory is possible. When resource shortages are the problem, I suppose there are multiple ways to “skin a cat.” But I don’t think it is necessarily very likely. Too many things could go wrong.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Dear Gail
              Here is the brief video with Representative Massie:

              Ron Paul is in the news lately saying that the US government ‘knew about’ 9/11 before it happened…but I see his statements are far more speculative. So far as I know, he never read the classified 28 pages when he was in the House.

              What struck me about Massie’s statements is his referral to having to revise what he thought he knew about the events.

              Paul has been quoted in the last few days as saying that we will never get the truth from a government commission. Massie is not making such a claim…just that the truth is being hidden from the American people by the ill-founded claim of national security issues.

              Don Stewart

            • Paul says:

              I was driving recently in Canada and listening to a talk show that had one of the widows of a Cantor Fitzgerald employee killed in 911 on — she and 3 others were not happy with the investigation and took action themselves pounding on their reps’ doors and going public…

              As she said they ran into brick walls everywhere — nobody would do anything — nobody would answer questions — and very little money was ever allocated to this investigation…

              Something is not right with this picture…


            • Thanks for the link to the video. What Massie says is concerning, I agree.

            • Paul says:

              What I wonder is …

              Snowden has said he could access communications of anyone — right up to the President….

              So why is he not releasing more damaging information?

              Let’s say he had proof that the Deep State was complicit in 911 or some other false flag ops — could he not either use that to enforce his demands regarding the NSA’s violation of the Constitution?

              Of if he believed the US was truly on the verge of a totalitarian nightmare (which it is) and that threats would not have any effect …. why not just try to tear the whole thing down by releasing massively damaging pieces of information one after the other….

              Wouldn’t that be a spectacle…

              Rather than crap about the NSA spying on the Merkel or Petrobas (as if that’s a surprise…) — dump an endless stream of proof of US false flag atrocities onto the world….

              And just watch the country tear itself apart.

              All the effort to convince Americans that the US is the good guy —- would go right out the window as they were faced with the fact that their Dear Leaders were monsters…

              If I were Snowden — that’s what I would do — but FIRST…. I would find out who makes Xanax… and I would go long with every penny I could get my hands on…

              Perhaps Snowden does not have the info — or he is holding onto it as his trump card in case anyone messes with him — he has said he has passed around encrypted info as a fail safe…

            • Don Stewart says:

              One more thought on 9/11, the Persian Gulf, and Ukraine. If my scenario of military domination over world oil production comes true, then it upsets lots of assumptions. Militaries are notoriously uninterested in marginal costs and marginal revenues as drivers of decisions. If the militaries are driving the enterprise, they will simply tax the populace to get the money they need. If they perceive that they need fracked oil and gas, then they will simply give the fracking companies enough money to motivate them. Whether that makes the whole fracking enterprise cash flow negative would not be a major concern.

              The parallels with the late Soviet empire are striking. The system would become more and more dysfunctional, but there would not likely be a collapse in the next decade or two because ‘finance’ would not be a driver.

              For the ordinary citizen, it turns out that gardening is, ahem, still the right answser. The dachas
              gardens saved the Russians during the Soviet collapse, and might save me and you as the militaries grind things into dust.

              Don Stewart

            • It seems like there are more moving parts than what you are accounting for. Even if NATO takes over the Persian Gulf, there is a need for ethnic groups not to be fighting each other, and a high enough price to make oil production profitable for oil companies. There is also a need for people to be physically working in the oil fields. We have done a singularly terrible job of keeping things operating so far–look at Libya.

            • It is hard to depend on a country with that kind of record for production.

            • Paul says:

              Not sure if the parallels are that striking Don… the USSR’s economic system was very primitive — it had nowhere near the complexities of our current globalized system… it also did not have a complex financial interdependent financial system as we do now…

              The USSR may have been inefficient but it was a more simple system— and as we know from Korowitz and Tainter… complex systems are far more fragile than simple ones.

  21. Robert Firth says:

    Our current “renewables” are totally dependent on a fossil-fuel base. Solar PV requires rare elements whose mining and refining consume huge amounts of energy, as well as creating huge amounts of pollution. But wind is even worse, If you add up the energy investment required for obtaining the raw materials, refining them, and forging them into very precise shapes, you get a big number. Now add the cost of the infrastructure to get the turbines in place – the roads, trucks, workers’ hhuts, excavators, cranes, foundations, tall poles, electricity cables, transformers &c. Now add the cost of maintenance, stupidly high because our current designs can’t feather in high winds, but tend to burn out. Add the decommissioning costs. And amortise that over a lifetime that is barely 25% to 30% of what the enthusiasts claimed. Wind power is not an energy source; it is an energy sink. If you want to harness the wind, build a mediaeval windmill.

    • Paul says:

      Robert – you are so right…. and most people are so underestimating what is coming our way… the comments I am seeing border on delusional… 2100 till we get the die off – does anyone seriously think this can continue for 96 more years?

      When shale peaks if not sooner — we are done. Keep in mind conventional oil is dropping eveyr second — every minute — every hour – every day — after peaking in 2005…

      Mark my words. Tick tock

      • atmugh says:

        >most people are so underestimating what is coming our way
        You might read the article (sorry it’s in French) about this black-out in Belgium:


        but what mostly stroke me is the “comment of a client”, used a a paragraph’s title:
        “it is rather impressive that we can get this situation in the 21st century”.
        … which I could well hear around me if I were talking to a bunch of people about this. It shows that people are still completely “locked” in the eternal-progress-paradigm and they do not realize that not only growth as we knew it is over, but that probably the prow of the Titanic will hit the iceberg very soon, if not done already.

        • It is in the cold weather months that we hit peak usage of electricity, because electricity is used for heating in quite a few places. I know my highest electric bill is in winter, even though I have air conditioning in summer, and only a heat pump in the basement in the winter (natural gas heating elsewhere). I live in Atlanta, a city in the United States that is relatively warm.

      • InAlaska says:

        I think you meant 86 more years, Paul. Math will still be useful in 2100(;^D

    • Windmills were around before we discovered fossil fuels, and will be around when there is no fossil fuels left. It only takes more manpower to form the materials into them. Solar power is a different thing though as that needs a lot of energy for mineral extraction and processing into panels.

      If fossil fuels are dwindling, will we use them for flying and recreational use, or to make windmills and solar panels? All it takes is a shift in the mindset of what we choose to use our energy for – at the moment its an exceptionally wasteful relation. You first need to build the energy source for it to power the builiding of itself. Truly we are nowhere near that point now, but we could be.

      • There are two different types of wind mills:
        (1) Today’s fancy ones
        (2) Much less fancy ones, including ones used hundreds of years ago

        The second type has some chance of being somewhat sustainable. The current type runs on high-tech replacement parts. They can be expected to be very short-lived.

        • Paul says:

          A log cabin builder was telling me he was at a conference recently in the NE US…. he had a chance to visit a water wheel powered saw mill that has been in operation for nearly 200 years…. all original gear.

          Pretty cool — but very limited of course…

          • J says:

            At least we won’t go back to that technology. I suspect you could build a Francis turbine using bronze age technology.

      • Paul says:

        Re windmills:

        This will not be possible http://media.economist.com/images/20081206/4908TQ14.jpg

        This will be possible http://www.beyond.fr/picsvill/castelnaudary0004b.jpg but it will of course not generate electricity as that would require a lot more than just a wheel spinning in the wind…. but it would serve to grind grain or turn a saw — as these windmills did in their day…

        • Coilin MacLochlainn says:

          Paul, – one thing is missing from your assessments, I think; the extraordinary ingenuity and inventiveness of humans. Technology has advanced so much in the last two hundred years that even if we have to go back to medieval-type windmills to power everyday activities, these are likely to be far more efficient than those of the past.

          I wouldn’t discount modern renewables remaining in service long after the oil crunch, on the basis of what human ingenuity can do with the technology it’s got, and what it might still develop.

          Certainly, things will collapse, but whether everything will go back to the Stone Age is not a given. I picture a somewhat more sophisticated energy infrastructure than that, but nothing within the reach or might made possible by oil.

          I only make the point as Gail and yourself continually hammer home the point that everything is about to fail, renewables are a total waste of time and we can burn as much fossil fuels as we like because, what the hell, the collapse of industrial civilisation will come before climate armageddon. I disagree. We cannot continue to burn fossil fuels at current rates for another ten years because, if we do, we will lock in such serious changes in climate that nothing will survive barring the odd microbe. And we cannot afford to waste our remaining fossil fuel reserves on luxury activities, such as flying, tourism, etc. All fossil fuel reserves need to be set aside for supporting the deployment and maintenance of renewables infrastructure, as soon as the world’s nations can agree to this. If they’re not reserved for this purpose, then we will face massive problems and your worst-case scenarios might indeed unfold.

          • There is no such thing as “setting asides fossil fuel reserves.” Once our ability to extract these fuels is gone, we are out of luck. The fuels will simply stay in the ground. We have no way of getting them out, refining them, and shipping them to customers. That is what helps save the climate–or at least prevents the worst climate disasters.

          • Paul says:

            Technology is what caused the problem in the first place… technology is what allowed us to feed 7.2 billion people…

            Unless technology can work out how to revive the earth that technology destroyed by pouring petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides on 98% of the earth’s farmland — then most of these 7.2 billion people will soon be dead.

            Technology is a false god.

    • xabier says:


      Yep, wind and water mills, a fantastic technology: I’ve said it before and I’ll do so again -the main working parts could last 500 years, and no one needed a factory in Asia to make the spare parts.

      • Lizzy says:

        I’m reading a well-researched book set in England in the 6th century. It really was a World Made By Hand (pace, Kunstler). Life was hard and mean, but they had everything they needed. Except food, of course. I don’t know what the population was — less than 3m, I think, vs 64m today. Things such as swords were passed down several generations; sewing needles lasted a life time; folk inherited wire, and they made their own ropes out of flax… and so on. It’s where we (or the survivors) might end up. There were Kings and rulers, all powerful and violent, but seers and priests had power as well.

        • antares71 says:

          Interesting. After many years studying history at school I realised we mainly went trhough political, military and economical events, kings and queens, revolutionaries and ideologists but rarely got an inside of what life might have looked like for the people in the different centuries. Kinda make me see history from a completely new point of view.
          I have noted the book, thanks for the tip :-)

      • Leo Smith says:

        The main working parts actually burn out in a few months typically.

        A windmill a large windmill – is impossible to make cheaply and long lasting.

        • xabier says:


          Not correct at all. In fact so far off the mark as to durability and short supply chain benefits as as to hardly be worthy of comment. And where did I say that they were ‘cheap’? Throwing coconuts at your own Aunt Sally may amuse you, but does not contribute to a sensible discussion. You will continue nonetheless……

        • This is a distribution of energy use in England that I posted quite some time ago. The figure is by Tony Wrigley. The amounts shown are annual energy consumption per head (megajoules) in England and Wales 1561-70 to 1850-9 and in Italy 1861-70. Water and wind never amounted to much of total energy consumption there.

          Figure by Tony Wrigley. Annual Energy Consumption per head in Megajoules.

    • Jim Lovejoy says:

      A study has determined that it takes less than a year to return all energy costs of wind farms.

      We need to have our criticisms of renewable energy be reality based.

      • The real issue is whether all costs (not just energy costs) can be covered by what the market is willing to pay for intermittent wind electricity. I understand that this is about 2.5 cents per kWh, which is about equal to the fuel cost of the coal or natural gas saved by using the wind turbines. See Wind Technologies Market Report.

        Governments need funding. They cannot afford to subsidize an industry that cannot support itself endlessly. Wind turbines need to run at this cost level, and pay taxes as well.

        • Jim Lovejoy says:

          I agree that the economic viability of wind power is the real issue.

          However, egregiously wrong posts such as the one I originally replied to should be corrected. Wind power is not an energy sink, and not even close to one. I believe we need to discard the incorrect assertions (on both side of the issue) and concentrate on facts to come to correct conclusions.

          • When we create wind energy, we are using it to replace coal and natural gas. This is why the economic question is what it is–how does its cost compare to that of coal and natural gas, which is something like 2.5 cents per kWh.

            I don’t really want to get involved with arguing the “energy sink” question. It takes a lot of direct and indirect energy to make wind turbines. We don’t do a good job of counting more than a small fraction of this energy. The energy is of different qualities, but energy sink calculations seem to disregard this–are we using oil to create a replacement for coal and natural gas? The energy sink calculations depend on assumptions about how long the wind turbine will last, and how much future repairs it will need. Offshore turbines will clearly be different from onshore turbines.

        • Jim Lovejoy says:

          Two questions. I thought that the US federal government at least had let the major subsidy for wind expire, and wasn’t likely to reinstate it, is that correct? Are there other US wind subsidies that still exist?

          Isn’t the avoided cost based on our current depressed natural gas prices? I did a back of the envelope calculation, and assuming the natural gas went up to 80% of a BTU equivalent of oil, I get a fuel cost of about 8 cents a kWh. Have I made some kind of gross mistake?

          If so, at 8 cent a kWh becomes economically, the electricity source of choice.

          • You are generally right about the cutoff of the major subsidy of wind. There seems to be a ragged cut off date for the subsidy, however, with new projects started by January 1, 2014 still permitted. The EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2014 Reference Case says

            Eligibility rules for the wind production tax credit (PTC) allow new wind capacity coming online before 2016 to qualify, leading to a large increase just at the deadline.

            I am having a hard time figuring out how there can be very much wind added in 2015, subject to the subsidy, because wind projects tend not to have long lead times. Apparently Cape Wind turbines are some of the turbines that would qualify since the project started before January 1, 2014.

            So somewhere about now, the production tax credit is disappearing. Wikipedia talks about state tax credits as well, but they are smaller. There are also state renewables portfolio standards, mandating a certain percentage of production from renewables, but often allowing an “out” if the cost is too high.

            There are a couple of issues in making higher natural gas prices stick. One is that competition with coal makes it hard to make higher natural gas prices “stick.” This may become less of an issue, if environmental regulations allows less coal use, or if more coal facilities are closed.

            The other issue is that if electricity prices start to rise very much in inflation-adjusted terms, they tend to constrict economic growth. If homeowners are paying both higher home heating prices because of higher natural gas prices for heating, plus higher electricity prices, there will be a definite cutback in spending. People will tend to move together into fewer units, bringing down electricity demand, and thus the prices that consumers are willing to pay. Electricity generating units will have a hard time getting high enough rates, unless they are in parts of the country where utilities are able to get planned rates of return.

            In the oil sector, there is now a problem with oil prices rising high enough for producers. I understand that this issue is increasingly an issue in the natural gas sector–the high prices we were seeing earlier are coming down. And buyers are increasingly reluctant to lock in contracts, with more prospects for LNG coming on board.

            So while natural gas may become the electricity source of choice, even at high price, I wonder if we won’t end up with huge recession at the same time.

    • Jim Lovejoy says:

      One of the main solar PV sources is Silicon, which is as common as sand (literally). It’s energy intensive to reduce sand to silicon, (on the order of producing aluminum), and moreso to purify it. But any ‘rare’ elements for silicon based PV are in the impurities range, and not worth considering, at least not while we have a functioning society.

      • Paul says:


        And if anyone thinks the solar industry will continue to exist once the SHTF — have a look at this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrGIj8P9Ys8

        • Jim Lovejoy says:

          Perhaps I should have qualified ‘while we have a functioning society’ to ‘while we have a functioning high-tech society’.

      • Paul says:

        And let’s have a peak into a wind turbine factory …

        Anyone still think we can manufacture these post SHTF?

        • xabier says:


          Excellent illustration. Let’s compare that modern factory to a 13th-century wind or water mill, maintained by the miller, an itinerant master builder with expert knowledge, possibly the town joiner, and some local grunt labour for shifting and heaving: that could be maintained in many circumstances and levels of civilization. Of course, as these are all long-dead trades, it is fantasy: even the ‘grunts’ are so unfit and obese on junk food that they couldn’t fulfil that function, judging by my village population……. And climate change might well devour all the timber in vast forest fires.

        • Jim Lovejoy says:

          If I have given the impression that the future manufacture of solar panels is rainbows and lollipops, I apollogize for my poor communications skills.

          What I was trying to say is that raw material constraints will not be the problem for solar panel production. The actual constraints will be (1) continuing a functioning high-tech society. (2) energy. (3) safe handling and disposal of dangerous chemicals such as but not limited to chlorine. The sand for silicon, and the microscopic quantity of rarer elements needed are vastly less important as a constraint.

          Gail I read the links, (I didn’t watch the video) and it looked to me like ‘peak sand’ is more a problem for the big users like sand & gravel. Even if they were manufacturing a terrawatt of panels a year, it would still be at least an order of magnitude less than the sand & gravel industry of the US alone. Again, there are real problems with the future of solar panel manufacturing, I just don’t getting the raw materials is one of them.

  22. J says:

    At some point wind will have the same issues as fracking. That is, you have to start building turbines just to replace old ones that die. And wind turbines have a much shorter lifespan than a nuclear or coal plant. This is very rarely talked about in cost comparisons that tend to focus on $/Watt (nameplate).

    In a new move, EU now starts to limit electricity consumption. Very interesting development: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/10423431/EU-energy-saving-rules-cut-power-of-vacuum-cleaners.html

      • J says:

        Yes I heard about them. I can see how after 32 years of operation they would decide not to renew the plant if it’s too costly to fix. It wouldn’t be the first time such a decision has been made. The sabotage is weird. Did someone get in or was it an insider job? Very little information!

        But I still think that it’s too early to declar nuclear dead. By that I mean it will grow for yet a little while before terminal decline sets in. UK is a good example. Why would they not build some gas plants or coal plants now that a bunch of their nuclear is reaching end of life? Around the world 70+ reactors are under construction. Finland really wants a couple with very harsh winters to contend with.

        But I do hear your logic that the supply chain can’t be sustained w.o. oil. But to some extent you can choose what to shut down first right. I think it’s hard to say how many cars we need to take off the road in order to sustain nuclear for another 20 years. No easy calculations here.

        But the big question we’re all stuggling for an answer to is how fast the decent will be. And when it will set in so that we can all see it clearly. For my neighbor across the street it started when he lost his job in the mortgage industry with very low prospects of getting a new job that pays the same. Of course the are millions like him, but they don’t get much press.

        • xabier says:


          For the Romans, collapse was lots of new neighbours wearing furs and waving swords: for us, falling into poverty and not having any prospect of getting out again, like your neighbour.

          This can happen to vast numbers of people almost imperceptibly, and the effect on the economy covered up with liberal credit, etc. As you say, they don’t get any press.

        • Jarle B says:

          J said:
          “I think it’s hard to say how many cars we need to take off the road in order to sustain nuclear for another 20 years.”

          Taking a lot of cars off the roads is not going to sustain nuclear, it’s going to hit the economy hard.

    • atmugh says:

      I read already about this new rule to limit the power of vacuum cleaners. Except if the considerably increased the aerodynamics inside the devices, the “sucking” power of the things will be so much lower and one will need to pass twice at a spot where a single pass was needed before. That sounds like a measure to make people’s life a little bit more miserable.

      • xabier says:


        It’s a bit like EU rules on smaller windows to prevent heat-loss; people will use more electric light. In this instance, they will spend more time hoovering, in all probability. A perfect example of fiddling while Rome burns.

      • J says:

        I actually went home and looked at my vacuum (Nilfisk GD930) only consumes 1000W and works great. So I think the 1600W rule is OK. It may help reduce peak loads which I guess are the most costly to support.

    • Jim Lovejoy says:

      The lifespan of wind turbines is controversial. There is data that 25 years is a conservative estimate, and other claims of much shorter lifespan.

      • I think the lifespan depends on (1) the availability of replacement parts, and transport and international trade to support the production of those replacement parts and (2) the ability of wind turbine owners to live with the kind of funding that the grid offers. I understand that that is currently about 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour in the US, based on this report, and (3) the ability of the electric grid as a whole to continue operating. This depends on a whole host of oil limits issues, including ability to keep the grid repaired, ability to keep banks operating, and financial health of companies operating in the electric sector.

        Whatever has been estimated in the past as the lifespan of wind turbines is likely too long, given the situation we are likely to be seeing in the future. Of course, this could also be said for other types of electric generation. But some (natural gas) are much cheaper to build.

  23. MJx says:

    The head of Saudi Aramco sees it our way!
    “STAVANGER, NORWAY—The chief executive officer of Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil producer, said Monday that worries such as rising oil-sector costs and global turmoil could lead to a lack of oil supplies down the line, if oil companies fail to make sufficient investments.
    “The factors I just highlighted are likely to put downward pressure on supplies over the longer term, if the industry fails to make prudent and timely investments,” Khalid A. Al-Falih said at the Offshore Northern Seas energy conference.
    The factors that could threaten global oil supply include rising costs and cost overruns on oil mega projects, Mr. Al-Falih said. He also pointed to manpower shortages, climate change issues, low oil demand growth amid global economic weakness in the short term, and turmoil in oil-producing regions such as Africa, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union.”

  24. Pingback: Update on US natural gas, coal, nuclear, and re...

  25. Paul says:

    thanks – another reminder that renewables will not be around once the collapse comes…

    Ten Reasons Intermittent Renewables (Wind and Solar PV) are a Problem

    Solar – After Hundreds of Billions of Dollars of Subsidies and R&D and this is what we get?

    The German Solar Disaster: 21 Billion Euros Burned

    Spain’s disastrous attempt to replace fossil fuels with Solar Photovoltaics

    • I disagree, renewables is the only energy source around when the collapse happens. Many will have access to their own locally produced electricity even if the ability to service them will gradually dwindle. Whereas most people will not have access to natural gas and the insane infrastructure needed for that to be delivered in any form.

      • xabier says:


        However, there are surely substantial quality and supply-chain issues here which are quite as challenging as the complex systems which deliver gas and oil. And basic economic reality, in so far as it affects manufacturing.

        We might have expected the Germans to make good-quality, long-lasting, solar – and to choose them in preference to Chinese models of dubious quality – but what happened?

        They were driven out of business by the Chinese, as far as I understand.

        And how do the Chinese power their factories to produce cheaper goods? Burning coal in vast quantities.

        Not much of this looks very sustainable or viable.

        Solar and wind do indeed renew themselves: but our devices for exploiting them are part of globalised manufacturing, and very finite, above all when manufactured in a cut-throat global economy by developing export-dependent states.

        ‘Renewables’ is a misnomer,and if we lean on them they are likely to prove a fragile reed that snaps if we lean on it.

        Any thoughts on this CTG, you are our manufacturing expert? Is this too pessimistic?

        • Indeed, you basically describe the pitfall of globalization – and all just-in-time systems we rely on. It doesn’t really take much to disrupt these. Putins little game at annexing regions of Ukraine these days and resulting sanctions has probably resulted in a couple of people in Russia as well as EU trying to figure out how they can source the nuts and bolts for their machine since “it was so easy to get them before”. It really exemplifies how stupid the market-economy is, it never considers a “plan B” for anything, just follow the money. Well economists like that need to be thrown over off the ship unless they can start to work towards forming economies that have longevity and resilience built into them.

          Its perfectly possible to make resilient systems that make renewable energy if anyone bothers to try it instead of sourcing parts from the cheapest factory in China. But it really requires a different mindset at whats important in life and that the planets resources isn’t some prize to be won at a casino if you have birthright to win or are just lucky gambling on wall street.

          The whole infrastructure is unfortunately very reliant on fossil fuels for transport so that surely have to be upgraded in order for any kind of long distance trade to exist at all. So perhaps it isn’t a bad idea to consider skipping that part and focus on establishing the technology and systems in closer proximity to solve these problems. Any long distance transport should be limited to essentials that cannot be gotten anywhere else. At the moment I cannot really see what gains we have from e.g. tourism. What a waste of resources.

          • xabier says:

            Many poor people, in Spain live for the next tourist season: no doubt the same in Italy, Portugal, Morocco, etc.

            There have been protests in Barcelona recently about the high level of tourism ‘ruining our city’: I don’t think they are very connected to reality of their economy!

          • Paul says:

            As with all attempts at sanctions… must have products make it through … via black market channels… so Russia will continue to plod on…

            However when the SHTF …. there will be no official or back door channels …. the entire supply chain busts… and the global economy grinds to a halt.

          • antares71 says:

            John, you’re so right.
            Did you know that IKEA has shut down the kitchen manufacturing department in China and moved that to Italy? The reasons are two.
            1. Cheap leabour in China did not make up for poor quality. In the North of Italy exists miriads of small industries that can deliver to IKEA quality solutions instead.
            2. The kitchens previously made in Chine were primarily destined to the European market so they thought to make them here in Europe and skip long-dinstance shipping.

          • antares71 says:

            I saw a documentary that showed hugh amount of paper to be shipped from US to China. China uses that paper to wrap all the goods that ships to US :-)

        • CTG says:

          Xabier, looks like many people on this blog has accepted the fact that supply chain is critical to our civilization (especially due to globalization). I will write something later, to get some thoughts and comments on something important but rarely talked about.

      • Jarle B says:

        John Christian Lønningdal,

        some people having energy from “renewables” for some time are not going to save the world…

        • Saving the world was never my goal either. :) – Surely renewables will not keep up our wasteful relation to fossil fuels today, and neither market-economy kind of just-in-time systems. But I believe renewables are part of any future that might emerge once the world has realized the fossil-fuel train is about to go over the cliff. The question then is as simple as – what do you do with the remaining fossil fuel – waste it – or put it to good use? Naturally any government able to make this kind of prioritization will be a Republicans worst nightmare as it would be the pinnacle of regulation aimed at one purpose – save whatever is left of civilization.

          I admire Gail’s work in details and analysis, but she still aims these articles as a battle to keep what we have now. But look around you, what is “this thing we have now?”. There is so much wrong with society today that its about time it got booted and some new ideas for the future – unless some crazy dictator is going to solve their problems with nukes or something that screws us all over.

          • Jarle B says:

            John Christian Lønningdal said:
            “The question then is as simple as – what do you do with the remaining fossil fuel – waste it – or put it to good use?”

            What is we can easily get to we will use in some way for sure, for what one can only hope.

            ” I admire Gail’s work in details and analysis, but she still aims these articles as a battle to keep what we have now. ”

            I newer got that impression, more like “what we have now can never last after oil an limits to debt”.

            Both of us being from Norway puts us in a group about to take a long fall regarding living standard. Best of luck when we hit the ground!

            • Of course, I agree with Gail about the limits – that is why I am reading this page in the first place. So many people seems to think the planet is an bottomless candy jar, you just have to grow longer arms. But I disagree with the idea that renewables are not part of what will be left as we scramble out of the ruins, I believe they are the only way for electric generation unless some crazy leader decides to power it all with steam from burning wood again (in which case the planet turns into Easter Island within some decades). The scary thing is that, in the dead of winter, people actually do chop down trees if they cant afford electricity. Now imagine hundreds of millions of people doing that…

              Yes we in Norway are both blessed and cursed (the fall can be rather nasty). I read today in the news that the average Norwegian is optimistic with regards to their personal economy – and that is perfectly understandable when you live completely disconnected from reality. Its also clear that our current right wing government (still left of Obama) has no realistic view about the demise of the Norwegian oil adventure. I frequently post links to Rune Likvern’s peak oil graphs to anything oil related in the media whenever they dare open the comment fields, in the hope that at least some start to connect with reality. I realize that the right wings solution to this is to look for more oil, which is what they are busy trying to do. I wonder how many years until we will notice the decline in oil income, and people start loosing jobs within the sector. At the moment, its just crazy how many people they have employed directly or indirectly (even my job as a computer consultant will be affected by their demise). I am not sure people here realize how fragile this set of arrangements really are. Hence its important for economists to publish media findings that the average Norwegian is optimistic with regards to their personal economy…

            • Actually, when people are talking about “renewables,” wood tends to be a big part of the total. Cutting down forests seems to be part of the plan. Wood is a big part of US “renewables.” See the big “GeoBiomass” grouping for the US in Figure 7. This is mostly wood. Cellulosic ethanol attempts seem to be wood, very often, because it is a problem to transport and dry out other types of biomass.

            • Jarle B says:

              JCL wrote:
              “I frequently post links to Rune Likvern’s peak oil graphs to anything oil related in the media whenever they dare open the comment fields, in the hope that at least some start to connect with reality.”

              I do that, to. I get a few “upvotes” now an then, so some are getting it/agrees…

          • Without what we have now, we can’t get the fossil fuels out of the ground. The only exceptions may be a bit of coal, quite a ways from major coal users. We have depleted the easy to extract resources. Thus, all of the oil and natural gas stay in the ground, and nearly all of the coal.

          • admin says:

            Pierce: “The small-is-beautiful crowd, meanwhile, have yet to explain where their endless expanses of solar panels will take the poor.”
            Hopefully not to the consumptive world most of your readers are living in, Gail. And those solar panels Pierce denigrates for lack of cooking capability can be supplemented by low-cost solar cookers.

      • Wood and other biomass will be the only energy source around when collapse comes. New renewables, especially on the electric grid, will not last well at all.

      • Paul says:

        How Solar Panels are Made http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOuyZWqhlNU

        Notice all the machines that are being used to make the panels — how do you manufacture such machines?

        How do you melt the silicon and get it to such high purity?

        Who do you mine the various metals that are used in these panels without the massive infrastructure that includes computers — drilling machinery — massive metal refineries — enormous trucks — ships trains etc…

        Sure you can stock up on some panels now along with very expensive batteries… and you could run some lights — a fan — an irrigation pump…. but that’s about it … might make life a little better…

        But when a part breaks where do you go to replace it?

        These are extremely high tech pieces of equipment — they are not things you can manufacture or repair in your garage…. when they break you may as well toss them in the junk…

    • dolph09 says:

      The way that I look at it is the law of the minimum. Because we are oil dependent, peak oil affects everything else. Once global trade begins to wind down and we see genuine bottlenecks in transportation and supply, renewable dreams will be seen to be fantasy.

      Again, not a reason not to do anything at all. I’m an existentialist at heart; make the choices that you want to make.

      But as Ghung said above: should we be doing all we can to prepare, or be part of the churn and make a ton of dollars while taking golf and fishing vacations?

      Personally I’m just accumulating gold at this point. On the other end I will spend it. Will I be hoarding forever and die with gold coins in my closet? No. I’m giving myself another 5-6 years roughly.

  26. MJx says:

    Posted this in your previous article.
    Seems PROFITS are expected in the energy sector by one in the know: A member of the DEEP STATE
    Warburg Pincus LLC, the $39 billion private-equity firm where former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is president, agreed to invest as much as $600 million in an oil distributor with operations in the emerging markets.
    Zenith Energy Group LLC, based in Houston, is pursuing opportunities to buy, build and operate terminals in Latin America, Europe and Africa, according to a statement today. New York-based Warburg Pincus announced in April it was expanding investments in Africa and the Middle East.
    “We are looking beyond the core euro-zone markets into the rapidly growing emerging markets around Europe for investment opportunities,” Joseph Schull, head of Warburg Pincus in Europe, said in an April interview with Bloomberg News. “Africa is the next big frontier in private equity and we are spending an increasing amount of time investigating opportunities in that region.”
    Warburg Pincus, founded in 1966, has invested more than $9.5 billion in oil, gas and alternative energy companies, including investments in Antero Resources Corp., MEG Energy Corp. and Targa Resources Corp.
    Warburg Pincus is led by co-chief executive officers Chip Kaye and Joe Landy. Geithner joined the firm on March 1 after more than 25 years in public service

    • Warburg Pincus LLC… Another shadow bank vulture!

      How long can we keep this financial charade going?


      Hope you don’t mind me deviate this thread slightly, but I believe the post I am going to place should shed some light in how this whole thing ends… of course, energy being the final nail on the coffin.

      Hope you all enjoy it. I sure did!

      Ladies and gentlemen,

      Falak Pema

      Shadow banking is a vulture parasite by its very nature. Always has been since Milken and Soros made it the talk of the town.

      Just like the Templar State governing the Oil Patch has been a guardian of Oil Jerusalem ever since the Balfour blueprint was conceived and executed post Ottoman demise (Sykes-Picot).

      Wake up ZH (Zero Hedge) you have been wallowing in your worship of HFT (High Frequency Trading) scions, the princes of arbitraged markets (profit of nothing); all the time you cry about HFT and market manipulation. Totally schizophrenic assessment of markets as societal (socio-political cum economico-financial) construct.

      As a trading site you have never been able to correctly define the evils of deregulation. Pretending it’s the neo-Keynesians who pump and dump as slaves of statism. Utter balderdash. It’s the private Reaganista/Nixonian Oligarchy that took over from the MIC when NWO made the cold war MIC junior partner and surrogates to Big Money; aka during the Bush/Clinton/Dubya/Obama years.

      It’s the very essence of Reaganomics from day one : wholesale market stuffing to feed the Oligarchy risk asset pump; as of DAY 1; to the detriment of the middle class and welfare state.

      US Oligarchy has morphed from warmongering empire in Nam days to Friedmanian petrodollar debt pumping in Nixon/Dear Henry days to Reaganista asset pumping based on recycled petrodollar debt– all denominated in greenback treasury notes– thus feeding the shadow banking Frankenstein addicted to derivative steroids.

      And these HFT, all of them, have been the paid Conquistadors helping to rape the commodity and monetary wealth of all and sundry–whatever their pristine vision and hopium fed resolution of building a new promised land– based on being supply and demand market efficiency facilitators, they all ended up addicted to the same pervasive trend like slaves of Gatsby like delusional hubris.

      Couldn’t resist the sweet smell of easy success like taking candy from the sheeple.
      That’s what it has ALL been about. And your scions the libertarian style Kyle Bass HFT managers–Rhett Butlers of this “American dream Gone with the wind” age– are all tainted with the same brush.

      Blancs bonnets and bonnets blancs; so much for free market mechanisms in land of free ever since Rockafella and Morgan invented US capitalism in a nation the size of a continent cleansed of its original population.

      The MIC is now growing a new pair thanks to Putin and Caliphate. We move back to Cold War muscle building big time.

      ‘Cos the NWO financialista Oligarchy manipulated global village construct is now hitting the asymptote. To understand how this will end just remember what happened to Spanish Habsburg universal Empire. It died militarily with the peace of Westphalia (1648). It died politically in 1713 (peace of Utrecht). It lasted two hundred years: 1519-1713. Pax Americana total timeline: 1945- 2050. With the “military” defeat of the Greenback, aka demise of dollar domination as monopoly beginning in 2008…


    • I saw a Wall Street Journal article today called “Saudi Aramco Chief Executive Warns on Oil Supply“> It talks about oil companies failing to make big enough investments, with rising prices.

      Maybe the DEEP STATE is not really so knowledgeable.

      • Paul says:

        Not sure what the Deep State could do about this — the Deep State may think they are all-powerful — they are not.

        Is not this the crux of the unsolvable problem we are facing:

        If oil prices go too high the economy collapses because people can afford less stuff.

        If oil prices go too low oil producers go bankrupt.

        Even Karl Wallenda would have a difficult time negotiating this tight rope….

        The head of Aramco is only stating the obvious … the fact that Big Oil is cutting capex says it all.

      • Harry says:

        Here is that article not behind a pay-wall: http://www.bignewsnetwork.com/index.php/sid/225083519

        Noteworthy quote:

        According to Al-Falih, to meet forecast demand growth and offset this decline, the industry will need to add close to 40 million barrels per day of new capacity in the next two decades. “To put that figure into perspective, that’s equivalent to approximately 30 Norways or 15 times America’s current unconventional oil production,” he said.

        Terrific stuff, as always, Gail.

  27. robertheinlein says:

    “Studies (such as by Brookings Institution, Weissbach et al., Graham Palmer) show that wind and solar PV are not cost-effective for reducing carbon emissions. If we want to reduce carbon emissions, conservation or switching from coal to natural gas would be more cost effective.”

    Those studies have been thoroughly rebutted already. Repeating those false assertions doesn’t improve this article in the least. Solar has been proved to be the preferred energy source for eliminating fossil fuels.

    • stephen boyles says:

      Specifically which fossil fuels has solar eliminated? How huge were the subsidies to solar?

      • Ghung says:

        How ‘huge’ are the subsidies to the fossil fuel sector? Funny how you guys always wiz past that.

        Hot water is second only to heating/cooling as the largest energy user in the home. Solar hot water systems have become much more affordable as a long-term sollution for point-of-use hot water production, require virtually no exotic materials (rare earth minerals, etc.), and can offset most, if not all use of grid power and fossil fuels for hot water (once installed). A little pricey up front, but the payback period is relatively short. I just upgraded our solar hot water with a 60 evacuated tube unit that will provide all of our domestic hot water and much of our radiant floor heat. Warranty on the collectors is 15 years, but upon examination, I see no reason the system can’t last much longer than that. Like PV, the components are modular, so the entire system won’t have to be scrapped if there is a component failure. This system even came with 20 spare tubes in case of breakage.

        Combined with excellent insulation and our passive solar scheme, our ongoing costs for heating and hot water are/will be laughably small for years, and our carbon contribution in this respect virtually nil. Cost of the system upgrade after tax credits (I did the labor): < $1000. Thanks y'all.

        Enjoy burning stuff.

        • cal48koho says:

          Right Ghung. Solar hot water systems can be extremely affordable if you are willing to scounge a bit. We found a 4X8′ copper water heater for the price of the copper($125) in it because the owner said it leaked. We took the glass off, found the hole and soldered it. No more leak. That was 5 years ago. It sits in our greenhouse and delivers preheated water to another tank which then feeds to our electric water heater. We use a small circulation pump activated by a thermostat.The best could get on sunny days was 110 deg in summer so we found some german made cast iron radiators at Habitat for$50. We painted them black, hooked them in series and this bumped up the delivered water to 120 deg. Previously we heated our water with a 300′ coil of black poly pipe but leaks because of the high temperature delivered water(above 140 deg) forced us to scrap that system. In winter I throw a valve and drain the collectors and switch to heating water with a heat exchanger hooked to our wood stove. We live in a very cold snowy mountain town in Jackson Hole BTW, and can’t use solar in the cold long snowy winters. The system is not automatic and requires 15 minutes or so each changeover but it works well and except for the trivial electricity consumed by the tiny pump, costs us little. Our electric bill dropped $14-18/month so payback was accomplished in about the first year.

          • Ghung says:

            Right on Cal. For years I’ve been on these sites and watched the process of the “perfect being made the enemy of the good” (at least better than the status quo, if only by a bit) play out. Seems patently absurd to me. Some people make excuses to do nothing while some of us make choices and do what we can. I see far too few of the latter, which is, at least in part, the cause of our collective predicaments.

            The evacuated tube collectors I’ve installed over the last couple of days have about as much material and embedded energy as the sliding patio doors leading to my deck, cost about the same, and will be net energy producers for most of their lifespans; virtually every bit recyclable (aluminum, copper, glass). If we stop pissing away our remaining fossil fuels, we may even have the energy left to do so for decades, if not centuries. I’m sure someone will use the stale argument that those patio doors won’t be ‘sustainable’ in another 20 – 30 years. I suggest those folks go dig a hole and crawl in; return their embedded energy and materials to whence they came.

            • DownToTheLastCookie says:

              It’s a pleasure to read your comments here Ghung. We really don’t need to have our foot on the accelerator as we approach the stop light. But I do believe it’s in most Americans DNA.

            • antares71 says:

              Ghung, I think you just stumbled upon the wrong blog for your attitude. Here is good to get ideas about doomsday scenarios but not for solutions. Whatever little ray of hope or solution you propose it will never be good enough.

            • Paul says:

              Not at all — please feel free to shine your ray of hope on the situation ….

              But you better be able to support your suggestion/solution with logic … because if you trot nonsense out you will be shredded …

              Keep in mind I think that most of the participants on this forum probably at one time thought there were solutions — whether it as renewables or population control — but those with open minds have come to understand — after dissecting (with Gail’s massive assistance) the many solutions that have put forward — that none of them are feasible.

              Might be worth reading through the archived articles on this site…

            • antares71 says:

              Staying on the doomsday is very easy, it takes nothing. I rather read about mass government conspiracy of mass-morder the population.
              Maybe the UFO of Area51 will help the CIA. Can’t wait.

            • Jarle B says:

              “Staying on the doomsday is very easy, it takes nothing. I rather read about mass government conspiracy of mass-morder the population. Maybe the UFO of Area51 will help the CIA. Can’t wait.”


              I really think you have come to the wrong place…

            • antares71 says:

              …??? What do you mean?

            • Paul says:

              “Staying on the doomsday is very easy, it takes nothing”

              Au contraire… it took many a number of years of intensive research … often many hours per day or reading through all sorts of documentation … before I could confidently conclude that there was no way out — that we are doomed.

              Keep in mind I was not searching for a doomsday scenario — I am very anti-doom… so it takes more than some ranting madman on a corner to convince me that we are doomed

              It takes almost no effort to believe there is hope — all you have to do is read a few headlines here and there — the ones such ‘Fracking will Save Us’ … or ‘Fusion is the Answer’ … or ‘Solar Energy and Wind are Winners!’

              And you will have hope….

              The hard part is looking beyond the lies and trying to find the truth.

              Fortunately Gail has done all the heavy lifting — with a few tweaks from others — it’s just a matter of spending some time reading the archived articles….

              Of course it also helps to be open minded… if you think something is true just because it was printed in the MSM — or that something is not true because the MSM did not print it…. then you are likely going to remain in the dark and out of touch with the reality of the situation we are facing

            • antares71 says:

              Paul, remember something, no one has a monopoly on the future. All the possible scenarios are what they are, possibilities.
              In the face of the inevitable one can only choose how to react. I agree Gail is doing an excellent work with her research, and I will be always grateful to her for giving it free to us, but then I choose how to react on that.
              You are free to dig your hole and cry in desperation, waiting for the government to make you starve to death in your home. (By the way, you better check carefully under your skin, the government may have secretly implanted some chips to control you).
              I choose another way and look for possibilities to easy the collapse. Some people come up with interesting ideas and I hope they don’t get put off and continue doing so ‘cos I want to read them.

            • Paul says:

              I deal in facts. And the facts – as they stand – indicate there is no way out of this.

              If that changes I’ll be the first to let you know. But we need a miracle now — not in 5 years – or 10 years — we need it now

              In the meantime you can pray for an answer if it makes you feel better.

              As for chips under my skin – the situation is far worse than that — I am being assimilated by the Borg (but I am aware of that — thus I have great power because the Borg does not know I know).

            • antares71 says:

              Paul, you consistently fail to understand few simple things (incredible!)
              1. I am not interested to hear from doomers, who believe in conspiracy theories, that there is no way out.
              2. I am here to learn not to teach, to get constructive ideas. And that’s because I have an unshakable sense of survival unlike you.
              3. I am not trying to convince you the opposite of what you think. I actually don’t care if you feel hopeless, that’s your problem. Likewise you will never succeed in dragging me down with you in your gloomy depression, so let’s not waste each other time. Shall we?

            • Jarle B says:

              antares71 wrote:
              “1. I am not interested to hear from doomers, who believe in conspiracy theories, that there is no way out.”

              But there is no way but hard times. Conspiracy theories or not. Accept it.

            • Paul says:

              The thing is I do not feel depressed at all — in fact in some respects I am enervated by the knowledge that I have.

              I feel no real pressure to make wise investments — to plan much for the future (my motto is I don’t give a shit — because there is no point in giving a shit because there is nothing I can do about this) — I am spending most of my time traveling and enjoying the final days I have while BAU lasts…

              My token attempt at survival is the little farm in the mountains… I suspect when the reality of living without medical care and electricity — being stuck in the middle of nowhere… when that strikes…(or say the first tooth ache) I will probably wish I had perished with the other billions.

              Surely it must be far more stressful to know what we are facing and worrying about the miracle cure that is just around the corner? But that never comes….

              The disappointments you feel must surely be epic.

              How do you deal with them? Xanax? Zoloft? Therapy? Prayer?

              I have accepted that there is no miracle cure — even if we found a massive field of easy to extract oil – or some other new cheap energy source that can replace oil — that does NOT solve the problem — it might buy us a little time — but in case you have not noticed we are not only running short of oil — we are running short of EVERY resource on the planet.

              So there is no solution. There is NO solution.

              Save flying off to another ‘earth’ somewhere in the universe.

              Or maybe you can just run the prayer beads through your hands and make some big donations to your church to make sure there is a place for you when this all comes crashing down.

              But it is going to come crashing down…. the facts support my position unequivocally

            • DownToTheLastCookie says:

              Antares, there are thousands of solutions all around us. It’s all about vision, personal sacrifice and attitude. Which shows a real sign of true character and ones place in humanity. My favorite solution to more than just our energy problems.


            • Bicycles are good, but we will need lots of spare parts. Road repairs would be helpful as well.

            • Ellen Anderson says:

              all you need is a skinny ribbon of asphalt but, yes, we need to keep a supply of spare parts and some oil to lubricate on hand. I am relying more and more on my bike trying to eventually give up my car. I am very interested in non-mechanical ways to improve riding efficiency and to protect from bad weather without adding too much weight or bulk to the bike.

            • One can be part of the problem or part of the solution. It’s all about personal responsibility.

            • antares71 says:

              DownToTheLastCookie we are on the same line! only I am getting a bit old and where I am going to live is a bit hilly so I’ll need some help from an electric motor :-)

            • Walking works well, and doesn’t require replacement parts. Also, it is good exercise, even for those who are “a bit old.”

            • Steve Rodriguez says:

              We need to promote recumbent position with full faring. saves human energy. these savings can be coverted to greater speed or comfort per individual taste and needs. the faring also offers protection from rains. We are stillinventing the bicycle. Efficiency gains to be had is so many other soft technologies as well.

            • DownToTheLastCookie says:

              Hello Steve,

              Modern day road bikes are unbelievable efficient machines. They are a fine example of what the world could be with a little vision, engineering and drive. Recumbents can be more comfortable and aerodynamic, but I believe power transfer suffers. As the price of energy rises(and it’s still cheap), our transportation vehicles will change to meet our demands of survival. Life will be better with burning oil. A livable environment requires it.

            • As I keep saying, our problem is that the price of energy doesn’t rise. It stays too low for producers, and this is what causes the system to fail. People without wages can’t pay higher and higher prices. What happens is that supply chains break, making it impossible to make all kinds of goods manufactured today, including today’s bicycles and replacement part for those bicycles. We need bicycles made locally, using local materials and a purely local supply chain. Also roads need the same local supply chain. Keeping governments operating, if the system fails, will be a major challenge.

            • xabier says:


              I tend to agree: focussing (rightly, as foresight is a useful capacity to develop) on the next 10, to 50, to 100 years we can over-look sensible things that might be done in the next year, the next month or week, to increase temporary resilience – if not to provide assured salvation.

              It’s also too easy to fall into nihilism, (‘Man is a cancer’ etc) as opposed to a sensible scepticism, particularly as there are very good reasons for despair: there always have been, in every human situation imaginable – if you are wealthy and comfortable, well, there’s the prospect of inevitable death and extinction to take the gilding off ! This was as true in 1314 as 2014.

              Looking for the perfect we can over-look the immediately useful? Yes. Judging by the old tale of the’ Prince Who Sought Enlightenment’, this was understood long ago: dissatisfied with everything, every proposed solution to he human predicament, he set off to find it, and on the road stumbled against a rock. Something about the rock seemed to require a closer look, and turning it over he found an inscription:

              ‘Why do you seek Enlightenment, when you fail to act on all the things you already know?’

              The task now is to act on what we know -according to our lights – despite the fact that, as far as one can see, our goose is well and truly cooked. Or not act – the choice is ours, within the limits imposed by our societies, which increasingly militate against any real freedom of action.

            • Steve Rodriguez says:

              @ Cookie The speed record for two wheeled bicycle, 82.9 mph is held by a fully faired recumbent.

              @ Gail the roads for bikes problem is an interesting one. first, isolate from larger vehicles, next diminish the width, then surface without the 15 – 30 inches of ABS with rammed earth or what have you with an oil sealer. Planting a row of olives along the roadway will provide shade and oil. The energetics of steel rails could be blended with three wheeled tadpole trikes, fully fared of course.

              Speaking of energy, we are still inventing wood combustion containment, small scale rocket types stoves for cooking and heating. These will run off of ‘sticks’ rather than logs and can be stoked from fields of coppice wood. Not to say this is not without burden on back of humans and the earth. Trick is to match as closely as possible the timespan of ambient entropy of natural systems with a rate of human consumption that maximizes system integrity and timespan.

            • Ellen Anderson says:

              Hey Steve, I also have a 2-wheeled recumbent Bike-E mountain bike that I bought used in 2001 and has lasted with very little repair to this day. Trouble was that I had to go pretty fast uphill to keep from falling over so, maybe 8 years ago, I had a friend actually make a tadpole recumbent. I would like to get it fully faired but no one I know, including my bike store guru, knows much about fairings. You can spend a lot of money on those things and they add to the bulk and weight of the bike. I am really looking for concrete suggestions on fairings (if that is appropriate on this forum.)
              My trike was made locally, by hand, with parts that were made in the US. Ball bearings, wheels, gears, yes I suppose they could fade from local memory eventually, but well made bikes can last several lifetimes if you keep a few parts around. The LiFePo battery comes from China I am sure. The bike was originally made to have SLA batteries and it has good enough gearing that I COULD granny uphill if I had to. Downhill on a recumbent, even without a fairing, is scary fast. If no batteries are available then it raises my next point that is relevant to this forum.
              I guess that someone should make the following point: if/when things get as bad as predicted here, people will not wish to be traveling the distances they do today. They will not need to – the jobs will be gone. Survivors will be the ones who have figured out how to work from the base of their own household. Bikes will be used for short trips – 6 miles or less – where you need to carry stuff that is too much for your back. They will still be much cheaper than horses! Yes, I have one of those and she eats a lot of hay. I see that there is at least one person on this forum who farms with mules and there are probably others who use oxen. Horses are a lot more trouble than bikes and the learning curve is a lot steeper take it from me!
              In fact, I have heard that a recumbent is the most efficient combination of technology with human power. Even right now they are good for people with Parkinsons and those who need to get exercise and are overweight or have high blood pressure. Walking may not be such a good solution for them. Bikes and passive solar and other really low/appropriate tech solutions are well within the reach of everyone. And they make sense independently of anyone’s vision of the future. Why not!!!

            • Steve Rodriguez says:

              I have been using a coroplast front faring only. Currently putting finishing touches on a plug mold made of insulation foam and plaster. It will be the mold for a fiberglass nosecone that I will lay up very soon-my first DIY fiberglass project. The rest of the faring will be coroplast for lightness, attached to the bike frame with hoseclamps over split pvc pipe. I am using a small sheet of flexible lexan for the windshield. assembling the panels with pop rivets. A lot of good info on the WISIL recumpents page http://www.recumbents.com/wisil/whatsup.htm
              Yes these technologies are resource and social infrastructure intensive. However, bikes can be built from bamboo-all the rage in some artisinal cliques. I have imagined using basket gourds grown in molds to use gravity for shaping nose cones and other panels for farings. Should be doable. There is always the old cardboard, muslin, plaster of paris or milk glue hardeners approach to farings (like the old hat boxes?). A windshield is not absolutely necessary. Keep inventing!

            • Ellen Anderson says:

              Thanks for those links. Is that the old HPV site? I actually belong to two of those user groups but haven’t checked them in awhile. Well, I like the suggestion of using pvc pipe and hose clamps for mounting a DYI fairing – if I go that way. The big question for me is whether I cover myself or my bike. I don’t want to go any faster than I already do but I would like to keep my hands, face and feet a little warmer in cold weather. OTOH I don’t think I want to turn into a velomobile. Too hard to mount and dismount, too heavy etc.
              BTW – we grind our grain for bread and animal feed on a grain mill mounted to a (very uncomfortable) exercise bike. Gears and pulleys and wheels help extend human power.

            • InAlaska says:

              Ghung and xabier,
              As always the devil is in the details, and I agree with you that it is easy to fall into despair about the future if you look at it from a generalized conceptual perspective. But when you look at individual situations, be it a person, community, state, government or whatever there are countless ways that individual decisions and actions can make all of the difference. Ingenious people when pressed hard by necessity will come up with ingenious solutions to difficult predicaments. I’m not saying that we aren’t all doomed in the end by converging crises of the 21st century, but I am saying that we aren’t all doomed at the same time for the same reasons. I believe that as the noose tightens around our collective globalized necks that the human race will shine more brightly. I can forsee, and ardently hope for, a human renaissance in how we view our relationship with the earth, each other and ourselves. It may be that it is too late for us to save our civilization, and perhaps it is not worthy of saving, but it may not be too late for us to redeem ourselves (individually and as a species) by how we choose to go out. Okay, jumping down off my soapbox now.

            • Paul says:

              One of the key problems we are going to face in reverting to a pre-industrial lifestyle (other than the obvious massive shock…) will be that people who lived in those times were able to benefit from many generations of knowledge and skills that were passed on.

              Very few people have any of these skills — we will be like infants having to learn how to live — but with no wise parents to guide us.

              Rather daunting.

            • Exactly. We are also lacking in the customs of past days–ours today won’t necessarily work. What kinds of upbringing of children works best, for example? Should marriages be arranged? How does one get along with neighboring groups, or should we expect constant fighting over resources? What should the role of women be?

            • Dave Ranning says:

              Passive solar for heating water in a no brainer.
              PV? Now things are a bit more complicated.

          • antares71 says:

            Hey cal, not sure you’re still around but I wanted to ask you a question. About heating, both water and radiators, solar hot water will definitely be a must for me.
            But I also evaluated the possibility of a redundant system with a Rayburn, the solid fuel version (probably wood but will evaluate the mix also) http://www.rayburn-web.co.uk/products/rayburn-solid-fuel-wood-series/heatranger-345w.aspx.
            The solar heat being the primary source and eventually switch to Rayburn if/when necessary. What do you think?

        • stephen boyles says:

          I installed solar hot water in the 1970’s without claiming a tax deduction subsidy. If we had all done much much more to conserve starting 40 yrs ago it might have made a difference.

          Like most of the regulars on Gail’s site I still try to conserve.

          But in reality its too little too late now in 2014!

          • Ghung says:

            Too late for what, stephen? If your goal is to ‘save the world’ or somesuch, it’s always been too late, at least since the industrial revolution began.

            We’ve been off the electrical grid going on 18 years, mostly without subsidies, and I’m not about to give that up because a world full of gridweenies either don’t see the problem, or don’t care. It certainly isn’t too late for me to greatly reduce the already small amount of propane we used just because the rest of the world partys on. If anything, it’s part of my retirement plan. The only infrastructure I have any real influence on is my own. It’s about adopting the least insane choices available; little more….

            … or I could just take golf vacations and fishing trips to Barbados.

          • Ellen Anderson says:

            @ Steve R: I have a recumbent trike with an electric trailer (500 watt motor, 24 volt lithium battery.) If the electric part fails I can detach the trailer, lock it to a tree and ride home. But the motor saves my old knees and lets me use the bike for commuting purposes in my very hilly area. The company is not selling anymore this year but they may be back in business next year. I would love some ideas about what fairings to use. Seems they are awkward to install and pretty heavy. Anybody have suggestions?

        • MJx says:

          China is the number one producer and consumer of solar hot water heaters…..afraid that alone won’t save us any time. I live here in the South and agree, we are fools not to use them, but too little too late if we started now.

        • stinky says:

          Nice post. Im trying to put together some water heating but to use as a medium for heating the home. I assume your radiators (nice find!) and other energy catchers are all behind the glass of your greenhouse to eliminate convection loss? Im wondering if I could just pour some concrete pools the same size of whatever windows I can scrounge, mount the window on top of the pool to create a energy catcher, pump the water(and heat) into the casa before temps fall at night and let the pool/catcher go cold, until that gorgeous ball of fire appears in the sky again. Pipes would have to be insulated of course

    • Really? I haven’t seen the rebuttals. The Brookings Institution report is very new. Graham Palmer’s work is not very well known. I think you are “putting me on.” Perhaps you mean using solar energy to grow your own garden is the preferred energy source long term. That I might almost agree with.

      • robertheinlein says:


        Read this: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/flaw-and-order-how-brookings-got-its-analysis-of-wind-and-solar-costs-so-wr (Flaw and Order: How Brookings Got Its Analysis of Wind and Solar Costs So Wrong).

        • I would agree that Brookings overlooked the methane leakage issue. This makes natural gas less good than other calculations. I didn’t look at the wind turbine cost statistics. I know that a lot of new European construction is offshore, and this tends to be extremely costly. As I said in my post, the issue is especially with solar PV and offshore wind.

          Lovins supposed other metrics have some serious flaws. “Levelized cost of energy” is the apples to oranges comparison that people insist upon using. Intermittent renewables don’t really replace “electricity,” all they replace is the fuel that makes electricity, because power companies have close to the same expenses as previously, perhaps even more. The cash flow estimates and other estimates are based on our current flawed way of reimbursing for costs.

          • edpell says:

            Yes, levelized cost for PV compares the cost for the six hour a day (only on sunny days) when the sun shine to existing systems. During the 18 hours without sun the PV cost is about 100x that sunny part of the day cost and the coal cost is the same it always was. As long as we do not average the 75% of the day and the 50% of the days that are not sunny they are comparable.

        • Fred says:

          Amory Lovins was here at my institution back in 2005. He told us all about how in 5 years, we would all be driving hybrid cars manufactured with aircraft type, carbon fiber body panels that would get 80mph (conservative estimate!!). The Chinese were already ramping up to be the world leaders in this advanced automotive technology and would WAY out compete us in high tech auto production.
          Umm, right. All this was supposed to have come to pass as of FOUR years ago! Lovins is a certified goofball.

      • antares71 says:

        Gail, what have I done to deserve being under moderation?

        • There are various word that trigger moderation. Also too many links. And a few I can’t figure out why. The issue is not you personally. I try to check fairly frequently for comments in moderation.

          • antares71 says:

            Ok, now I understand Gail. Kinda makes me feel better after your explanation :-)

          • antares71 says:

            Gail, if I haven’t done before, I wanted you to know that I am grateful that you give your research for free to us. With your posts I understand how to piece things together to get the big picture.

    • I certainly would agree with you there. There are a lot of think-tank “research” about the inefficiency of renewables – most of these paid by fossil fuel interests or other right wing propaganda machines. Many of the same think tanks also churn out “skeptical” reports about climate science too, and try to downplay the importance of AGW (even though no-one in the scientific community consider AGW debatable).

      There are so many vested interests within fossil fuels that any think-tank research really has to be taken with a grain of salt. Like this Brookings Institution study, they often base their conclusion on old data, and generally always downplay why we need to move away from fossil fuels in the first place, clearly showing the bias towards fossil fuel interests.

      • There is also the issue that the climate studies assume way too much fossil fuels in their analyses, thus hyping the possibility of a terrible outcome.

        • Harry says:

          This is certainly true but I think the outcome will be pretty terrible anyway. The earth has warmed by 0.8°C over the past century. Because of the forty-year time lag between the release of carbon etc into the atmosphere and the resultant warming, a further 0.8°C is baked into the cake. When the system fails there will be an additional forcing of approx 1°C thanks to the loss of cooling aerosols from industrial activity. So, even before we factor in any self-reinforcing feedback loops, we are looking at an average global temperature rise of 2.6°C, which all available evidence suggests would be catastrophic. Couple this with the hundreds of failing nuclear power stations and the scenario becomes truly apocalyptic, to the point where extinction of our species becomes a distinct possibility due to loss of viable habitat.

          • John Doyle says:

            Climate change is too slow. We are going down much sooner than climate effects will take to be felt.
            They will just make sure that once down we will stay down.

            • Jarle B says:

              John Doyle wrote:
              “Climate change is too slow. We are going down much sooner than climate effects will take to be felt. They will just make sure that once down we will stay down.”

              I wonder if the preppers have taught of that?

            • Haha, indeed. A hole in the ground will easily become a swimming pool once the next flood arrives.

              Personally, I think that the collapsing economy will be partially pushed there by climate change from AGW, as each major weather incident is basically entropy at work – requiring a whole lot of material and dollars to build back up again. Already today we can see that many regions hard hit are simply not built up again as no-one can really afford it. Throw in a bit of civil unrest, straight out wars and its complete. Everything built is torn down in conflict when it was what we were left with once the economy and energy sources dwindle. But perhaps I have just played too much “Last of Us”, or what do you think? ;)

          • We can add these issues to all of the other problems we are facing as a species.

          • Paul says:

            Apocalypse Soon…

            Agree — and I am moving towards the position that even if one could survive one would wish one had not…. now — what’s next on the bucket list…

      • Paul says:

        All moot.

        Because even if renewables made sense:

        1. You cannot make solar panels and high tech windmills without fossil fuel inputs… and a functioning BAU — they do not grow on trees – you need mines for the metals – smelters — complex machinery — computers etc…

        2. The world cannot run on renewable energy — we need oil – http://www-tc.pbs.org/independentlens/classroom/wwo/petroleum.pdf

        3. Our food supply is totally dependent on oil and gas based fertilizers and pesticides — renewables cannot replace those — and the double whammy — we have killed our soils by pouring petrochemicals onto it — so take those away — and we starve.

        Solar – After Hundreds of Billions of Dollars of Subsidies and R&D and this is what we get?

        That says it all.

    • Mass says:

      do you have some serious reference about the cited rebuttal of the Weissbach work?
      Perhaps a rebuttal could be in the opposite sense, it is too indulgent to PV.
      THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: The energy intensity of economic activities and sectors.
      World is spending more than $2 trillions in the global solar PV adventure, with a energy intensity of the sector between 40% and 50%. It means around $1 trillion of fossil fuels to power the PV deployment.
      Obviously 2 trillions are all inclusive, because we share the same atmosphere and CO2, even with Chinese:
      $800 billions of PV investments (Bloomberg RES report)
      $300 billions of bailouts
      $500 billions of projected O&M in 25 years
      $400 billions all the rest (land grabbing, decommissioning, bankruptcies, insurances, financial cost, bureaucracies, grid unbalances, trading etc.)

      In that adventure the installed PV facilities are globally 0.1 TWp, 100TWh per year of electrical energy yielded. Globally $5 billion/year of income from PV at wholesale e-energy price.
      200 year for the energetic breakeven from the collective point of view.
      400 year for the economic breakeven from the collective point of view.

    • Leo Smith says:


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