Eight Energy Myths Explained

Republicans, Democrats, and environmentalists all have favorite energy myths. Even Peak Oil believers have favorite energy myths. The following are a few common mis-beliefs,  coming from a variety of energy perspectives. I will start with a recent myth, and then discuss some longer-standing ones.

Myth 1. The fact that oil producers are talking about wanting to export crude oil means that the US has more than enough crude oil for its own needs.

The real story is that producers want to sell their crude oil at as high a price as possible. If they have a choice of refineries A, B, and C in this country to sell their crude oil to, the maximum amount they can receive for their oil is limited by the price these refineries are paying, less the cost of shipping the oil to these refineries.

If it suddenly becomes possible to sell crude oil to refineries elsewhere, the possibility arises that a higher price will be available in another country. Refineries are optimized for a particular type of crude. If, for example, refineries in Europe are short of light, sweet crude because such oil from Libya is mostly still unavailable, a European refinery might be willing to pay a higher price for crude oil from the Bakken (which also produces light sweet, crude) than a refinery in this country. Even with shipping costs, an oil producer might be able to make a bigger profit on its oil sold outside of the US than sold within the US.

The US consumed 18.9 million barrels a day of petroleum products during 2013. In order to meet its oil needs, the US imported 6.2 million barrels of oil a day in 2013 (netting exported oil products against imported crude oil). Thus, the US is, and will likely continue to be, a major oil crude oil importer.

If production and consumption remain at a constant level, adding crude oil exports would require adding crude oil imports as well. These crude oil imports might be of a different kind of oil than that that is exported–quite possibly sour, heavy crude instead of sweet, light crude. Or perhaps US refineries specializing in light, sweet crude will be forced to raise their purchase prices, to match world crude oil prices for that type of product.

The reason exports of crude oil make sense from an oil producer’s point of view is that they stand to make more money by exporting their crude to overseas refineries that will pay more. How this will work out in the end is unclear. If US refiners of light, sweet crude are forced to raise the prices they pay for oil, and the selling price of US oil products doesn’t rise to compensate, then more US refiners of light, sweet crude will go out of business, fixing a likely world oversupply of such refiners. Or perhaps prices of US finished products will rise, reflecting the fact that the US has to some extent in the past received a bargain (related to the gap between European Brent and US WTI oil prices), relative to world prices. In this case US consumers will end up paying more.

The one thing that is very clear is that the desire to ship crude oil abroad does not reflect too much total crude oil being produced in the United States. At most, what it means is an overabundance of refineries, worldwide, adapted to light, sweet crude. This happens because over the years, the world’s oil mix has been generally changing to heavier, sourer types of oil. Perhaps if there is more oil from shale formations, the mix will start to change back again. This is a very big “if,” however. The media tend to overplay the possibilities of such extraction as well.

Myth 2. The economy doesn’t really need very much energy.

We humans need food of the right type, to provide us with the energy we need to carry out our activities. The economy is very similar: it needs energy of the right types to carry out its activities.

One essential activity of the economy is growing and processing food. In developing countries in warm parts of the world, food production, storage, transport, and preparation accounts for the vast majority of economic activity (Pimental and Pimental, 2007). In traditional societies, much of the energy comes from human and animal labor and burning biomass.

If a developing country substitutes modern fuels for traditional energy sources in food production and preparation, the whole nature of the economy changes. We can see this starting to happen on a world-wide basis in the early 1800s, as energy other than biomass use ramped up.

Figure 1. World Energy Consumption by Source, Based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects and together with BP Statistical Data on 1965 and subsequent

Figure 1. World Energy Consumption by Source, Based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects and together with BP Statistical Data on 1965 and subsequent

The Industrial Revolution began in the late 1700s in Britain. It was enabled by coal usage, which made it possible to make metals, glass, and cement in much greater quantities than in the past. Without coal, deforestation had become a problem, especially near cold urban areas, such as London. With coal, it became possible to use industrial processes that required heat without the problem of deforestation. Processes using high levels of heat also became cheaper, because it was no longer necessary to cut down trees, make charcoal from the wood, and transport the charcoal long distances (because nearby wood had already been depleted).

The availability of coal allowed the use of new technology to be ramped up. For example, according to Wikipedia, the first steam engine was patented in 1608, and the first commercial steam engine was patented in 1712. In 1781, James Watt invented an improved version of the steam engine. But to actually implement the steam engine widely using metal trains running on metal tracks, coal was needed to make relatively inexpensive metal in quantity.

Concrete and metal could be used to make modern hydroelectric power plants, allowing electricity to be made in quantity. Devices such as light bulbs (using glass and metal) could be made in quantity, as well as wires used for transmitting electricity, allowing a longer work-day.

The use of coal also led to agriculture changes as well, cutting back on the need for farmers and ranchers. New devices such as steel plows and reapers and hay rakes were manufactured, which could be pulled by horses, transferring work from humans to animals. Barbed-wire fence allowed the western part of the US to become cropland, instead one large unfenced range. With fewer people needed in agriculture, more people became available to work in cities in factories.

Our economy is now very different from what it was back about 1820, because of increased energy use. We have large cities, with food and raw materials transported from a distance to population centers. Water and sewer treatments greatly reduce the risk of disease transmission of people living in such close proximity. Vehicles powered by oil or electricity eliminate the mess of animal-powered transport. Many more roads can be paved.

If we were to try to leave today’s high-energy system and go back to a system that uses biofuels (or only biofuels plus some additional devices that can be made with biofuels), it would require huge changes.

Myth 3. We can easily transition to renewables.

On Figure 1, above, the only renewables are hydroelectric and biofuels. While energy supply has risen rapidly, population has risen rapidly as well.

Figure 2. World Population, based on Angus Maddison estimates, interpolated where necessary.

Figure 2. World Population, based on Angus Maddison estimates, interpolated where necessary.

When we look at energy use on a per capita basis, the result is as shown in Figure 3, below.

Figure 3. Per capita world energy consumption, calculated by dividing world energy consumption (based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects together with BP Statistical Data for 1965 and subsequent) by population estimates, based on Angus Maddison data.

Figure 3. Per capita world energy consumption, calculated by dividing world energy consumption (based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects together with BP Statistical Data for 1965 and subsequent) by population estimates, based on Angus Maddison data.

The energy consumption level in 1820 would be at a basic level–only enough to grow and process food, heat homes, make clothing, and provide for some very basic industries. Based on Figure 3, even this required a little over 20 gigajoules of energy per capita. If we add together per capita biofuels and hydroelectric on Figure 3, they would come out to only about 11 gigajoules of energy per capita. To get to the 1820  level of per capita energy consumption, we would either need to add something else, such as coal, or wait a very, very long time until (perhaps) renewables including hydroelectric could be ramped up enough.

If we want to talk about renewables that can be made without fossil fuels, the amount would be smaller yet. As noted previously, modern hydroelectric power is enabled by coal, so we would need to exclude this. We would also need to exclude modern biofuels, such as ethanol made from corn and biodiesel made from rape seed, because they are greatly enabled by today’s farming and transportation equipment and indirectly by our ability to make metal in quantity.

I have included wind and solar in the “Biofuels” category for convenience. They are so small in quantity that they wouldn’t be visible as a separate categories, wind amounting to only 1.0% of world energy supply in 2012, and solar amounting to 0.2%, according to BP data. We would need to exclude them as well, because they too require fossil fuels to be produced and transported.

In total, the biofuels category without all of these modern additions might be close to the amount available in 1820. Population now is roughly seven times as large, suggesting only one-seventh as much energy per capita. Of course, in 1820 the amount of wood used led  to significant deforestation, so even this level of biofuel use was not ideal. And there would be the additional detail of transporting wood to markets. Back in 1820, we had horses for transport, but we would not have enough horses for this purpose today.

Myth 4. Population isn’t related to energy availability.

If we compare Figures 2 and 3, we see that the surge in population that took place immediately after World War II coincided with the period that per-capita energy use was ramping up rapidly. The increased affluence of the 1950s (fueled by low oil prices and increased ability to buy goods using oil) allowed parents to have more children. Better sanitation and innovations such as antibiotics (made possible by fossil fuels) also allowed more of these children to live to maturity.

Furthermore, the Green Revolution which took place during this time period is credited with saving over a billion people from starvation. It ramped up the use of irrigation, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, hybrid seed, and the development of high yield grains. All of these techniques were enabled by availability of oil. Greater use of agricultural equipment, allowing seeds to be sowed closer together, also helped raise production. By this time, electricity reached farming communities, allowing use of equipment such as milking machines.

If we take a longer view of the situation, we find that a “bend” in the world population occurred about the time of Industrial Revolution, and the ramp up of coal use (Figure 4). Increased farming equipment made with metals increased food output, allowing greater world population.

Figure 4. World population based on data from "Atlas of World History," McEvedy and Jones, Penguin Reference Books, 1978  and Wikipedia-World Population.

Figure 4. World population based on data from “Atlas of World History,” McEvedy and Jones, Penguin Reference Books, 1978
and Wikipedia-World Population.

Furthermore, when we look at countries that have seen large drops in energy consumption, we tend to see population declines. For example, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were drops in energy consumption in a number of countries whose energy was affected (Figure 5).

Figure 6. Population as percent of 1985 population, for selected countries, based on EIA data.

Figure 6. Population as percent of 1985 population, for selected countries, based on EIA data.

Myth 5. It is easy to substitute one type of energy for another.

Any changeover from one type of energy to another is likely to be slow and expensive, if it can be accomplished at all.

One major issue is the fact that different types of energy have very different uses. When oil production was ramped up, during and following World War II, it added new capabilities, compared to coal. With only coal (and hydroelectric, enabled by coal), we could have battery-powered cars, with limited range. Or ethanol-powered cars, but ethanol required a huge amount of land to grow the necessary crops. We could have trains, but these didn’t go from door to door. With the availability of oil, we were able to have personal transportation vehicles that went from door to door, and trucks that delivered goods from where they were produced to the consumer, or to any other desired location.

We were also able to build airplanes. With airplanes, we were able to win World War II. Airplanes also made international business feasible on much greater scale, because it became possible for managers to visit operations abroad in a relatively short time-frame, and because it was possible to bring workers from one country to another for training, if needed. Without air transport, it is doubtful that the current number of internationally integrated businesses could be maintained.

The passage of time does not change the inherent differences between different types of fuels. Oil is still the fuel of preference for long-distance travel, because (a) it is energy dense so it fits in a relatively small tank, (b) it is a liquid, so it is easy to dispense at refueling stations, and (c) we are now set up for liquid fuel use, with a huge number of cars and trucks on the road which use oil and refueling stations to serve these vehicles. Also, oil works much better than electricity for air transport.

Changing to electricity for transportation is likely to be a slow and expensive process. One important point is that the cost of electric vehicles needs to be brought down to where they are affordable for buyers, if we do not want the changeover to have a hugely adverse effect on the economy. This is the case because salaries are not going to rise to pay for high-priced cars, and the government cannot afford large subsidies for everyone. Another issue is that the range of electric vehicles needs to be increased, if vehicle owners are to be able to continue to use their vehicles for long-distance driving.

No matter what type of changeover is made, the changeover needs to implemented slowly, over a period of 25 years or more, so that buyers do not lose the trade in value of their oil-powered vehicles. If the changeover is done too quickly, citizens will lose their trade in value of their oil-powered cars, and because of this, will not be able to afford the new vehicles.

If a changeover to electric transportation vehicles is to be made, many vehicles other than cars will need to be made electric, as well. These would include long haul trucks, busses, airplanes, construction equipment, and agricultural equipment, all of which would need to be made electric. Costs would need to be brought down, and necessary refueling equipment would need to be installed, further adding to the slowness of the changeover process.

Another issue is that even apart from energy uses, oil is used in many applications as a raw material. For example, it is used in making herbicides and pesticides, asphalt roads and asphalt shingles for roofs, medicines, cosmetics, building materials, dyes, and flavoring. There is no possibility that electricity could be adapted to these uses. Coal could perhaps be adapted for these uses, because it is also a fossil fuel.

Myth 6. Oil will “run out” because it is limited in supply and non-renewable.

This myth is actually closer to the truth than the other myths. The situation is a little different from “running out,” however. The real situation is that oil limits are likely to disrupt the economy in various ways. This economic disruption is likely to be what leads to an  abrupt drop in oil supply. One likely possibility is that a lack of debt availability and low wages will keep oil prices from rising to the level that oil producers need for extraction. Under this scenario, oil producers will see little point in investing in new production. There is evidence that this scenario is already starting to happen.

There is another version of this myth that is even more incorrect. According to this myth, the situation with oil supply (and other types of fossil fuel supply) is as follows:

Myth 7. Oil supply (and the supply of other fossil fuels) will start depleting when the supply is 50% exhausted. We can therefore expect a long, slow decline in fossil fuel use.

This myth is a favorite of peak oil believers. Indirectly, similar beliefs underly climate change models as well. It is based on what I believe is an incorrect reading of the writings of M. King Hubbert. Hubbert is a geologist and physicist who foretold a decline of US oil production, and eventually world production, in various documents, including Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels, published in 1956. Hubbert observed that under certain circumstances, the production of various fossil fuels tends to follow a rather symmetric curve.

Figure 7. M. King Hubbert's 1956 image of expected world crude oil production, assuming ultimate recoverable oil of 1,250 billion barrels.

Figure 7. M. King Hubbert’s 1956 image of expected world crude oil production, assuming ultimate recoverable oil of 1,250 billion barrels.

A major reason that this type of forecast is wrong is because it is based on a scenario in which some other type of energy supply was able to be ramped up, before oil supply started to decline.

Figure 8. Figure from Hubbert's 1956 paper, Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels.

Figure 8. Figure from Hubbert’s 1956 paper, Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels.

With this ramp up in energy supply, the economy can continue as in the past without a major financial problem arising relating to the reduced oil supply. Without a ramp up in energy supply of some other type, there would be a problem with too high a population in relationship to the declining energy supply. Per-capita energy supply would drop rapidly, making it increasingly difficult to produce enough goods and services. In particular, maintaining government services is likely to become a problem. Needed taxes are likely to rise too high relative to what citizens can afford, leading to major problems, even collapse, based on the research of Turchin and Nefedov (2009).

Myth 8. Renewable energy is available in essentially unlimited supply.

The issue with all types of energy supply, from fossil fuels, to nuclear (based on uranium), to geothermal, to hydroelectric, to wind and solar, is diminishing returns. At some point, the cost of producing energy becomes less efficient, and because of this, the cost of production begins to rise. It is the fact wages do not rise to compensate for these higher costs and that cheaper substitutes do not become available that causes financial problems for the economic system.

In the case of oil, rising cost of extraction comes because the cheap-to-extract oil is extracted first, leaving only the expensive-to-extract oil. This is the problem we recently have been experiencing. Similar problems arise with natural gas and coal, but the sharp upturn in costs may come later because they are available in somewhat greater supply relative to demand.

Uranium and other metals experience the same problem with diminishing returns, as the cheapest to extract portions of these minerals is extracted first, and we must eventually move on to lower-grade ores.

Part of the problem with so-called renewables is that they are made of minerals, and these minerals are subject to the same depletion issues as other minerals. This may not be a problem if the minerals are very abundant, such as iron or aluminum. But if minerals are lesser supply, such as rare earth minerals and lithium, depletion may lead to rising costs of extraction, and ultimately higher costs of devices using the minerals.

Another issue is choice of sites. When hydroelectric plants are installed, the best locations tend to be chosen first. Gradually, less desirable locations are added. The same holds for wind turbines. Offshore wind turbines tend to be more expensive than onshore turbines. If abundant onshore locations, close to population centers, had been available for recent European construction, it seems likely that these would have been used instead of offshore turbines.

When it comes to wood, overuse and deforestation has been a constant problem throughout the ages. As population rises, and other energy resources become less available, the situation is likely to become even worse.

Finally, renewables, even if they use less oil, still tend to be dependent on oil. Oil is  important for operating mining equipment and for transporting devices from the location where they are made to the location where they are to be put in service. Helicopters (requiring oil) are used in maintenance of wind turbines, especially off shore, and in maintenance of electric transmission lines. Even if repairs can be made with trucks, operation of these trucks still generally requires oil. Maintenance of roads also requires oil. Even transporting wood to market requires oil.

If there is a true shortage of oil, there will be a huge drop-off in the production of renewables, and maintenance of existing renewables will become more difficult. Solar panels that are used apart from the electric grid may be long-lasting, but batteries, inverters, long distance electric transmission lines, and many other things we now take for granted are likely to disappear.

Thus, renewables are not available in unlimited supply. If oil supply is severely constrained, we may even discover that many existing renewables are not even very long lasting.


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 financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
This entry was posted in Alternatives to Oil, Energy policy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

561 Responses to Eight Energy Myths Explained

  1. Pingback: Eight Energy Myths Explained | Doomstead Diner

  2. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All Gardeners

    The fact that southwestern Oklahoma has been above 100F for the last couple of days and that wildfire danger in parts of the US is very high, coupled with the release of the National Climate Assessment, prompts us to look again at gardening practices for hot summer days. And, right on cue, Johnny’s Seeds has given us a couple of articles which describe what the small scale farmer or the home gardener can do. It would not be accurate to describe these practices as ‘bomb proof’ in terms of surviving the collapse of civilization. Rather, one can think of them more along the lines of collapse laid out by John Michael Greer back in 2009 in his book Our Ecotechnic Future. On page 32 of that book he begins a discussion of The Long Road to Sustainability. He makes the point that what will tend to survive, as each step of the contraction unfolds, are those practices which get the most output from whatever resources are available.

    So think of these practices, not as ‘responses to sudden, total collapse’ nor as ‘ways to live like we always did, just with less fossil fuels’, but as ‘ways to maximize production with fewer fossil fuels and more unstable climate’.

    I want to put in a good word for shadecloth. I live in suburban North Carolina, and the bulk of my vegetable production happens close to the south side of my house. Thus, there is plenty of sunshine, and lots of reflected heat off the house onto the veggies when the sun is strong. In a normal winter (not this past winter), I can grow cold hardy leafy greens right through the winter, with the help of the solar powered microclimate. But forget about the summer. It’s too hot to grow much of anything in July and August and sometimes September. This year, for the first time, I have been using shadecloth over some support structures that I built. The effects on my vegetables have been dramatic and positive.

    Yesterday was cloudless, with official temperatures around 85F. An infrared meter reading of the leafy greens under the shadecloth gave 30C (86F), while a reading of green leaves in direct sun gave a reading of 40C (105F). Plants are most effective photosynthesizing at around 30C, while 40C is at the top of their range and many will not do well at all.

    It used to be possible to be a haphazard gardener where I live. It rained reliably, the weather tended to be mild enough to grow crops without worrying too much, and all this stuff about hoop houses and shade cloth and drip tapes was a lot of work…and while it wasn’t super expensive, it did cost something.

    My conclusion is that, if you are serious about gardening in a hotter, destabilized environment, you need to begin to experiment with the methods outlined by Johnnys, and begin to construct an infrastructure which will permit you to exercise more control over the environment of your plants.

    Don Stewart



    • Yes, fixing the environment can have great benefits for production. I know the carrots I grew last year weren’t particularly sweet–the heat might have been part of the problem. The liming factor is literally time and energy.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear Gail
        Having just bought some carrots from a farmer which looked good but tasted like cardboard to my child bride, I am sympathetic.

        Two rules will stand you in good stead:
        1. Do not buy carrots which have not been frozen in the ground…they will not be sweet.
        2. Do not buy strawberries from Mexico, California, or Florida. Wait for your local strawberries.

        Don Stewart

        • Daddio7 says:

          Hey, hey, Florida strawberries are great, you just have to eat them in Florida 😉

  3. Interguru says:

    From the oracle, Warren Buffett himself.
    ‘Indeed, Buffett told Forbes in no uncertain terms last week that he fears massive financial “discontinuity” will take place as a result of these opaque and leveraged positions — in other words, another Lehman Monday, or worse.’

    ‘Nor were the Oracle’s comments on the housing market. Despite dozens of interviews in recent years in which he insisted he was very bullish on housing, Buffett is now pulling back, saying that “housing is not that strong yet; I’m surprised by that.” Buffett should know. His Berkshire Hathaway owns some of the biggest housing-related companies in the world, from Benjamin Moore paints to Shaw carpets .’

    Maybe he is a silent reader of Our Finite World.

  4. Stefeun says:

    “Are You Ready For The Price Of Food To More Than Double By The End Of This Decade?
    By Michael Snyder, on April 18th, 2014
    Do you think that the price of food is high now? Just wait. If current trends continue, many of the most common food items that Americans buy will cost more than twice as much by the end of this decade. Global demand for food continues to rise steadily as crippling droughts ravage key agricultural regions all over the planet.”

    They talk of yearly 12% increase in the US, but say nothing about the consequences in poor countries.

    • Stefeun says:

      Not only poor countries:
      “A ‘third of UK adults struggle’ to afford healthy food”

      • ordinaryjoe says:

        I dont know bout the UK but here in the USA those that complain the most about affordable food are eating the crappiest or most wasteful. What are EBT cards buying – sugar and jumbo shrimp. Getting rid of the meat and dairy cuts your bill by half if not 3/4s. So far my essentials rice, barley beans kale carrots and peanut butter, while they have risen sharply still remain affordable. My energy is great- I would say best ever in my life. Those that know me consider me exceptionally healthy. The dice roll of genetics play a huge role of course but whats that got to do with food? Im not a nutrionist but it seems very simple to me, dont drink, dont smoke, exercise, beans rice, and vegatables. If you can afford meat cheese eggs and wine and choose to eat it im not saying its unhealthy although it is certainly wasteful but who is it in the USA that can not afford “healthy food”? ( i do somtimes eat the eggs from neighbors with chickens when they have extra -glorious huge things with bright yellow yolks- totally different thing than in safeway). I work with a guy that cant even walk up a flite of stairs. He is in serious need of intervention his eating habit will certainly kill him but to address the issue would get me a trip to HR. Ive tried to help. When its slow – ‘how bout a walk” is met with hostility. Besides the fact that hes killing himself with his diet he is a great human. The funniest part to me is all the crap i have taken over the years about the food I bring to work. Its pretty easy to take comments about your $1 vegetarian lunch in stride when your lovin your energy level, romantic life, and looking across the table at someone exceeding 300lbs. These are very smart people I work with- i just dont get it-this is not rocket science. I love taking responsibility for my own health I consider it the most self evident right. Yes a cheese puff tastes good to me but is that sensation worth trading for low energy? I am sure there are people in the world that can not afford the $3-5 I spend on food a day and the 50 cents in energy to cook it but in the USA- I call BS. When would it be “unaffordable” double? triple? x10? “affordable food” or taste addictions? There may very well come a time in the USA that people cant afford healthy food but that time is not now- not even close.

        • Stefeun says:

          You’re right, Joe.
          We have a big problem due to lack of education about food; also with missing time to prepare raw food, but one can fix it with some organisation.
          I think the core issue is that processed food makes much more money than natural food; you never see ads about fresh vegetables direct from the farm.
          And once people get sick because of junk food, then it makes profits for drugs and medical industry.

          • Interguru says:

            “but one can fix it with some organisation.”

            That’s exactly what’s missing in many poor people’s lives. It is a chicken and egg situation. The stress of poverty ( often caused by poor health or bad luck such as a layoff ) eats away at your living skills, and poor living skills perpetuates poverty.

        • Lizzy says:

          Yes, but we’re all going to die in the end, anyway. We might be able to stretch things out by a few years by sticking to beans and brown rice, but me, I live to eat, not eat to live.
          With a nice glass or two of wine with it.

          • ordinaryjoe says:

            Of the ills in this universe a good dinner and a glass of wine certainly is not formost from a health and social aspect. As I mentioned the right to make personal health decisions is one I consider to be absaloute. Lizzy I would defend your right to determine your personal eating habits even if I disagree strongly with them!
            “We might be able to stretch things out by a few years” You misunderstand my motive. To some extent all humans consumption pattern is determined by the sensations we desire. It has been my desire for a long time to truly feel my body in an integrated awareness. Food hits the tounge- this sensation is cognitive. The sensations caused by the type of food I described being eaten given back by the body by the things that we regard as “energy” and “attitude” are non cognitive sensations that I desire. It takes a while to start associating these non cognitive sensatations with the food one eats. I also enjoy the sensations from other activities that require fitness. My perspective is the total of these non cognitive sensations have much more value than the sensation we regard as taste. Health is about quality of life not length.
            Runners often desire the sensation of running to the extent that they hurt their body. Their body their choice.
            What I am choosing and advocating is that we feel all aspects of the food that we eat. Simple vegetarian food makes me feel good. Whether by chance or somthing greater this choice also radically lowers ones consumption footprint and this also has value to me.
            What I often see is that once a human experiences a certain sensation they make their mind up about its value and create constructs in their mind. They do not go back and test that sensation over time to see if it has maintained its value as they grow.

  5. Stefeun says:

    “Amazing Story From Japan
    by John Rubino on April 17, 2014
    Here’s something you don’t see very often: For a day and a half this week, the Japanese government’s benchmark 10-year bonds attracted not a single successful private sector bid. At today’s artificially-depressed yields, no one wants this paper — except of course the Bank of Japan, which is buying up the bonds with newly-created yen.”

    So, the central banks are purchasing their bond markets with fiat money.
    It can last for quite a while, but, in the meantime, what about real economies??
    GDP crashes while stock indexes are hitting highest; aren’t we already starting to see it?

    • This is really strange. At some point, it can’t continue.

      • Lizzy says:

        Gail, do you get the impression that the money system, at the macro level at least, is quite separate from reality? I do. I think it can continue for ages and ages. We – at the bottom – see the effects of declining living standards etc, but it just makes no difference. Look at Greece and Spain. The “system” just keeps on.

        • MJ says:

          When the folks at th bottom lose “faith” in the system than no matter at what level, it falls apart. That will happen when the Governments can no longer dole out the basics. Programs and such are defaulted upon. At this time the US is only able to float itcurrency by the “good will” of other nations. That can be fickeled as we seen in the book “The Lords of Finanace”. Also, when will someone try to profit by this surreal arrangement and topple the system?

  6. edpell says:

    Austria and Russia to build a new natural gas pipeline through Bulgaria. Love it when the pawns refuse to play ball.

  7. You are missing one important piece of the puzzle—the economic analysis of depletable resources as worked out by Harold Hotelling quite a long time ago. In the simplest version—a world of complete information, secure property rights, and costless extraction—the market price of a depletable resource rises at the interest rate forever, because if it was rising more slowly than that, owners of the resource would find they could make more money selling more now and less later, and vice versa if it was rising faster than that. It gets more complicated as you drop simplifying assumptions, but the basic point is that owners are deciding whether to pump now or later according to their best estimate of the return from selling now or later.

  8. Stefeun says:

    Just wanted to share my 2 favourite versions of “Little Boxes”
    also like Pete Seeger’s one, but here’s the original, and a more contrasted one:


  9. Stefeun says:

    To those interested in the “Land Grabbing Race”.
    Private and state companies are purchasing arable lands in foreign countries and are not always taking care of the impact on populations and environment.

    Landmatrix is a database with multiple entries and filters about all(?) contracts:
    “The Online Public Database on Land Deals
    The Land Matrix is a global and independent land monitoring initiative that promotes transparency and accountability in decisions over land and investment.
    This website is our Global Observatory – an open tool for collecting and visualising information about large-scale land acquisitions. ”

    One example of a “target country”: Tanzania:

    Before digging into this topic, I imagined that most of the problem was China purchasing everything they could in Africa, to grow crops; the reality is very different. Check by yourself.

  10. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All

    Expanding a little more on my previous notes about marginal costs versus fully distributed costs.

    Consider the work of ecologists who try to quantify the value of the natural world…the world that we humans seem intent on destroying to earn paper money. If you read Lenton and Watson, you will be utterly convinced that humans simply wouldn’t be here if it were not for the ‘ecological services’ provided by both living and non-living entities (excluding humans). In some sense, it makes no sense to try to put a dollar value on those services. If humans cease to exist, will the Universe (or Multiverse) mourn?

    What we have is a ‘tip of the iceberg’ phenomena. All of the human centered iceberg tip is held above the icy waters only because there is a vast amount of ice floating just below the surface. Destroy the subsurface ice, and the human enterprise will surely disappear as melt-water.

    Second, consider Dmitry Orlov’s work in Stages of Collapse. Each Stage is a social infrastructure which permits certain types of human activity to flourish. Destroy another layer of that infrastructure and the types of human activity which will be possible become more restricted. With the final layer of destruction, it is hard to call what remains ‘human’. We might draw a parallel to the iceberg analogy. The more ice floating beneath the surface, the bigger can be the tip that is raised above the icy waters. And a stable human society can support far more productive human activity than an unstable human society. John Michael Greer’s current post contrasting Beowulf and The Hobbit is an exercise along these lines.

    Third, consider two talks given at the recent Permaculture gathering in southern California. These are behind a paywall, so you will have to trust me. Nadia Lawton (Geoff’s wife) talked about her efforts, mostly in the Middle East. Nadia’s family were refugees from Palestine in 1948 and settled in the Dead Sea Valley. She met Geoff when he went to this area for his ‘greening the desert’ work. Nadia’s father is an herbalist, taught his daughter about plants, and Nadia took to Permaculture very naturally. In her talk, she recounts teaching villagers how to do simple things which increase their agricultural productivity. One point I draw from this is that the last century has destroyed a lot of indigenous knowledge. The indigenous knowledge may be seen as the submerged ice which supports the tip of agricultural productivity.

    The second talk is by Peter Ash, who describes himself as a ‘farmer’, but who knows an awful lot about compost. He has worked in New Orleans after Katrina, in Madagascar, and most recently in India. What he describes are desperately poor people who are failing to use the resources they have. Things are thrown ‘away’ which should be composted to restore soil fertility. In India, he tackles a terrible dump of medical waste. Heavy metals and toxic chemicals melt away. I imagine that traditional Indian farmers, as well as the people in Louisiana and Madagascar, knew something about compost. Where has that knowledge gone to? Just as with Nadia’s talk, I think we have to assume that the Financial Capitalism of the 20th century destroyed it. When disaster strikes and people need to rely on that traditional knowledge to keep themselves afloat…it isn’t there anymore.

    As I think about it, I see several large infrastructures floating just below the surface which enable we humans to engage in the human comedy:
    1. The Natural World without which we simply won’t exist.
    2. The Fossil Fuel Powered world which provides a platform on top of which we can erect new technologies such as communications and computation.
    3. Indigenous knowledge plus science which permit us to shift both the Natural World and the Fossil Fueled World in directions which favor us.
    4. Social organizations which allow us to cooperate with each other…as opposed to pervasive violence.

    I submit that we can sense the cracks in all of those infrastructures. We can’t see most of the cracks, especially if we aren’t attentive, but they are surely eating away the foundation of our little floating island. Whether our iceberg does a 180 and we disappear with a giant splash, or whether our little tip just disintegrates in pieces, I am not sure.

    Don Stewart

    • Don Stewart says:

      Dear Gail and All

      How could I forget about George Mobus? George’s current post explores, among lots of other things, the resource that we have to watch our own thoughts. Suppose that most humans sat in front of a TV watching a commercial, and watched their own thought processes being hijacked by a Giant Corporation that doesn’t truly love them, just wants their money, and will do anything to get it…would we have a very different world?

      So George builds up brick by brick to this tantalizing resource that most of us fail to use. Is it possible it might save us?

      Don Stewart

      ‘Once thoughts are in consciousness humans take things one step further, aside from expressing thoughts in language. Humans can also be conscious of being conscious of thoughts.

      Ordinary humans have just not quite got a handle on it like we do on conscious thinking with language. But who knows what evolution might yet produce. Is it also possible that this “experience of experience” is strengthened by various meditative practices? That might be an interesting topic!’


  11. jeremy890 says:

    Saw this regarding Fukushima nuclear power plant and [lan to build an underground
    ice wall” for the tune of $320 million (funded by the taxpayers).


    The experts and Japanese nuclear regulatory officials said during a meeting in Tokyo that they weren’t convinced the project can resolve a serious contaminated water problem at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, which suffered multiple meltdowns following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

    The frozen wall is a 32 billion yen ($320 million) government-funded project to surround the plant’s four crippled reactors and their turbine buildings with an underground ice wall to block groundwater from flowing into the buildings’ basements and mixing with highly radioactive water leaks from the melted cores.

  12. VPK says:

    Rats plague today, human plague tomorrow


    1993 Rat infestation in Australia
    Warning…the cure was deadly

  13. Interguru says:

    Tom Murphy in his blog Do The Math has lately not been posting much. He explains it in his postProlonged Absence..

    How many times can I calculate total tidal power available? I’ve expressed views on our precarious trajectory with respect to finite resources, touched on the psychology of major change and sacrifice, and shared personal explorations in reducing energy/resource footprints at home. While some of this continues (look for a post on nickel-iron batteries soon), for the most part it’s already all there. –

    I wonder if we are falling into the same hole. Gail has done a great job laying out her take on our situation. What more can she say? Many comments, mostly intelligent, have filled in the blanks. Yet how many times can we cover the same ground? Except for links to new articles and blogs, I feel that we are in circle, repeating ourselves over and over.

    • Don Stewart says:

      Dear Interguru
      I have had the same thoughts about covering the same ground over and over. A few thoughts on that subject:

      1. New people show up, have never read what went before, and so things need to be explained all over again. It’s not like a scholarly article where the author is expected to have thoroughly reviewed the literature. So the question a blogger has to answer is whether they want to continue teaching nursery school.

      2. The basic problem doesn’t change much. If someone discovers perpetual motion, then I suppose Murphy and Tverberg need to do some new writing. The sizable ‘nuclear’ lobby on this forum has been quite voluble expressing their view that the ‘finite world’ meme is just wrong. And, if someone is into adaptations, then those proceed an inch or a foot at a time. For example, someone figures out a better way to cook food with the rays from the sun providing the energy. Gail pretty much steers clear of offering solutions. Those of us who are into solutions tend to discover things and want to write about them.

      3. There are issues which I consider to be unresolved…fast collapse vs. slow collapse is one that I think is still up in the air. Gail, of course, is very much a fast collapse girl. There is room for thinking outside the box on some issues, I suspect.

      Don Stewart

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear Interguru
        One more topic I think needs more discussion. I believe it is related to the Economics 101 concept of marginal cost versus fully distributed cost. Art Berman recently performed an analysis of New York State Marcellus shale gas prospects. He concluded that no gas will be produced at 4 dollars, some at 6 dollars, and more at 8 dollars, but the total amounts are likely to be disappointing. As I understand what he did, he considered corporate overheads as costs…that is, fully distributed costs as opposed to marginal costs.

        Let me give a couple of examples. Steve Jobs made a short video where he talked about human tool use. He showed a chart showing that the condor is the most energy efficient animal in terms of moving mass over distance. Humans are down in the pack somewhere…completely unremarkable. But, Jobs says, if you let the human have a bicycle, it becomes more efficient than the condor.

        I believe Jobs is taking the ‘marginal cost’ approach. That is, assume that the roads on which to pedal the bicycle already exist, that the global manufacturing and distribution system already exists, etc. Just add the bicycle and, magically, human output per calorie consumed increases enormously. Should Jobs have used the Berman approach and added in some overheads? If so, how much?

        Another example is the use of electric fencing to keep livestock in. These fences are very cheap compared to steel or wood and wire fences, and they can be easily moved to wherever the farmer wants them to be. The little solar panel which keeps them charged costs in the neighborhood of a hundred dollars. But, like Berman, one could argue that the hundred dollars just represents the marginal cost of producing the solar panel, but that the cost of the infrastructure required to produce the panels is enormous.

        These are very tough questions to answer when one is talking about declining energy availability and shrinking industrial production. It’s relatively easy to think of an existing solar panel industry with the appropriate resource collection network and the appropriate distribution network already in place, and then to add in the very small additional effort needed to produce the little solar panels which keep animal fences charged. But if the energy and industrial production decline takes out the base capabilities, then the marginal cost of producing something as exotic as even small solar panels would be very much higher than a hundred dollars.

        Jobs was right, I think, that ‘man is a tool creator’. Therefore, the appropriate unit to consider is ‘man plus tool’. But once you get beyond very simple tools, you run into all those problems related to marginal versus fully distributed costs.

        One way to get at the problem would be to construct a toy model of a society that had, say, half the fossil fuels energy that we have today. I don’t know any other way to even think about the issues.

        To my knowledge, neither Gail nor Tom has done such an exercise.

        Don Stewart

        • Stefeun says:

          Exactly, Don.
          Your example with the bicycle is good;
          focusing on a particular task gives a wrong idea of the energy used.

          It’s all about consumed energy to achieve the task Vs total primary energy involved.
          When you add the costs for building up the infrastructure and maintenance, for manufacturing the “tool”, and then consider that the improvement will lead to more intensive use (Jevons’ paradox), then you come out with a much much bigger amount of energy involved.

          In comments of previous article I made an attempt of such estimation for so-called Digital World; I couldn’t figure it out with precise numbers, but the result is likely to be much higher energy consumption (global), although we feel like an e-mail, for example, costs nothing.
          Most of the improvements in efficiency (lower micro-Joues per Byte) have been made, and the traffic is likely to rocket (x10 times between 2013 and 2020).

        • VPK says:

          Long ago I had a book title “Country Woodcraft” ( http://www.amazon.com/Country-Woodcraft-Drew-Langsner/dp/0878572007/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1315953860&sr=8-1&tag=vglnkc3700-20 ) and the opening credit was a quote that stated the backwoods homesteader would be amazed at the cost, effort and energy to supply him with a section of modern plastic pcv water pipe. As you all explained, the homesteader would simple fell a small diameter log on his land and with a drill bore or use hot char to make a hole. Remarkable, these old wooden pipes are still in service today in old cities today! The plastic pipe, we all know what would be need to manufacture and bring to market that item.

        • Coast Watcher says:

          I’m not an economist, nor do I play one on TV, but another way to look Jobs’ bicycle example or the cost of drilling Marcellus shale is the concept of sunk costs. The road already exists; the corporate infrastructure supporting shale drilling is already in place. The legacy expense of creating them has already been paid by past users (through fuel taxes) or past income sources. All that is required is maintenance costs, or continuing expenses. Adding the past cost of creating a highway to the current cost of building and using a bicycle doesn’t seem logical.

          • Don Stewart says:

            Dear Coast Watcher
            What you are saying is the traditional way economists and business people look at things. That is, they are focused on the margin. For example, given that we have a grocery store, can we make more money by selling some additional particular item, perhaps dropping some other particular item to make room for it. The total cost of operating the grocery store and the entire supply chain and the cost of generating consumers who have the money needed are never considered. The grocery store itself needs to pay for its total cost. When he added in overhead costs in his shale gas calculations, Art Berman was making the realistic assumption that a shale gas company needs to cover its total costs, not just the marginal cost of drilling a single well.

            So long as the trajectory was up, marginal thinking worked OK. If the trajectory turns down because fossil fuels simply become scarcer, then things may become very different.

            Taking the example of the bicycle. It is clear that we have way more pavement and bridges than are needed for any conceivable number of bicycles. Gail frequently mentions the cost of maintaining roads. If fossil fuels become scarce, will we be able to maintain the gigantic infrastructure designed for heavy vehicles traveling at 70 miles per hour? A ‘built from scratch’ bicycle networks would probably look more like a ‘rails to trails’ such as the Katy trail which almost crosses Missouri. It is perhaps 6 feet wide and has a crushed rock surface. The bridges are the original railroad bridges. The crushed rock still needs maintenance, and someday the bridges will need to be replaced….but nothing like maintaining the Los Angeles freeways. So…on the way down, these sorts of considerations become far more important.

            Don Stewart

          • The cost of maintaining the roads is going up. It is likely we won’t be able to maintain all of them, or perhaps many of them. The issue becomes keeping the overall system together. Unfortunately, we still need trucks and railroads for many purposes, and roads and tracks need maintenance.

            • Coast Watcher says:

              Nor do I argue that the costs of maintaining those roads and tracks shouldn’t be included in the continuing cost of doing business. The past expenses to build them in the first place, though, have already been amortized to zero. I see no logical reason to include them in figuring the price of constructing the bicycle. The cost to keep an existing roadway, trail, or track up to bicycle standards should be included or, in the case of a well, the continuing overhead expense of sustaining the corporate structure.

            • dashui says:

              I saw where Obama is giving states the ability to put tolls in interstates.

        • interguru says:

          In a perfect Adam Smith world, all the costs, sunk and marginal, would be reflected in the price. Unfortunately, our dollar prices do not reflect external costs, such as environmental damage, resource depletion, and lowering of public health.

          • Prices don’t even reflect costs of extraction. They reflect the maximum amount buyers can afford, given all of their other commitments. People without jobs, or with low-paying jobs, can’t afford very much.

            • Stilgar Wilcox says:

              “Prices don’t even reflect costs of extraction.” As evidenced by the reduction in majors capex due to too low a price for oil.

  14. edpell says:

    There seems to be a consensus that there are too many people to survive. One discussion we have not had is can we influence which people live and die? Can we minimize the deaths in country X versus the rest of the world (ROW)? I would be far happier to live in a country that tries to maximize the survival of its citizens. If you find such a country please let me know. Thanks.

    • Stefeun says:

      you should try Buthan.
      Maybe northern parts of Scandinavia, too, although I doubt that their heavy governmental structures can survive much longer than others.

  15. ravinathan says:

    After thousands of lives lost and expenditures of hundreds of billions, the US may have succeeded in creating yet another dictator. At least the oil is flowing!


    • MJ says:

      Well, detailed account of Iraq and the divisions the nation has to overcome and the fragile peace that is holding up. The oil may be flowing, but for how long until a civil war stops the oil going to market? Gail is correct, we do have a very fragile system.

  16. Stefeun says:

    The Golden Jackass Hat Trick Letter, Apr.04, 2014
    “Emerging Dynamics of Petro-Yuan Standard”

    “The shocks will be many as the USDollar struggles and falls off the global financial stage in full view. The desperate maneuvers like in Syria and Ukraine should be seen as last ditch efforts to save a dying system. For two decades the USDollar has been defended by military means.
    The entire world must create a more workable system, an equitable system. The banking structures and trading systems require it. No longer can the Anglo-American free credit card be tolerated.
    The Paradigm Shift is far along, no more an infant project. The Western leading nations have transformed into the Axis of Fascism. The Eastern leading nations have emerged as seeking viable fair solutions, essentially a return to the Gold Standard. The physical gold migration from London and Switzerland proves the shift in power underway. The swing nations of Germany, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, India, and Iran will play pivotal roles in shaping the future. The year 2014 will not end with any remote resemblance to its start.”
    Read more:

  17. Paul says:

    Selling Hydraulic Fracking: The Myth Of Energy Independence Used To Hoodwink The American People

    ”Average well quality (as measured by initial productivity) has fallen nearly 20 percent in the Haynesville, which is the most productive shale gas play in the U.S., and is falling or flat in eight of the top ten plays. Overall well quality is declining for 36 percent of U.S. shale gas production and is flat for 34 percent.”


    Peak shale — 2016?

  18. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All
    How does one go about getting people ‘unwedded’ from Business as Usual and get them emotionally attached to some alternative? One popular notion is the ‘stages of grief’. I’d like to offer a different slant on the subject. This is from Derreck Jensen, writing about the craft of writing (or, more generally, telling stories which have emotional content).

    ‘Alfred Hitchcock taught me (about tracking) with one scene from Psycho. Early on, the film’s protagonist, Marion, steals $40,000 from her employer. We want her to get away with it. As she’s leaving town, she sees her boss crossing the street, and we hope he doesn’t stop. Later, she sleeps by the road, and a policeman peers into her window. We hope he doesn’t see the money in her purse. She gets to a hotel, and is killed in the shower. The next shot is what taught me about tracking: The camera pulls out from a close-up of her unblinking eye, pans across the room to where the money is folded inside a newspaper, back across the room to the open window, then up toward the house that Norman Bates shares with his mother. The next thing we hear is Norman shouting, ‘Oh God, Mother, blood. Blood!’ He then rushes down to the hotel and begins to clean up the aftermath of the killing. He puts Marion’s body in the trunk of her car, and as he’s putting the cleaning material in there too, another car drives by. We in the audience are a little nervous for Norman. He then takes the car to the swamp behind the hotel and pushes it in. The car sinks until only the roof is showing, then stops. I’ve seen Psycho several times in theaters, and each time the audience gasps at this, then laughs in relief as the car goes under.

    But what has happened? Ten minutes before, we as audience members identified with Marion, and now, suddenly, our identification has switched so thoroughly that we want Norman to get away with cleaning up after her murder. That’s an extraordinary piece of artistic manipulation. How did Hitchcock do that? By paying attention to tracking: the shot where he pulls away from her eye literally pulled us out of Marion’s consciousness. We then, with the camera, seek another place to project our identification, and the first person we hear is Norman.’

    It seems to me that those of us who think that BAU must, or at least needs to, change to something else, might study Hitchcock’s methods. It is important to show the dead cadaver of BAU. And the next thing the reader encounters is the brave new world of whatever our solution is. Our task is considerably more complicated than Hitchcock’s task, because Hitchcock only had to sustain the emotional change while people were inside the theater. In the real world, we need to get people to see the dead cadaver in the daily news, while searching out the solutions which are partially hidden and almost universally ignored.

    Don Stewart

  19. Chomsky says:

    I can’t believe I read the whole thing, the whole thing.

    • Stefeun says:

      Excuse me… are you “the” Noam Chomsky..?
      If really so, 1) I can’t believe it and am very impressed, and 2) I’d really like to read a more detailed comment from you.
      BTW, just watched a replay of French show “Clique” of last saturday, unfortunately not available on Youtube (yet?)

  20. Don Stewart says:

    Dear All Interested in Food Security and Climate Change

    To follow up on my recent posts about the small farms I visited and what I found, here are a couple of very recent news articles. The first reference is a review by Tom Phillpot of the book The Meat Racket. The book tells the story of how Tyson Foods came to control a huge sector of the meat business in the United States, and also control a large sector of the political process. A Tyson executive is currently the chief of ‘food safety regulations’, and has come close to putting small farmers out of business completely. You will not be shocked to learn that fact, when you explore the history of Tyson. When you learn how Tyson helped Hillary Clinton makes lots of money speculating, you will not be shocked that Obama would put a Tyson executive into a position with a stranglehold on small farms.

    The second set of references are related to a recent Rodale Institute Paper which claims that good farming methods can sequester all the carbon currently being emitted by industrial civilization. In terms of Gail’s collapse scenario and climate change, good farming methods can do us as much good as total collapse…without the pain of total collapse. I recommend the first paper, and if you want more details, click through to the original paper in the first few paragraphs. The final two articles provide additional angles on the study.


    Carbon Farming
    How Organic Farming Can Reverse Climate Change

    Answering the Climate Question with Smart Food Production

    Regenerative Organic Farming A Solution to Global Warming

    You will also find references to a New York Times article which claims that ‘going organic’ will multiply carbon emissions by 17 times. I want to put some perspective on these various claims. A few days ago you may have read Xabier’s description of getting meat from the farm to the consumers in town….the farmer drove the animals down the lane to the butcher’s shop in town, sold them to the butcher, who killed them and sold them to the public. No fossil fuels involved. But the Tyson executive in the Obama administration is there to prevent such dastardly behavior from every happening again. Since it is obvious that God made the world so that Tyson could make large profits while bearing none of the risks (first article referenced above), then it follows that any system which threatens Tyson’s method of operation must be suppressed with whatever force necessary. So the New York Times article first assumes that we must continue to do what we are doing, but just mess around a little with something called ‘organic’. The Rodale paper describes a revolution in food production and consumption which will leave scant space for Tyson. The obstacles to achieving the revolution are multiple: mindsets of farmers and consumers; the entrenched interests of companies like Tyson and the fast food companies; and the power of the government and its disinterest in the public welfare. Hard nuts to crack. Much more malleable are the technical issues…which have to be addressed farm by farm in all kinds of soils and all kinds of climates and all sorts of physical conditions.

    If you read the second set of articles, you will see mention of many of themes I talked about in the article on small farms:
    the huge potential in grass fed animals
    the smaller but still very large potential in what one might call ‘organic, no till’
    the need for more perennials

    I won’t belabor all those points again.

    Don Stewart

    • xabier says:


      Yes, they certainly want to put all the small farms out of business. I’ve heard them say so explicitly on British radio, the BBC – without shame. As long as I have the cash, I’m supporting my local smallholder, one small rebellion against this mess.

  21. Stilgar Wilcox says:

    ‘Just keeping up’

    That’s an article posted over at peakoil.com

    Here’s my post there under the moniker, Perk Earl (I’m always changing names to stay one step ahead of the NSA):

    “But the broader picture, Mr. Hamilton points out, is one of surprising stability in prices. For most of the last three years oil has hovered around $100 a barrel, and the price of petrol has been correspondingly flat. But there is another way of looking at this stability; prices have remained relatively high in order to temper demand growth and keep it in line with available supply growth.”

    He writes this as if the price was intentionally calculated and moderated to achieve this balance. Instead, I would suggest upward pressure on price has been quelled by demand destruction, at
    a price inflection point. If the price goes higher, demand drops price back down and vice versa. We are at a price ceiling relative to oil flow and economic viability to support that price.

    This long period of oil price stability while costs of exploration have recently exceeded return on investment, means long term supply increases are no longer keeping up with extraction of aging wells.

    Also, without US fracking the descent from peak would have already ensued, is yet another obvious nail in the peak oil coffin.

    We are at the summit of a long period of expansion. Time to check your brakes, golden parachute, food cache, solar panels, seed stores, and whatever other things you can think of before we begin the fast descent down because it’s going to be so fast you’re going to feel the breeze blowing past your face and your heart in your throat.

    • Daddio7 says:

      The Saudis control oil prices. If prices get too high demand drops and other sources are profitable. Too low and not enough profit is made. They need cash flow to maintain their lifestyles. They reduce production to raise prices and increase it to moderate them.

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        Then why did oil rise to 147 in 2008, followed by a drop to 35 a barrel at the onset of the recession? If the Saudi’s like you say control oil price then why the huge instability in price during that time period?

        Also, look at a post by Jeffrey Brown (Westexas when he was on TOD) comments about the stability of oil price over the past 3 years:


        “The reality is the price of crude oil has been remarkably stable over the last three years,”, I might write “predictably stable”. A supply-constrained model (and is Jim not intimating that we are supply-constrained?) would anticipate that price volatility, in the absence of supply shocks, would collapse. And it has.

        You may also want to read some of the comments at: http://peakoil.com/consumption/just-keeping-up

        No one there is saying the Saudi’s are controlling WTI, which is a US oil price or even Brent (north sea), or other exporters like Mexico or Canada’s oil price. Log on and post your comment and see what kind of responses you get. I’ll check later today to see how that goes.

        • Stilgar Wilcox says:

          Note: That first link above, you need to left click on the first article posted which will take you to the rest of the post, then comments, then go to page 4 to find that posting by myself and later by Jeffrey Brown.

          • Stilgar Wilcox says:

            One last note: My moniker there is Perk Earl. Sometime I need to change it here.

        • MJ says:

          Both good reads and we are in a state of dreamlike flux of false sense of “plenty”. I blame the massive dose of info commercials of the API that has flooded the TV airways with that pretty slim blonde (I do I love her), talking the talk.
          We the bottleneck hits, we will hear them all cry out it was Obama;s fault for not approving the XL Pipeline! Boy, is this going to be “good”.
          Thanks, Stilgar for the links. We are driving at top speed headed for a brick wall.
          The sad fact of the matter is Americans expect affordable gas as their RIGHT!? Hey, why can’t the world expect to get paid in worthless paper dollars? I m not at all hopeful for the next crisis.

          • Stilgar Wilcox says:

            “Both good reads and we are in a state of dreamlike flux of false sense of “plenty”.”

            Agree in spades, MJ. And talking about dreamlike flux, look below at the new high the stock market reached in spite of QE tapering 10b down to 45 billion and see the last sentence which shows GDP on grew by only a meager .1% in the first QTR this year. The bad weather is being blamed for the low growth rate, which is only a smidgen off of being recessionary. Who ever thought the stock market could be at this level in spite of a qtr at .1%?


            Dow Closes at All-Time High with Boost from the Federal Reserve

            Kate Gibson, CNBC
            “Stocks edged up on Wednesday, pushing the Dow through its all-time high, as investors welcomed the Federal Reserve’s reduction of monthly bond purchases while looking past data showing the economy slowed more than expected in the first quarter.”

            “Tapering is on autopilot,” said Thomas Costerg, a New York-based economist at Standard Chartered Plc. “You need a much bigger swing in the data to stop tapering and much more weakness than just a 0.1 percent print on GDP.” I guess the question is; how much of a drop in GDP would we need?!

            • Paul says:

              Truly amazing isn’t it — growth crashes to 0.1% yet the stock market is up and bloomberg is saying that this is on positive economic signals.

              War is Peace.

              See http://dollarcollapse.com/the-economy/even-worse-than-it-looks/

            • Stilgar Wilcox says:

              Good summarization in that link of negative trending economic bullets, Paul. Apparently the MSM message is, this past winter held the economy down. Can’t wait to see 2nd qtr. numbers in July and the excuses offered up then.

              I’m wondering if QE tapering is the un-talked about culprit in GDP contraction. It’s been cut 10 billion less every month for the first 3 months of the year. How can that not have a negative effect on the economy after juicing it for so long? I predicted when tapering was about to initiate that when it got down to 35-45 billion a month we would begin to see negative economic feedbacks. Well, the first qtr. came in at .1% GDP growth. If in the 2nd qtr. QE is down to 15 billion and GDP has crawled into the recession zone, will the Fed have the gall to up QE 10 billion a month until growth is restored?

              If so, we will know (although MSM will still avoid the topic so it can cheerlead for corp’s and govt.) that we are in an energy trap of too high oil costs to grow GDP, without QE high octane get the rich, richer (at the expense of the taxpayers) injections. In spite of the stock market’s new all time highs, I stand by the prediction QE cannot be tapered to zero. It won’t work unless cheap oil returns. But, we will see – if I’m wrong I’ll own up to it.

          • MJ says:

            But our Energy future looks BRIGHT:

            Energy Tomorrow commercial from the American Petro Institite:
            You just got to follow the program, no questions:


            No wonder the mass public is at ease. Makes me feel warm and fussy all over.

  22. Stefeun says:

    The Techno-magic solution:

    I’ve googled “robot bees” as they recommend in the video, and it’s actually quite scary.
    See e.g. Harvard’s Robobees project:

    Note, however, that reg. pollination, the alternative is to do it by hand…

    Cynically, the good news is that both robotic and human solutions are adding to GDP, whilst those stupid real bees don’t.

  23. Stefeun says:

    With “linedance” spam-comment removed, yours reminded me Baloo in the end of the song:

  24. Stefeun says:

    Greenwashing, or the beginning of a large withdrawal movement?

    FTSE and BlackRock launch ‘ground-breaking’ indices excluding fossil fuels
    Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 By Charlotte Malone, Blue & Green Tomorrow:

    Financial Times version:

    For cleaner and sustainable future, they say.
    Or is it that they fear of “stranded assets” as they expect big ups & downs soon on FF markets?
    “Bill McKibben, 350.org co-founder. “They’ve stood up to the oil barons, and they’ve stood up for science: if we’re to slow climate change we have to leave most of our carbon reserves in the ground, and that means we’ve got to take all of our money and our support away from this reckless industry.””

    • ordinaryjoe says:

      “They’ve stood up to the oil barons, and they’ve stood up for science: if we’re to slow climate change we have to leave most of our carbon reserves in the ground, and that means we’ve got to take all of our money and our support away from this reckless industry.””
      This is the lefts argument- dirty oil barons keeping us from our right to infinite consumption.
      The rights argument is the dirty environmentalists are keeping us from our right to infinite consumption with their imaginary carbon climate change commy plot.
      I propose a different argument. Taxes are increased on all forms of energy until the per capita use of energy in the USA falls to the average for a non manufacturing nation. Think it will be very popular?

      • edpell says:

        In 2008 Obama said “Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” DOE sec Chu said he wanted US gasoline to cost as much as EU gasoline (i.e. 8 to 10 $/gallon). This is the open and avowed plan of the sitting government.

        • ordinaryjoe says:

          “This is the open and avowed plan of the sitting government.”
          If it was I would fully support it. Not that I believe for a second that this administration is serious about conservation or for that matter different from the one preceding it in any way. Were six years into it- gas is not $8 although my electric has risen 20% or so.

          USA is addicted to energy. Intervention always comes for the addict, death is intervention, sobriety is intervention. Mostly the addict chooses death.

          24-7 endless highways full of new cars with one person in them. No one is choosing to conserve except people like me. I would guess less than 1% trying seriously to conserve. Even so Im sure my per capita energy use exceeds the per capita average for the world many times. What would it take to get two people in a car? Currently one thing and one thing only – pain to the wallet. Consciousness- a relationship to the planet-is the only real solution, I am being somewhat facetious in my proposal to tax energy.

          Its pretty clear to me that the USA has chosen to consume until it hits the wall. There are no easy choices for the addict, neither death or sobriety is particularly appealing. I consider myself a conservative. What I find ironic is that 99.99% of those who consider themselves conservative are radically apposed to conservation. Perhaps they should call themselves consumatives. The blue team could be consumerals.

    • Christian says:

      Very interesting turn Stéfane, it seems we got peak oil in 1984 rather than 2006

  25. Stefeun says:

    Last days of an Empire.
    Similarities between 1980s USSR and 2010s USA.

    In his last post François Roddier refers to a post by “The Saker”, which makes very good points about situation of the Soviet Union before collapse and today’s situation in Western countries.

    F.Roddier makes comments from the thermodynamical point of view:
    (NB: google translation; pls replace “companies” with “societies” in his text)

    “The Saker” states that it’s “the poison of disillusionment” that undermined the Soviet Union:
    “Anyway, with his anti-Stalin campaign Khrushchev basically told the Soviet people that what used to be white yesterday is henceforth to be considered black and that what was black is now white. On a deeper level, that also showed that the Soviet Union was ruled by complete hypocrites who had no personal beliefs and who stood for nothing except for their own power.

    The poison of disillusionment and cynicism injected by Khrushchev and his clique acted slowly, but surely, and by the time Leonid Brezhnev came to power (1964) it had already discreetly permeated all of Soviet society. By the 1980 it was omnipresent at all the levels of society, from the lowest and poorest to the top party officials. I don’t want to go into all the details, but I will say that the fact that almost nobody stood up to defend the Soviet system in 1991 and in 1993 is a direct result of that poison’s erosion of the Soviet society. By the 1990s everybody knew that even if the ideals of Communism were good (which some still did believe while some did not), the modern Soviet society was built on a gigantic lie which nobody was willing to fight for, nevermind die for it.”

    ..and says the same is currently happening to US and EU.
    Read more:
    “How the Ukrainian crisis will eventually bring down the AngloZionist Empire”

    NB: even if many of the Saker’s points are interesting*, I personally recommend to take his analysis with a pinch of salt, as he’s very prompt at name calling (esp. at Zionists, even if there are objectively good reasons), and seems to promote religious values, which always looks highly suspect to me (in my view a religion is only good at controlling the people, which inevitably leads to war in the end of the day; “my God is always better than yours”; those who are convinced they detain “the Truth” are always the most dangerous ones). But this is only my opinion.

    *: the Saker’s blog; the video in apr.28 post is worth watching:

    • xabier says:

      As with the old USSR, some are beginning to understand the EU lie, that it is a union of equal states: bitterness at German hijacking of policy is growing in Spain and the periphery, certainly. Rotting from within before it has actually attained full status as a pan-European state.

    • Stefeun says:

      Last days of an Empire, by Murray Head:

      I’m not sure about “the rays of hope”, not sure at all,
      but the song is so nice

  26. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All Concerned about Food Safety

    I previously said that in a slow collapse scenario, the information contained in fresh fruits and vegetables is more important than calories. Since I am not an MD, you may be inclined to dismiss that statement. Here is a note about the new book from Jeffrey Bland, MD, The Disease Delusion. The note was written by Mark Hyman, MD. The point is that throat cancer probably doesn’t tell you much about the throat. It probably tells you something about tobacco use. But tobacco use tells you a lot about other factors such as weight and heart disease and stroke and so forth. The root problem is tobacco use…not a specific malady in some specific organ. When the food we eat sends bad information to the body, or fails to send good information, the body tends to react badly. I frequently generalize this to ‘poor gene expression’. The note claims that 80 percent of medical expenditures are now for chronic disease. I would estimate that 95 percent of those chronic diseases are preventable with a proper lifestyle, including food, exercise, stress management, etc. That says that something like 15 percent of our GDP is wasted because we lead poor lifestyles. Eating the proper food is the biggest factor in saving that 15 percent.

    Now, if you get 100 diet doctors in a room you will get 150 prescriptions about the details of diet. What almost all of them have in common is a recommendation to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Which leads me to the statement I made. Here is the statement from Mark Hyman…Don Stewart

    Imagine a time when people died or suffered from incurable acute infections. Imagine a time before antibiotics — when women died of simple childbirth fever, when a bad chest infection could lead to death, when a strep throat caused heart failure, when limbs were amputated because of an infected wound. Those commonplace occurrences seem unimaginable now.

    Yet that is the exactly the state of medicine today as we face the tsunami of lifestyle-related chronic diseases that will cost our global economy $47 trillion over the next twenty years. These diseases are eminently preventable and treatable, and yet currently, every year, they kill twice as many people around the world as infectious diseases do.

    As we spend more and more for health care, we get less and less. America has worse health care outcomes and lower life expectancy than almost every other developed nation. As we invent new drugs and procedures, chronic diseases continue to rise in America, and — as developing countries adopt the worst of our food and culture — around the globe.

    Chronic diseases affect one in two Americans and account for 80 percent of our health care costs. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune diseases, digestive disorders, dementia, allergies, asthma, arthritis, depression, ADD, autism, Parkinson’s disease, hormonal problems and more — they cause endless suffering and drain our financial resources.

    Clearly, what we are doing is not working. We need a different paradigm, a different model of diagnosing and treating illness that can match and beat this new epidemic of chronic disease.

    Our current conventional medical model was constructed to treat acute disease, diseases we have mostly vanquished. We found a single agent for illness: a microbe. And we discovered a single agent to treat it: antibiotics. The rest of the history of medicine is the pursuit of a holy grail — a pill for every ill. This approach has failed and will continue to fail.

    Disease Delusion dissects the failure of medicine to solve our health crisis and lays out a new map for understanding and treating illness based on Functional Medicine, a fundamental paradigm shift from medicine by symptom to medicine by cause, from medicine by disease to medicine by system, from medicine by organ to medicine by organism.

    Functional Medicine is an ecological view of the body where all the networks of our biology intersect and interact in a dynamic process. When out of balance, this process creates disease, and when in balance, it creates health. Functional Medicine takes all the component parts of science, all the puzzle pieces, all the data about how we get sick and what makes us well and reorganizes it in story that makes sense, a story that has the capacity to solve our health care crisis nearly overnight if it was understood and applied widely.

    Medicine is the youngest science. There is no theory of medicine, no organizing principles that helps us navigate the territory of chronic disease. Functional medicine is that breakthrough theory, the biggest breakthrough idea in medicine since the discovery of the microbe and antibiotics. It is a cataclysmic shift in our view of biology.

    There are moments of awakening in science that are not incremental but transformational: Columbus proving the earth was round, not flat; Galileo showing us the earth was not the center of the universe; Darwin explaining that species evolved and didn’t arise fixed in their current form; Einstein shattering our notions of time and space. Functional medicine is a paradigm shift of equal magnitude and significance.

    Disease appears real and fixed, just as the earth seems flat, and time and space seem linear and solid. In Disease Delusion, the father of Functional medicine, Dr. Jeffrey Bland, shatters our notion of disease. Over the past 30 years, Bland has synthesized more medical science, from more fields of study than any other human alive. Disease, he argues, is a false idol. It does not exist, at least not in the way we think about it. The names we give disease are useful for finding the right medication, but not for truly getting to the root cause or creating a healing response.

    Consider the patient who has symptoms of sadness, hopelessness, insomnia, loss of libido and a lack of interest in daily activities. Telling this patient that he or she has depression is not helpful. Depression is not the cause of those symptoms. It is the name we give to people who happen to share them. We then treat it with an anti-depressant which works only a little better than chance.

    In reality, the causes for the same symptoms, for people with the same “disease,” may vary greatly.

    The true cause of depression may be a leaky gut caused by gluten that activates the immune system, producing antibodies against the thyroid leading to low thyroid function and depression. It may 10 years of an acid-blocking drug for reflux that led to vitamin B12 deficiency, or a gene called MTFHR that leads to folate deficiency, or inadequate sunlight caused vitamin D deficiency. It may be a diet high in tuna that has caused mercury toxicity, or a diet low in fish that has caused an omega-3 deficiency, or a high-sugar diet that has caused pre-diabetes. It may be the use of antibiotics that have altered the gut flora, which have in turn altered brain chemistry. It may be a life trauma or stress.

    Each of these factors – dietary, environmental, lifestyle — creates a different imbalance, yet all cause depression. Thus knowing the name of a disease tells us nothing about the true cause, not does it leads us the right treatment. This is the disease delusion Bland invites us to perceive, and that he urges us to put behind us.

    • jeremy890 says:

      Don, thank you for the info. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I’ll keep all that ion mind!
      Just kidding

    • Daddio7 says:

      OK, you described all my symptoms, now what do I do about it?

    • InAlaska says:

      Don, good post. Unfortunately, the other half of the disease equation is controlled by things which are now out of our control. Pesticides on our fruit and veggies, mercury in the fish, strontium 90 in the bones of herbivores, particulates in the air we breathe, the list goes on. Even those of us who eat right are being poisoned daily just by being alive on planet Earth. Sad but true, and we wonder why the incidence of chronic diseases is on an exponential increase.

  27. EnergyData says:

    I’m linking here to a summary of the BGR’s latest estimates of global fossil fuel resources and reserves. http://j.mp/FF_RR_2013

  28. Pingback: Another Week of Climate Disruption News, April 27, 2014 [A Few Things Ill Considered] | Gaia Gazette

  29. Randy says:

    Matt ridley’s Wall Street journal acrticle should stimulate some discussion here.

    • Yeah if you are refrerring to WSJ: “The World’s Resources Aren’t Running Out”. What a bunch of hogwash that article is. Be more believable if he said an advanced alien race is living on the Moon and will help us mine the Moon for resources. The whole article infuriates me so much I have to stop reading it.

      • This little jewel here from the WSJ article:
        “Economists point out that we keep improving the productivity of each acre of land by applying fertilizer, mechanization, pesticides and irrigation. Further innovation is bound to shift the ceiling upward.”

        So Economists are the new agricultural experts now LOL. Oh and that “innovation” word again. How about some examples of the “innovation” the economist has in mind to increase agricultural yields? More energy inputs maybe? Hmmm, me thinks we are at peak innovation already.

        • xabier says:

          The economists would have had a point in the 18th century, when their ‘science’ started….

          • There is also a paragraph that touches on the phosphorous problem. The author states that phosphates in the soil haven’t been used up, just simply scattered about. All “we” have to do is re-concentrate them LOL. No details on how to accomplish that!

  30. B9K9 says:

    @Paul says “If the big money moves out of oil — and as we know when the herd is spooked it moves VERY fast — this could cause a catastrophe virtually overnight. I wonder what the Fed is doing to counteract this — I cannot see how they could stand by and watch the industry collapse — perhaps print money and prop up these companies in secret? This is a very bad signal….”

    The action in Ukraine is telling anyone who understands the issues what the real timeline looks like. The various reports of dramatic production declines and capex disasters merely confirm the rationale for US/NATO policy. Unfortunately, it looks like events appear to be accelerating – we are not going to back off – we must effect regime change if we are to survive.

    I think they are just going through the motions with sanctions; setting up the excuse for plan B. If we don’t act now, they’ll lose control over the whole enchilada.

  31. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Others Interested in Food Security

    This past weekend I participated in our 19th annual Farm Tour. About 40 small farms in a radius of 30 miles pursuing a wide variety of strategies, but generally along the lines you might consider ‘organic’. What follows is impressionistic, not a scientific study based on the collection of statistics in controlled situations. Nevertheless, it may give you some ideas about the challenges and opportunities we face as oil becomes scarce. I have participated in the Farm Tour perhaps 10 times over the last 19 years, and am a member of two of the principal sponsors, a farm advocacy group and a food co-op.

    Let me make several statements to frame these comments:
    1. I saw lots of very clever adaptations to low energy and climate instability
    2. I saw lots of very clever adaptations to market forces
    3. I did not see lots of small farmers who had bought their land in the last decade who were making lots of money.
    4. I saw more emphasis on growing transplants which are sold to local gardeners
    5. I did not see any example of a truly sustainable farm, when the question of sustainability was pursued in depth.

    Let me begin with some reflections on where we in the Raleigh/ Durham/ Chapel Hill region stand with respect to our ability to grow local food. The best number I have heard is that we grow 2 percent of our calories and import 98 percent of our calories. You may wish to compare that to Carribean islands such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica which grow between 10 and 30 percent of their calories. In a fast-collapse scenario, the inability to get calories and drinking water are immediate crises. In a slow-collapse scenario, the inability to get the information that our bodies need from fresh fruits and vegetables is the more important problem. The lack of good information from our food is a major cause of chronic disease. Our region does better than many in terms of the supply of local fruits and vegetables, due to the very farms that I have been visiting and the gardeners who grow in their back yards and community plots.

    Let me give you examples of adaptations to low energy and climate instability. Plastic high tunnels and low tunnels have become inexpensive ways to provide a controlled environment for plants. Tomatoes do best when they are not rained upon…and with 43 inches of rain (closer to 60 inches last year), tomatoes set in an open field get rained on a lot. So some farmers are now erected ‘big tops’ from The Netherlands which protect the tomatoes from rain but have open sides so that the tomatoes are not baked in a closed greenhouse, which could get to 140F easily. Low tunnels are used to grow cold hardy winter crops such as collards and kale and mustard. If some more tender crops are being grown over the winter, then the low tunnel provides both solar gain during the day and the minimum amount of air to heat at night with a fossil fuel or a compost pile. High tunnels have more ‘headroom’, and are not meant to be heated. By covering the high tunnel with shadecloth, and rigging a misting system, even salad greens can be grown here with outside temperatures of 100F in the middle of July. As you can see, none of these solutions would survive a complete collapse of industrial civilization, but all of them are pretty low energy responses to climate change. Some of them make sense even without climate change. The number of plastic tunnels now as compared to 19 years ago amounts to an explosion.

    Now let me give you an example of an adaptation to the market which I see as more problematic in the short term. One of the farmers calls herself ‘the queen of the microgreens’. Microgreens are seeds sown thickly in plastic trays and watered frequently until they are a few inches tall and then cut with scissors. They are a luxury item, which sells for several multiples of the same weight of mature greens. The farmer ticked off the fancy restaurants that she sells microgreens to. Will Allen, from Growing Power in Milwaukee, teaches that microgreens are a good way to generate lots of cash quickly in urban farms. Why am I more pessimistic about microgreens? Because I suspect that collapse, whether fast or slow, will take a heavy toll on the fancy restaurants who are the primary customers for microgreens. So I am not casting stones at any small farmer who figures out how to extract some money from the plutocrats, but I don’t think we should count on microgreens to solve any fundamental problem.

    Another adaptation to the market that I thought was clever was using sheep to graze around solar farm panels. The solar farms need to keep the grass cut, so that it doesn’t shade the panels. But power mowers throw rocks, which damage the fragile panels. Solution: graze sheep around the panels during the grass growing season. Free maintenance for the solar farms, free food for the sheep farmer.

    The farmers who bought their land 30 years ago don’t have to work too hard if they have kept their ‘needs’ under control. My favorite small farmer says he works about 30 hours a week…and he has farmed the same land for 30 years. He is dismissive of the farmers who work 50 or 60 hours a week trying to wring a little more production out of their land. But what I think he really doesn’t understand is that the new, young farmers have paid several multiples per acre for their land than he paid 30 years ago. As you drive around in the country, you pass from ‘horse farms’ with those fancy gates that let riders pass through without dismounting with endless fields of grass, white wooden fences, and country estate houses. Then you pass into the real farming country (along with trailers parked everywhere housing people who commute to town) which looks completely different. So the combination of Federal Reserve money creation and the funneling of that money to the wealthy has greatly inflated the price of farm land.

    At the Carrboro Farmer’s Market this past Saturday, I would estimate that 20 percent of the display space was occupied by transplants for sale to gardeners. A woman who has a very small farm and greenhouse near me makes most of her living growing transplants (we call them ‘starts’ around here, mostly).

    Now to my final statement that I didn’t see any farm I could label as truly ‘sustainable’. A solitary homestead or a self-sufficient intentional community are easy to imagine as being sustainable. Nothing comes in and very little goes out. I didn’t visit any of those, and I don’t really know where I would find any in my area. It gets harder to define ‘sustainable’ when you allow for trade. But trade is what raises us above bare subsistence, and so any statements about ‘sustainability’ need to consider it carefully. Trade involves physically moving agricultural products to towns in exchange for items made in the town, or in other towns located farther away. Pretty soon we are looking at a spider web of trade relationships, about which it is hard to say much more than that Korowicz has shown that they are vulnerable at the present time.

    So I restricted myself to looking at a few specific issues:
    1. Is the farm importing fertility? Are they buying fertilizer?
    2. Is the farm building soil? Adding organic matter and building soil structure?
    3. Is the farm producing more food energy than it consumes purchased energy?

    I visited a number of farms claiming to be ‘sustainable’. All of them are buying rock phosphate…but some very little. None of the farms are getting food waste and human waste recycled from the cities, which I think is a tough hurdle to overcome in terms of being ‘phosphate independent’. The Community College, which had the first community college program in the United States for new farmers, happily buys fertilizers from ‘local sources’. Here we can see the conflation of the ‘buy local’ ethos with the urgent need to recycle phosphorus as religiously as Nature recycles phosphorus.

    I saw several farms which do not buy any nitrogen fertilizer. However, several of these say ‘we get all our fertility from our animals’. I want to discuss two issues around that statement. The farmer at the community college explained the constraints imposed by law on the use of animal manures. I won’t bore you with the details, but the result is that only about one fourth of the land can be producing food crops at any given time. (You may recall that John Jeavons, who uses green manures, needs 4 times as much land to grow the green manures as he has in food crops, so one fifth). The second issue is that many of the farms are growing chickens and pigs. When I asked if they bought commercial feed for the pigs and chickens, both responded affirmatively. So the pig and chicken manure is actually not being produced entirely on the farm, but is also consuming resources on a grain farm somewhere else. The community college uses a chicken tractor so that the chickens get to eat a cover crop small sections at a time, but the farmer told me that she still feeds the chickens a full ration of grain even in the spring when the cover crop is flourishing. (Compare this to Cuba. No matter how well the raised vegetable beds do in Cuba, they will not displace all the calories.) My favorite small farmer, with clever crop rotation, uses no animal manures, no purchased compost, a very little bag of phosphate rock each year, and some fossil fuels to run two water pumps, two suburban lawn mowers, a tiller, and his ancient pick-up. He is one of the most ‘stress free’ farmers I know.

    Sheep and cows can, and should, live entirely on grass, and I saw several examples of that Cow and sheep manure, therefore, can be produced entirely on the farm.

    All of the small farms I visited have distribution issues. (As contrasted with a self-sufficient homestead or intentional community). If you are out in the country and you want to sell to townspeople, you have to overcome many hurdles, one of which is getting your produce to town. If you raise cows, you have to truck your cow to a processing plant, pick up the flash frozen cuts of meat, store it in a freezer, and sell it a little at a time. I have written previously about the distribution problem, and I won’t belabor it here. I will repeat my conclusion that distribution is toughest for fresh fruits and vegetables, easier for dried products such as grains and beans and nuts. Distribution of meat is greatly complicated by government regulations. Distribution probably uses several multiples of the purchased energy needed to actually produce raw food.

    In conclusion, what I saw was good people doing good things, but there are still lots of disconnects in the system. I think that any farmer would be courting financial disaster if they tried to go to a truly sustainable model instantaneously. Homesteaders and intentional communities might be able to do it, but they have their own set of obstacles. Geoff Lawton addressed the big Permaculture gathering in southern California recently. He told people to ‘look around the room, these are your people, you can only live successfully with five percent of them’. I think that things will have to evolve, just as dinosaurs evolved into birds.

    Don Stewart

    • Don Stewart says:

      Dear All
      I intended to cover this, forgot about it, so here is the ‘building soil’ story.

      When I asked very bluntly what the soil organic matter percentage was, I didn’t get a single direct answer. Some claimed not to know, one told me ‘I don’t check it because it is plenty high’, one tried to get around the question by trying to give me a percentage breakdown of the sources of organic matter…whatever the total percentage was. One gave me a ridiculously high number. Some claimed that the Cation Exchange Capacity is what is really important. The State, which offers free soil tests, includes the soil organic matter as one of the report items. Do you think that these farmers are as ignorant of the facts as they pretend to be?

      I will say that I did not visit a grass fed beef farm this year. I am convinced that these guys are putting lots of organic matter into the soil. I asked the leading grass farmer about it at a meeting a couple of months ago. He told me ‘we have made a mistake in failing to look at carbon in the soil’. But if you look at the amazingly healthy pastures, you just know that he is steadily building soil carbon.

      The truth, I think, is that soil organic matter and annual crops along with annual tilling are destructive of organic matter and soil structure. Just as the Permaculture people say, we are going to be forced into more reliance on perennials, one way or the other.

      My favorite small farmer wouldn’t answer the question, but from looking at this soil and understanding his rotational system, I think he is doing as well as annual agriculture can do. If all the farmers did as well as he, we would have a healthier Earth.

      Those of you who are interested should check Albert Bates current post, where he says something like ‘this is the year to actually implement carbon farming’. So he has cut back his travel schedule and is going to put boots on the ground…at least as I read him.

      Don Stewart

      • InAlaska says:

        Thank you, Don. That was most thorough and enjoyable. We also have a farm tour where I am living and I am always amazed and the ingenuity and adaptability of my neighbors. Having said that, however, it seems that even the best of them face an incredible uphill battle to go “sustainable.” I am not sure that is achievable anymore, anywhere, over any length of time. However, if there is hope to be found, it is in what these folks are doing. Good post.

    • jeremy890 says:

      Fantastic article and here in Charlotte much the same. We have a small Meetup group of Gardeners and Permmies and noticed Raleigh has a “Powerdown, Transition group” too among others. Yes, the small local farms and CSA’s are much the same as you described above.
      It is possible for local homeowners to product a lot of food calories and many do here, but with outside inputs. Even with my efforts I am a long way away.
      Years ago Mother Earth News ran a contest to see the best self sufficient family and found the article, which is worth reading over 35 years later!


      Ending paragraph:

      Many of our relatives and former associates seem compelled to make excuses for our present way of life. They seem to feel that we must be running from something or getting ready for some impending disaster. Or maybe they just think we lost our jobs and have no other choice in the way we currently live.

      Actually, we become uncomfortable when others talk about “getting out of the rat race” or “preparing ourselves for when the big pinch comes.” We don’t try to deceive ourselves by thinking that we are somehow immune to an economic, environmental, or social disaster. Even down here on our Ozark homestead, we are still an integral part of modern society. If it has troubles, we fully expect that we’ll have to share them. There’s really no place to hide anymore.

      So we have not run away from any “rat race,” nor have we tried to brace ourselves against any impending disaster. Rather, we simply enjoy trying to live our lives so that we have the absolute minimum adverse impact on the environment and so that we achieve the maximum harmony with the universe. Or, to put it another way, we try to live so that our personal effect on the environment will help to prevent a “big pinch” from ever taking place.
      Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/food-self-sufficiency-zmaz77mjzbon.aspx#ixzz30C05aFzP

      Wonder what happened to the family and how long they stayed on their homestead?
      Isn’t something we are still dealing and writing about the same issues decades later?
      Also, it shows the “miracle” of modern food production. Most mainstream people take for granted the plenty in the supermarkets without a thought.

    • xabier says:

      Well, to state the obvious, distribution of meat was handled until very recently by 1/ most of the population living rurally and with a pig or two out the back of their cottages, and 2/ the animals being driven into town alive, purchased by the butcher and killed by him at his premises. No fuel usage.

    • xabier says:

      Hugely informative Don, thank you.

    • Thanks! Interesting post.

  32. Pingback: Another Week of Climate Disruption News, April 27, 2014 – A Few Things Ill Considered

  33. Paul says:


    Which reminds me – not even the president dare mess with the Deep State:


    It is established fact that JFK angered leading figures in the CIA, Defence Department and Military Industrial Complex with his words and actions following The Bay of Pigs fiasco. He notoriously charged out of one meeting calling his military advisers ‘crazy.’ He would have further angered his powerful enemies with peace overtures to the USSR and his consistent opposition to the use of force in U.S. foreign policy. But was there a single action by JFK that was the last straw?

    Operation Northwoods – The U. S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Plan to Terrorize the U. S. Populace

    Sources: ABC News, New York and Memo: NSA Archives The Joint Chiefs are the 5 generals and admirals in charge of the 5 branches of the U. S military. In 1962, those men were George Decker (Army), David Shoup (Marines), Georg Anderson, Jr. (Navy), Curtis LeMay (Air Force), and Edwin Roland (Coast Guard), along with a few others, all chaired by Lyman Lemnitzer (Army).

    The entire board of the Joint Chiefs of Staff proposed, drafted, and agreed on a plan to concoct a casus belli for war against Communist Cuba, under Fidel Castro. Their collective motive was to reduce the constant threat of Communist encroachment into the Western Hemisphere, per the Monroe Doctrine.

    This plan was named Operation Northwoods, and entailed the most impossibly indifferent cruelty ever envisioned by a government against its own people. In order to sway public sentiment in favor of the war, the Joint Chiefs planned to bomb high pedestrian-traffic areas in major American cities, including Miami, New York, Washington, D. C., and possibly Chicago and Los Angeles; to frame U. S. citizens for these bombings; to shoot innocent, unarmed civilians on the streets in full view of hundreds of witnesses; to napalm military and merchant vessels in port, while people were aboard; to sink vessels carrying Cuban refugees bound for Florida; to hijack planes for ransom.

    Not only did every single member of the Joint Chiefs sign his approval of this plan, they then sent it to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara for his approval, and then to President Kennedy. McNamara claimed years later never to have seen it, but that he would have rejected it. Kennedy, however, did receive it, and promptly called a meeting of the Joint Chiefs, in which he threatened, with severe profanity, to court martial and incarcerate every one of them.

    The President cannot actually do this, but can order the Congress and military branches to do so, and in these circumstances, they most certainly would have. But Kennedy decided that it would cause irreparable disrespect around the world for the U. S. military. He did remove Lemnitzer from his position as Chairman and assign him as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, not much of a demotion.

    Theorists claim that the military may have had a hand in Kennedy’s assassination because of his blistering rebuke of the Joint Chiefs. This remains unproven.

    However, the official records reveal that one man stood against this heinous plan… and that this man was dead within months.

    Many will say that the Kennedy assassination happened decades ago, that it no longer matters.

    It matters. For we know that no president since JFK has dared to buck the military-intelligence-industrial complex. We know a Pax Americana has spread its tentacles across the globe with U.S. military in over 130 countries on 750 plus bases. We know that the amount of blood and money spent on wars and war preparations has risen astronomically.

    Supporting links:






    • Lizzy says:

      On another topic: BG Group CEO resigns this morning

      “BG was for years a stock market favourite, as it grew from a medium-sized explorer to a major with huge projects in two of the most promising parts of the oil patch – Brazil and Australia.
      But market sentiment towards the company has soured in recent years with investors disappointed by repeated revisions to production forecasts and a profit warning in January.
      In a statement, Mr Gould, who is the former CEO of oil services company Schlumberger, said there would be no change to BG’s strategy.. But the company “must accelerate the creation and delivery of the longer-term value for our shareholders, while delivering the group’s business plans”.
      Mr Gould added that the board felt that it was in the best interests of the group to accept Mr Finlayson’s resignation “and seek fresh leadership to deliver both of these priorities”.

      Dear, oh dear, oh dear…

      • Stefeun says:

        As I understand it, it would be mainly due to bad results (and forecsts) in Egypt:

        “The group said: “Egypt remains challenging, with volumes in the first quarter declining 35% from the fourth quarter of 2013 to 66 thousand barrels of oil equivalent per day (kboed).
        “This is a result of deteriorating reservoir performance and the high level of diversions to the domestic market, where the group is entitled to a lower share of production.
        “The group’s 2014 production guidance remains unchanged at 590 – 630 kboed, although production is now expected to be at the lower end of the range given the issues in Egypt. The deterioration in Egypt will similarly impact 2015 production.””


        You’re right, this is very concerning, because at some point, with accumulation of such bad news, the shareholders could (will?) panic, and then…

        • It seems like a lot of oil companies are having problems–not just BG.

          • Stefeun says:

            “Chevron earnings slide 27% as production falls
            Wendy Koch, USA TODAY 11:49 a.m. EDT May 2, 2014
            Chevron — like its peers Exxon and ConocoPhillips — is struggling to ramp up production of oil and natural gas, both of which are booming industries in the United States.”

            “(…) Chevron CEO John Watson attributed most of the earnings drop to lower oil prices and volumes. “Crude prices were tempered by global economic factors, while our current year production volumes were affected by weather-related, unplanned downtime, particularly in Kazakhstan,” he said in a statement announcing the quarterly results.”
            Read more:
            The weather….

    • xabier says:

      ‘Alert and knowledgeable citizenry’. Well, no comment.

      • Interguru says:

        There are so many well documented theories on JFK’s death that I cannot figure which one to follow.

        • InAlaska says:

          If we, as a blog site, go down the JFK conspiracy rabbit hole, heaven help us all!

        • dolph says:

          There is also the interesting Mordechai Vanunu/Israel nuke angle. It is worth noting that support of Israel, a tiny country with questionable long term viability, is unchallenged by anybody at the national level in the United States.

          • Daddio7 says:

            Genesis 12:3 “And I will bless them that bless thee and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all nations of the earth be blessed.”
            Giving the Jews a state has cost the West $trillions in high oil prices and military spending. Yet we continue this support in the face of mounting terrorism from Muslims. I can’t tell who is getting blessed from who is being cursed. Americans are not going to desert Israel so back to business as usual.

            • InAlaska says:

              Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. They don’t have oil but the do have elections.

            • Paul says:

              Israel perfectly demonstrates why the earth will not miss the human race when it wipes itself out.

              A people who throughout history have suffered heavily when they get the upper hand do what?

              Oh yes – they inflict horrible suffering on another group of people – see Jimmy Carter http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xscq2nIKLHM

              I was reading a book about the slaves in America who were sent back to Africa and what was the first thing they did when they returned? You got it – they enslaved the people around them.

              So to say some people are good and some bad is a myth – in the right situation all of us are very much capable of the most heinous acts.

              The day we disappear from the face of the planet the better — however being such a spiteful animal we will no doubt take everything that lives with us (nuclear war and/or meltdown)

  34. Victor says:

    What do you think about these assertions ?

    “In the same time that real prices decreased, the final energy consumption per French has risen by 20% to 30% (this consumption excludes the energy embedded in goods and products bought by end consumers), and in this total electricity has been multiplied by 6. This will lead to a conclusion consistent with what is mentionned above, which is that over over several decades real energy prices have been slashed by a factor 2 to 3, when everyone thinks that it is more and more expensive ”

    I’d like your opinion on the idea that oil prices would be cheaper today.

    Link :

    • Stefeun says:

      not to answer instead of Gail, but your question must be precised.
      JM.Jancovici says that what is cheaper is the energy per capita and for whole country; in other words, to purchase one barrel, a person have to work less hours (2 hours in 1970 and 1 hour in 2010, for same amount of gasoline, for example).

      The share, in households budget, dedicated to energy, remained more or less flat (7 to 10%), while in same period our consumption has risen (+20 +30% for gasoline) or rocketed (x6 or +500% for electricity).
      We’re consuming much more energy today than 40 years ago, and this for about same price. In this, we can indeed consider the energy as being indeed cheaper.

      • Victor says:

        Thank you for the clarification.

        If one assumes that energy is cheaper today because we consume more energy for a price roughly constant relative to the 1970s, why the current high price of oil could be a problem economic? In fact, I don’t understand why Jancovici said that the price of oil has no effect on the economy. For him, the main cause of economic constraint is peak oil, that is to say, the oil supply constraint.

        • Stefeun says:

          JMJ’s calculation is on the side of consumed energy, and does not include embedded energy in all other goods.
          The impact of price must be considered using primary energy that fuels the economy as an input, thus impacting the costs.
          At some point, if costs are too high, either the prices rise as well and people cannot afford the goods, or the sales prices are maintained and then the companies’ contribution margin gets too low.
          Gail please correct me if unexact; I’m not specialist.

    • I don’t have time to look into the issue closely right now, but I would point out that the high oil prices in the 1970s were a disaster, economically. The thing that saved us were (1) the oil shortage was temporary (2) parts of the world were not using as much oil, so were less affected, (3) we had the flexibility of being able to add women to the work force for low wages, to try to offset some of the oil problems, and (4) the economy was a lot less debt-ridden than today. One insurance company I worked for in the 1970s went bankrupt; another one (CNA) almost did. It was the financial difficulties of insurance companies back in that era that alerted me to the risk today. The fact that everything did not fall apart then depended on lucky circumstances that we do not have today.

  35. Reblogged this on Cyclechallenge’s Weblog and commented:
    The amount of biofuels used in 1820 was about twice per capita of that available today. Solar and wind are growing rapidly, but globally only constitute a tiny fraction of available energy.

  36. Paul says:

    We are drilling for the toxic dregs now aren’t we…

    The $50bn Kashagan oil project in Kazakhstan is likely to be delayed by two more years while 200km of pipeline is replaced, in a further blow for the companies developing the largest oilfield outside the Middle East.

    Kashagan briefly started producing oil in September last year, only to shut down a few weeks later due to a gas leak.

    People familiar with the matter said that months of research had revealed numerous tiny cracks in the pipeline, as the highly corrosive sulphur-containing gas produced as a byproduct of Kashagan’s oil ate through the steel.


    From the comments section:

    The fact that these huge oil companies are prepared to make such a massive investment in such an inaccessible region with such poor quality crude tells you a lot about the desperation and approaching panic regarding the security of future oil supplies

    • Stefeun says:

      Same info:
      “Kashagan Oil, Gas Pipelines Need to Be Replaced, Says NCOC Executive
      Oil Majors’ Project Has Been Closed Since October” WSJ, Apr.23, 2014

      “Shell is also involved, together with Exxon Mobil (XOM.N), Total (TOTF.PA), Eni (ENI.MI) and KazMunaiGas, in the giant Kashagan oil field in Kazakhstan, which has been plagued by start-up problems.
      Shell said the field had the potential of generating $1 billion in annual cashflow for the company but acknowledged that the production outlook remains unclear.”
      From Reuters Mar.13, 2014: “Shell cuts spending in U.S. to lower shale exposure”

      BTW, I don’t remember this one being cited here:
      “Oil and gas majors now cutting back in U.S. shale gas fields” Examiner.com, Mar.13, 2014
      “Yesterday Chesapeake Energy, the second largest U.S. based oil and gas company, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell off its oilfield services unit which does the majority of the company’s oil and gas exploration, hydraulic fracking and drilling. Stung with high costs and mired in more than $20 billion in debt on its U.S. shale operations, the company continues to sell off billions in its assets base as it struggles to right itself. Its actions follow a developing trend of cutbacks, spin- offs, divestures and write downs for oil and gas majors operating in U.S. shale formations. In the last 10 days, British Petroleum, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell have all announced they will be spending less on oil and gas exploration in the U.S.”

      • Paul says:

        Thanks for that link Stefeun – I was not aware of this…. I have posted the entire article as it is worthy of a full read…

        Deciphering this — if the big money moves out of oil — and as we know when the herd is spooked it moves VERY fast — this could cause a catastrophe virtually overnight.

        I wonder what the Fed is doing to counteract this — I cannot see how they could stand by and watch the industry collapse — perhaps print money and prop up these companies in secret?

        This is a very bad signal….

        Oil and gas majors now cutting back in U.S. shale gas fields

        Yesterday Chesapeake Energy, the second largest U.S. based oil and gas company, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell off its oilfield services unit which does the majority of the company’s oil and gas exploration, hydraulic fracking and drilling.

        Stung with high costs and mired in more than $20 billion in debt on its U.S. shale operations, the company continues to sell off billions in its assets base as it struggles to right itself. Its actions follow a developing trend of cutbacks, spin- offs, divestures and write downs for oil and gas majors operating in U.S. shale formations. In the last 10 days, British Petroleum, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell have all announced they will be spending less on oil and gas exploration in the U.S. Allen Brooks, Managing Director of Parks Paton Hoepfl & Brown, an independent Houston, Texas based investment banking firm, stated yesterday, “Chevron is the latest major oil company to implicitly declare that the oil industry has entered a new era – one marked by higher costs and more disciplined capital investment programs,”.

        Brooks further stated several of the majors have announced plans or are considering separating their North American shale gas operations into stand alone entities, possibly positioning their U.S. operations for sale over time. These new directions by the oil and gas majors are acknowledgements their energy returns on energy investments are becoming increasingly difficult and hampering their profits despite the initial high expectations for U.S. shale formations over the last several years.

        In 2011 Shell earned roughly $28 billion in its upstream and downstream operations only to see this fall to below $20 billion in 2013. New Shell Oil CEO Ben Van Beurden recently told shareholders it was bad policy to spend an estimated $80 billion in capital on its North American portfolio and still lose money. Chevron has been cutting back on its level of drilling in the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale while lowering its 2014 annual corporate production forecast by 6.1%. Early this month, British Petroleum CEO Bob Dudley announced all of BP’s U.S. operations would be formed into a separate business entity which, among other things, opens up the possibility of the sale of the new shale gas unit in the future.

        ExxonMobil spent $25 billion in 2010 to acquire XTO Energy Inc. forming it’s U.S shale gas operations. However industry analysts continue to report ExxonMobil’s XTO investment diluted its profits and isn’t making up for the company’s problems in increasing oil-and-gas production.
        Investment banker Brooks is also raising the question as to where the oil and gas industry will continue to find the risk capital for exploratory drilling as the majors pull back on their spending. In the U.S. shale oil and gas formations, Brooks stated, “Onshore, for the past few years, a chunk of that capital has been supplied by private equity investors who have supported exploration and production teams in start-up ventures. Unfortunately, the results of the shale revolution have been disappointing, leading to significant asset impairment charges and negative cash flows,” He further asks, “Will that capital continue to be available, or will it, too, begin demanding profits rather than reserve additions and production growth?”

        Also at stake are a number of high profile U.S. politicians who have staked, to a large degree, their upcoming reelection by campaigning on the claimed successes of the oil and gas companies operating within their state’s shale formation. One such politician seeking reelection this year is Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Corbett who has been heavily touting what several leading Pennsylvanian labor economists believe are questionable job creation numbers in the state’s Marcellus Shale formation. Corbett has also offered Shell Oil more than $1.6 billion in state tax credits to locate and build an ethane refinery plant outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
        For more than 18 months Shell Oil has been unwilling to date to sign the record breaking state tax incentives agreements with Gov. Corbett and move ahead even as the governor continues to campaign on this issue. With Shell’s new CEO announcing a more than 20% cutback in its U.S. shale gas operations just last week, further doubt is now being cast on this deal.

        While many cite the low price for U.S. natural gas as the main reason for the dismal financial performances of the oil and gas majors, natural gas prices have risen from an industry low of $1.72 per million BTU of gas in early 2012 to the $4.00 to $5.00 plus MBTU range over the last several months. Yesterday natural gas futures closed at $4.51 per MBTU.


        • Stefeun says:

          … forgot the link to Reuters about same topic; here it is:

          Worth reading as well.

        • Daddio7 says:

          My son is a contract manager for a major Germany corporation that builds natural gas co-generation units. Utilities are investing $billions in these. Someone thinks there will be plenty of inexpensive gas for the next twenty years.

          • MJ says:

            I work for the largest airline in the world and they are expanding airports lke jets will be fueled on natural gas. Just take a look at Fort lauderdale irport or Charlotte, N.C., mong others. I read that China has like 800 airports being planned and built. Go figure.

            • Paul says:

              And of course a LOT of people believe fracking makes sense:

              Just a few of the roadblocks: Independent producers will spend $1.50 drilling this year for every dollar they get back. Shale output drops faster than production from conventional methods. It will take 2,500 new wells a year just to sustain output of 1 million barrels a day in North Dakota’s Bakken shale, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-27/dream-of-u-s-oil-independence-slams-against-shale-costs.html

              And the green brigade believes solar makes sense:

              Solar – After Trillions 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

              A hell of a lot of people thought the US housing market would go up forever too…..

              Just because money is pouring into something does not mean it makes sense. There are plenty of greedy stupid people at all levels of society.

            • InAlaska says:

              Boeing has 800 airplane orders on backlog and production is scheduled out for the next 10 years. Airlines want lighter, more fuel efficient aircraft because that is where the profit margin will be won or lost. Boeing’s stock has doubled in the last 12 months from $72 to $140s. Again, somebody thinks things are going okay and that we’ll continue to have global travel into the medium term future!

            • Daddio7 says:

              Everyone just has to pretend the next thirty years will be like the last thirty. What city planner is going to start putting in bicycle paths and horse stables instead of six lane roads and more bridges?

        • InAlaska says:

          Well, it may not be all bad, if the big Oil players pass the torch on to the smaller independents. I own some pretty good stock in one of these and it is paying out nicely. These smaller companies are much more agile and they have far lower overhead costs. This allows them to drill for oil in places that are off the table for the majors because of economies of scale. If the mid and small sized oil companies get a chance to compete in this market, they’ll help us keep the party going for a few more years.

          • Paul says:

            I am not buying the line that the MSM is floating about small oil being able to make money where big oil cannot.

            What I think is happening is Big Oil recognizes shale is a smoke and mirrors game – ponzi scheme (those making money I understand are mostly doing so by flipping leases) – these small players have nothing to lose — Big Oil does not want to play that game because it’s not worth blowing up their balance sheets.

            How can anyone possibly be making money when:

            The path toward U.S. energy independence, made possible by a boom in shale oil, will be much harder than it seems. Just a few of the roadblocks: Independent producers will spend $1.50 drilling this year for every dollar they get back. Shale output drops faster than production from conventional methods. It will take 2,500 new wells a year just to sustain output of 1 million barrels a day in North Dakota’s Bakken shale, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-27/dream-of-u-s-oil-independence-slams-against-shale-costs.html

  37. jeremy890 says:

    I don’t want to draw attention to myself that is why I don’t keep “food animals”. I have a nice pond stock with selected edible fish, top, middle and bottom dwellers. I grow “weed like” greens, such as, kale and mustard greens. I do have raised beds that is basically a kitchen garden like other folks here. I have a well stocked inventory of grains, rice and beans. I also have a small solar electric system for lighting and such. have a insulated cool pantry shelter to store food. No freezer, but I will have to give up ice cream.
    Yep, this survival thing can be easy or as hard as you want it!
    I also have scoped out fruit trees and edible wilds for back up. Made friends with CSA and such like minded folks. I also have dug up an hide-a-way to escape the crazies when they come looking for food. No problem they will leave once what they find is gone. Hoping by the time they are weakened and will perish quickly.
    Other than that, willing to help those that want to help themselves!

  38. Ian Page says:

    Gail, a tiny point that doesn’t affect your overall argument.

    “Another issue is that even apart from energy uses, oil is used in many applications as a raw material. For example, it is used in making herbicides and pesticides, asphalt roads and asphalt shingles for roofs, medicines, cosmetics, building materials, dyes, and flavoring. There is no possibility that electricity could be adapted to these uses. Coal could perhaps be adapted for these uses, because it is also a fossil fuel”

    Given that the products are just rearrangements of carbon hydrogen and oxygen you can, given energy , convert any source of these elements into any product. Because oil is a source both of the elements and energy, bulk low value products like polyethylene will be the first to be affected. As you move higher in the intermediates tree to more specialised chemicals the potential for substitution from other routes should increase for example there is still no decent substitute for latex from trees via the petrochemical route. A number of companies are looking at businesses that do this using for example gm bio sources and polylactic acid biodegradable plastic. Higher oil prices or an inability to pay the prices should lead to substitution but only of the more high value products. Coal used to be before oil the source of the organic chemicals biz . current suggestions of gasifying coal underground if they work could be made to create producer gas (burn coal in steam) which was the raw input for the coal based chemicals industry (eg Bakelite).

    However none of this affects your basic points, and one feels that the organics intermediates would only work for critically important price elastic things such as drugs.

    • The price and inability to scale up supply is likely to do in most of these substitutions. If you could get the electricity very cheaply, and the technology for changing it very cheaply, plus whatever other inputs are needed (fresh water, for example), perhaps you could do a bit. But it all comes out to diminishing returns, in most scenarios.

      • MG says:

        As regards the diminishing returns, I was thinking about the real cause of the current deflation, the interconnection between the deflation and the diminishing returns. It seems that the most probable post energy peak scenario is the deflation. It means that the infrastructure built with the help of the cheap energy is simply loosing its price. There still my be products that fit the old paradigm of the cheap energy, but their maintenance costs and the operation costs go up.

        This very well explains the 2008 crash, as regards the prices of houses and cars: both of them went down, but not because of the simple overproduction, but because of the diminishing returns: the value of the houses and the cars as we know them, is going down. The construction of new houses and the production of new cars hits a certain peak. There still may be the construction and the production that replaces the amortized cars and houses of the cheap energy era, but the overall trend is that the cars are being replaced by bicycles (http://inhabitat.com/more-bikes-sold-than-cars-last-year-in-23-european-countries/) and the energy intensive large apartments and houses by smaller ones (the article documenting this situation in Slovakia is in Slovak, it very well describes the post construction boom era after 2008: The new apartments are getting smaller and smaller: http://ekonomika.sme.sk/c/6449632/nove-byty-su-coraz-mensie-ludia-setria.html)

        The real cause of the current deflation is not that people are postponing spending, because they await that the goods and the services will be cheaper, but the fact, that the value of the goods and the services of the more energy intensive stage of the technolgy (civilization) is at the beginning questionable, then the limits of efficiency gains are reached and finally such goods and services are abandoned…

        • MG says:

          As regards the electric cars, the success of e.g. luxury Tesla cars is based on the combination of high price, subsidies and the fact that the big car can provide an ample space for batteries…

          The big cars are loosing their value due to their energy intensive weight and size, the big electric car is a technology fake. It is not possible to build a small car with similar performance parameters. Any small car fueled by gasoline can beat such electric dinosaur…

  39. xabier says:

    In Alaska

    There is a lot of sense in what Nicole Foss did, and her assessment of the UK. Over-crowded, highly indebted, resource-poor, and CCTV’s everywhere – but no safer for it. The most worrying thing is the permeation of the country by professional criminal gangs (many from East Europe, thank you EU) who act with impunity, and the general decline in standards of civility and honesty – lies, propaganda and a salesman mentality everywhere one looks. Decent people feel bewildered by the change. It’s a society in steep moral and material decline and sad to witness – but one has to take one’s stand somewhere.

    • InAlaska says:

      xabier, We’ve been living that nightmare, here in the US for about 30 years now. A total breakdown in civil discourse, moral ambiguity, money talks and BS walks. No end in sight.

      • xabier says:


        I had a good friend from the States, Jean Orlov, 2nd generation Russian, a very talented potter: she spoke with great sadness about the steady decline in civility, and the pleasant humanity of life in the old small towns of the US. So she chose exile in a provincial English town, which has gone downhill, too while rolling in money. I treasure the beautiful things she made.

        Tony Blair and his gang really put the seal on the decline of Britain.

        • Interguru says:

          “A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”

          Robert A. Heinlein,

  40. Paul says:

    To say that the decision makers have done nothing in the face of the ultimate crisis facing mankind is actually not true.

    They have subsidized the solar industry to the tune of hundreds of billions – perhaps trillions of dollars — essentially they have funded a project that dwarfs the Manhattan Project as these subsidies encourage companies to compete to improve technologies and efficiencies… the company that comes up with the killer solar app would be the next Microsoft, Google, FB, GE, GM, Goldman Sachs x 1000. This is the Holy Grail of discovery.

    And yet after decades what do we have — colossal failures —- massive amounts of cash down the drain – and solar – even with all these subsidies is a meager 0.17% of energy production http://reneweconomy.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/bernstein-energy-supply.jpg — without subsidies solar would be reduced to purposes that is is well suited for — growing food — and getting a tan.


    The German Solar Disaster: 21 Billion Euros Burned

    Large German companies such as Siemens and Bosch are abandoning the solar industry. Their strategies resulted in debacles – their investments in solar power companies cost them billions.

    Tilting at Windmills, Spain’s disastrous attempt to replace fossil fuels with Solar Photovoltaics

    • xabier says:


      Very true. Such waste. And solar panels, etc, being produced in Asia (as makers in higher-cost regions go bust) at the cost of huge environmental degradation and the products themselves of doubtful quality -and the quality will certainly decline as China’s problems grow and manufacturers cut corners. The panel that conks out after 3 years anyone? Who trusts the durability anything made in Asia? References to panels made 20 years ago in the US and still functioning are very misplaced indeed! In short, an environmental, financial and industrial disaster. And not a great job creation scheme for the old economies, as the Greens promised: just more near-slave labour in Asia.

      • jeremy890 says:

        General Electric announces “token” investments into “alternative” energy…..core business is oil and gas. Must put a good public relations image to the investment community and keep the “greenies” off their backs.

      • Interguru says:

        ” Who trusts the durability anything made in Asia?”

        My 97 Subaru is still giving me good service. I understand that newer ones do well too,

        • Paul says:

          We make jokes about the safety and quality of products out of China — how about the US – the epicenter of GMO foods — bovine somatotaprin — fructose – etc etc etc….

          I personally try to eat nothing that comes out of the US or China

          • Bob says:

            Really?!! You talk of imminent collapse and mad max life if we are lucky….I don’t think what you eat today matters…I eat what I want and when I drink a beer I throw it in the trash…no recycle…but I also can understand if you believe in collapse why you would waste your last years talking about it every day…I went to a city this weekend and was disgusted with the waste going on but oh well….I wonder if our disgust with western culture is blinding us…..collapse may be a long slow road pace yourself…

            • Paul says:

              Because it’s all a product of a system that has brought us to the precipice — and I absolutely despise the industrial revolution and every single thing that it stands for — and that includes everything from GMO food – to Brittaney Spears.

              I will certainly not embrace this disgusting system even if it is about to implode.

              Have a read of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance …. that explains why I choose not to take that path. It’s about attempting to live a life of quality — of excellence – of experience – of learning – of growing — to the end.

              Sitting around drinking beer all day, watching Dancing with Stars re-runs, and pounding back domino’s 241 is not excellence and is not quality — it is a symptom of why we are where we are.

              One does not need the end of cheap oil to throw your arms up and lead that sort of lifestyle — in case you hadn’t noticed — you are going to die regardless — so if that is the case why not start on the GMO as a baby — and get onto the smokes and beer at 10?

              Knowing we have months or perhaps a couple of years I choose to pursue things that I find interesting (and have found interesting all of my life) including more travel — I have not spent enough time in Europe so will head to France this week — I will then head to BC for a month of mountain biking in June and again in August…

              I will certainly not go down with a beer and a slab of cheap pizza in my hand. That has little appeal.

              A glass of good single malt — now that is certainly interesting!

          • Stefeun says:

            Bonjour Paul,
            if ever 30km north of Paris can be on your tour this week, you’re welcome for a coffee in my humble house.
            Unfortunately the weather is expected to be cold and rainy…

            • Paul says:

              Appreciate the invite — we’re in Paris to see friends for a few days and then booked into Bordeaux and Provence for the remainder so unfortunately not much flexibility.

            • Julien says:

              Je me disais bien que quelqu’un qui connaît si bien les thèses de JMJ ne pouvait être que vivre en France. Moi aussi j’habite près de Paris. C’est rassurant de voir que l’on est pas seuls à visiter “Our finite world” et à se passionner sur ce sujet.

              I thought that someone who knows so well the theories of JMJ could only be living in France. I also live near Paris. It is heartening to see that we are not alone in France to visit “Our finite world”!

            • Stefeun says:

              Salut Julien,
              I don’t pretend to know all about Janvovici; just tried to understand and detect the weak or missing points.
              This is why I’m discussing here: Gail takes into account all possible parameters and draws her conclusions in a very clear and finalized way.
              I didn’t find such quality level anywhere else (unfortunately).
              And… Yeah, good to know I’m not the only froggie visiting this blog!

            • Youbati says:

              I am french too ! Currently in Grenoble – not the most sustainable place in France, I know… There are other French people on peakoil (dot) com and I think also on Ron Patterson’s blog. I was certain not to be a lone french lurker here, but still it is refreshing to openly read some words in mother’s tongue here, and spot some fellows on.

              Other than that, a special many thanks to Gail and the regular guys here, whose writings helped me to clearly coin the intertwinment (don’t know if this word really exist, but you understand) of all these “separate” crisis. I had turned recently into a renewable enthusiast, and since a few months, have been increasingly aware of the massive delusion and deception about this matter… The last topics here proved determinant in this awareness rising.

              Ironically, I am just beginning a new job in so called environmental quality of building (equivalent to LEED), after turning back from a Ph.D in biology, and I’m afraid I will not have enough time to enjoy this new job !

            • Welcome, and thanks for writing. I noticed that Captain Flemme put up a French translation of my last post, so there I have at least a few French followers.


          • xabier says:

            Some ‘mineral water’ from China or a fracked state might be the ideal final drink….

          • InAlaska says:

            Even the plate that you eat your organic food on is probably poisoned with lead paint and glaze if it was made in China. Another victory for globalism.

            • xabier says:


              Supposedly, we are seeing the ‘resurgence of China’ to resume her ‘rightful position of greatness’ – that rubbish isn’t very reminiscent of the great porcelain of the past is it?!

  41. ktos says:

    Димитър Мирчев – If solar is already cheaper than coal or natural gas, then why it is growing couple times slower then these two?

  42. Don Stewart says:

    Dear All

    A favorite phrase of commenters is ‘when TSHTF’…and then something is predicted to happen

    May I suggest that TSHTF some time ago, and we need to look carefully at what is happening and what is not happening.

    The first question to ask is ‘when did the TSHTF’. In the US, and for different income groups, you can find the answer here:

    Please note that, for the bottom income quintile, TSHTF back in 1999. Family incomes in this quintile have, on average, fallen 16 percent since that year. For Mexican labororers, TSHTF in 2006-7, and the trailer parks emptied and buses were running full back to Mexico.

    So what is happening? Here is an example of one adaptive strategy:

    My name is Joe Paxton. I’m currently a grad student at Harvard, and I’ll be starting a research job at Duke this July. I’m writing because my wife and I are currently building a “tiny house on wheels,” and we’re searching for a place to park it within commuting distance of Duke. We think that a sustainable farm would be the perfect place.

    In case you’re not familiar with the concept of a tiny house on wheels: it’s really just an attractive, handmade (stick-built) mobile home. You can do a Google Image search for “tiny house on wheels” to see pictures of typical examples. They vary in size, but ours will be about 16′ long by 8′ wide by 14′ tall, or roughly 130 sq ft (closer to 250 sq ft if you count the sleeping loft).

    We’re interested in locating the tiny house on a sustainable farm because it fits well with the idea of the tiny house as a maximally sustainable living space. Specifically, the tiny house will operate off-grid with solar power, rain water collection, and a composting toilet. In addition, we hope to collect our greywater (containing only biodegradable soaps) to use in watering a small raised garden, if that’s okay with the land owner.

    We would pay a fair monthly rent to the landowner for use of the land, and we would also be willing to work on the farm on the weekends to offset rental cost.

    You can take a look at our Craigslist for additional details:


    Thanks so much for taking the time to read this message. Please feel free to contact me (joe.paxton@gmail.com) if you have any questions, or if you think the tiny house would be a good fit for your farm.

    When Chris Martenson and his wife were at Duke in the mid-90s, they bought some land and built a pretty nice little house on it. When they graduated and moved on, they sold the house. Of course, you can’t extrapolate two incidents to the state of the world, but I find the different ways of thinking and reacting two decades later to be suggestive. Whatever challenges the Martensons faced, the Paxtons will face more. (Last I heard, the Martensons had invited a young person to live and work on their property.)

    Now let’s look at what has not changed. Joe Paxton and his wife have adopted the ‘tiny house’ strategy and are willing to work for food and land to park their little house on. But they will not be allowed to park that tiny house in Orange County if it comes to the attention of the county officials. It won’t qualify as a ‘mobile home’ and it won’t meet the building codes for a ‘house’. I hope that Durham county will be more enlightened and just look the other way while the Paxtons make the best of their situation.

    Instead of eagerly supporting people who are trying to adapt to the new reality, most government officials are intent on ‘keeping up standards’, which standards include subjecting poor people to utter dependence on handouts. And so we see that SNAP and welfare payments in general have risen to new highs in the last couple of decades. Most of the people in the US are now getting government checks. You will note that the ‘official response’ of the government to people like the Paxton’s is ‘go more deeply into debt’.

    CBO:Top 40% Paid 106.2% of Income Taxes; Bottom 40% Paid -9.1%, Got Average of $18,950 in ‘Transfers’

    So we are in the grips of what Charles Hugh Smith calls the ‘Keynesian Cargo Cult’, chanting that if we just provide more stimulus to the banks, everything will get back to normal. This is after two decades of decline?

    I have made the case here very recently that I don’t think we will see a collapse of the oil industry. If I am right, all the talk of apocalyptic events leading to some definitive response is distracting us from doing what actually needs to be done. And what actually needs to be done, in my opinion, is to force governments to stop hindering people from doing what they need to do, and to provide opportunities for poor people to earn their food and shelter. The US has no shortage of food and shelter, we just have a malfunctioning system. Our urgent job is to look reality in the face and change the system. I realize that recent studies have shown that the citizenry of the US has virtually no influence on government policies. So I don’t really have any insightful suggestions about how you get the attention of the US Mule.

    Don Stewart

    • jeremy890 says:

      Maybe so, Don, I agree. but……….
      Local governments need tax revenue and in my opinion this “tiny house movement” will be outlawed if it becomes too noticeable and expansive. There is no incentive for the leadership to promote it and provide the means for people to be debt free and self sufficient in any regard. If folks grow their own food, they do not need as much income to be taxed in getting a wage, nor in purchasing the food itself (which is taxed here in NC). Tiny house mean tiny property (if at all) taxes. Builders (who have major influence) don’t profit and local utilities won’t either. Also, citizens in the mainstream will resent the fact they are “footing the bill” in paying for services for these “cheap” owner builder structures.
      Mark my word, Here in Charlotte we just held a Tiny House weekend held in a major event auditorium and it was SOLD OUT! I personally know several people building them here NOW! This area still has plenty of underdeveloped land that folks can “hide”.
      Getting back to your part of “change the system”. Poor folks don’t donate political campaign money like the rich. Politicians listen to the money and as soon as they get elected they are raising money to get re-elected. Unfortunately even if the poor do donate, like in getting Obama elected, their voice is not concentrated. In Obama’s terms of office who “profited” the most? THE VERY WEALTHY! So what does that tell you?

      • xabier says:

        The very last thing our highly financialised social system wants is prudent, resourceful people consuming less. Of course, small houses might be allowed, but very high taxes will make the occupants bear the burden of the state’s excessive consumption – this is the pattern in Europe, after all.

        • InAlaska says:

          xabier. you are right. There is no official encouragement to save, or consume less, or practice a simpler life. Doing those things will hurt the economy and if you do that, you’re practically a traitor.

  43. Paul says:

    Way off topic but this sums up the Ukraine situation succinctly ….

    Ukraine: Truth – the First Casualty

  44. Hartley Schultz says:

    Hello Gail,
    It must be ANZAC day that is making me reminiscent and sentimental. Look I know that your articles point to a looming economic crisis that will be much bigger than the depression. Thinking about the matter, I am not so sure, there will be a near term collapse. I am saying this because this was the most shocking article that I have read in a long time.

    I can remember a number of occasions, particularly during the depression, when I had to shoot livestock and horses that were dying of thirst. When I was young, you expected to find dead animals and birds, and their droppings in the dam. Surely a country that is so rich that it can afford to waste so much water, particularly when so much of the USA is still in drought, is not likely to be in near term collapse? Is it?

    Dad often told me about the ‘great depression’ of the 1890s when he came halfway across the country using his bullock wagons. There was complete financial collapse, nearly all the banks had closed, and a terrible drought. He told me there was a lot of infanticide in the large towns. He often said that it didn’t matter if you had money or gold in your pocket as there was nothing to buy, and not much to trade. He traveled in the outback with his mob of sheep and indigenous partners and they followed the old water trails. I don’t want to frighten you too much with his stories, but he often said that he would never survive another economic collapse because the conditions that allowed him to live off the land and hunt with the local tribes in the 1890s no longer existed. It was pretty clear to him and to me, that during total economic collapse water was far more critical to economic and personal survival than fuel.

    I am not sure this will convince you but articles like the one above that make me think that we have a few years left before collapse. In any case, I would like to live another 5 years and make the hundred mark.

    Kind regards
    (possibly your oldest poster)

    • InAlaska says:

      I sure would like to see that outback country of yours sometime, Hartley. I have this feeling its a hot, arid version of my home, an old land with a spirit to it. Anyway, I turned 50 last week and would also like to make the 100 mark. Best of wishes to you, Hartley.

      • jeremy890 says:

        Yep, it would be nice. Living to 100 while 90% of humanity just wilts away. Boy, Hollywood would make a movie of that, I’m sure…start writing the screenplay…..ooops we are living it.
        Regardless, I agree with Hartley, without fossil fuels life is going to be extremely harsh and unforgiving and what we seem as cruel and indifferent. Most folks back then died “young”, because they simply worked themselves to death, and if not died of lack of “care”. To wish for this fairy tale of existence to continue is foolhardy. InAlaska, hate to break the news, you and I (I’m over 50 and am shocked at the aging process since then) are the “Walking Dead”.

        • xabier says:

          I think the awfulness of life ‘before fossil fuels’ can be over-stated, as can the awfulness of life over 50 (or so I hope!).

          Why do we seem to believe that we deserve leisure and comfort? Why do we believe that these are good things to be enjoyed as much as possible? Because the industrialists and advertisers want us to think that way.

          I’ve just been reading a medical book from the 18th century,and the author makes the point very firmly that the wealthy classes suffered more – mentally and often physically – compared to well-fed workers because they were leisured.

          • Lizzy says:

            I agree with you (yet again), Xabier. I’ve written about this somewhere before, so if repeating myself — navrée. When my great-grandparents arrived in Central Otago, NZ, from Scotland, they lived in stone huts with no glass, and (‘scuse the language) it’s bloody cold there in winter. All their clothes were hand-washed in the river. At boarding school in the 1980s, we washed all our ‘personal’ clothes by hand, i.e. everything except the uniforms. When I went to university it was luxury using an agitator washing machine.
            The point is, it was hard, but you know? We just did it, just got on with it.
            A friend’s father used teams of horses to plough the fields and harvest the corn in the ’30s. He’s still alive and healthy-ish, aged 85.
            I talked last time about the cracking book I was reading about the medieval village. One thing I thought a bit precious was the writers lamenting the fact that people had to work all year, to live.

            • xabier says:


              No, that’s a new story!

              I think one of the problems is that few people any longer make a proper distinction between an austere life with few discretionary luxury consumibles – ie how everyone lived until recently, ‘poor’ if you like – and destitution – ie in rags and starving.

              An old man I knew, born in 1909, once said that he had been poor all his life – but always well fed and decently housed – ‘but never destitute.’ That was a voice from the past.

              Talking about people on welfare, housed and fed and clothed, etc, as ‘the poor’ has fudged the issue a lot. As has the ludicrous concept of ‘comparative poverty’ which is as flexible as a piece of string after all!

              There are so many implicit promises of leisure and luxuries in our culture, and these are going to be increasingly rudely challenged……

            • the simple economics of the oil era are that every gallon of petrol contains the potential energy output of 50 men working a 10 hour day for you—all for the cost of whatever you pay for gas locally
              in UK that’s about £6 50 in Saudi, about 10c
              Those figures tell you where our liesure comes from, not our ingenuity, and why we will not surrender that liesure until we are driven back to work, kicking and screaming in protest at inept governments

    • xabier says:

      The more old stories the better. May you make that Hundred!

      • InAlaska says:

        I realize that I’m “preaching to the choir” here, but I don’t really believe that life pre-petroleum was “awful.” When you drive around our various countries, all you see is asphalt, signs, cheap, ugly buildings and general ugliness. Kunstler writes about this alot. At least this is so in the average American city. I imagine it is prettier in Europe and Britain because they developed their cities pre-oil. But the accumulating ruin of North America is hard to ignore. Another nice thing about pre-oil was that if you wanted music, you made your own, or you had friends who did. Same with art, entertainment, food, knowledge. Everything was direct. You made it. I can’t even remember basic facts now, I just “google it.” Perhaps we died younger back then, but think how satisfying lives could be back then when we weren’t all wage slaves. I’d trade a washing machine for that any day.

        • Daddio7 says:

          You sir are free to find a secluded spot and do that, I am enjoying the fruits of civilization. I didn’t die from the severe throat infection I had when I was 16. Thanks to Bill Gates I can converse with you wherever it is you are. I just made the 90 mile trip to see my son and his fiancee in Orlando, it took 2 hours to drive my air condition Mercury back home. 90 years ago it took my grandfather two days to drive a compatible distance from Georgia to here Beverly Hillbilly’s style in a model T. Right now it is 85 degrees Fahrenheit with comparable humidity but with my window AC humming I am quite comfortable. I was married with two kids before I had air conditioning, I will not do without now.

          I was on a steam powered ship in the Navy and the engine room was over 120 degrees and the berthing area not much cooler. Humans can stand a lot of discomfort but I would rather not anymore. Sure the party is coming to an end but billions of people have been born and lived because of energy abundance. Many do have a miserable existence but poor people have always had a miserable life, but less than 100 years ago everyone had a miserable life. That is why they tried so hard to make it less miserable.

    • in the 1890s there was no ‘fuel economy’, at least not in that part of the world.
      bullocks and sheep and wild animals were simply energy on the hoof, to be used as necessary for man’s survival
      now we have an economy entirely based on fuel consumption, and a blind belief that it is forever.

      • Daddio7 says:

        By 1850 most of Europe and the east coast of the US had been deforested. Without coal and oil most of the Earth would resemble Haiti. Wood is fuel and housing. It is amazing what a hundred million men with axes can do.

  45. Hartley Schultz says:

    Hello once again Gail,
    Thanks for your earlier replies to my questions to you. Sorry that I have not been able to reply earlier, but I have been unwell. I am not sure how local happenings in Australia tie in with the bigger global energy picture you describe, but I am sure they do.

    Look as you know, the Australian economy seems to be in turmoil, with looming upcoming slashing of government funding in the May federal budget likely to affect all sectors of the economy, including myself http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-25/veterans-could-lose-home-care-services-funding-crisis/5410884. On the bright side, at least they are being equitable, I suppose!

    In addition we are in the midst of a massive housing bubble (at least I think so!). WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS? http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-24/high-risk-loans-akin-to-us-subprime-mortgages-return-to-markets/5410438. The article states that “There’s no particular concern with [Commonwealth Bank and NAB] sitting behind those sorts of institutions. The issue would always be if they were actually writing a whole lot of low-documented loans themselves. “So as long as they’ve got appropriate security, there is no risk to those sorts of institutions”. We have heard all this before of course. Please tell me, how much sub prime lending is ‘good’ for Australia?
    Kind regards,

    • Paul says:

      Hartley — I’ve said since 2008 — if you want to predict the economic prospects commodity exporters watch China — China has printed 15 trillion dollars since 2009 — that has mostly been used to fund the biggest malivestment binge in history — we’ve all seen the ghost towns.

      Obviously that cannot go on forever — and as it stops — the exporters who have ridden China’s coat tails would follow along…. as is happening to a great extent with the BRICS. Even Germany – a high tech exporter to China – is languishing now.

      As for the housing market — the banks with MSM support will always claim they are solid — they were saying that in the US prior to the housing collapse… they will never tell you the truth.

      What is coming is exponentially bigger than the scare we had in 2008 — when the next shoe drops on this never-ending crisis I reckon the entire global economy unravels — no asset will have much value other than perhaps some farmland that has not been farmed using chemicals — a water source — tools — guns? — food — maybe gold could come in handy.

      Forget real estate — bonds – stocks — cash — I think all will be wiped out

  46. Paul says:

    Dinner last night — friends of friends joined — a European banker living in Asia working for a big US outfit — another European working for a similar outfit in New York — discussion at our end of the table goes to finance — I trot out the ‘theory’ as to why we are in deep trouble — they actually agree….

    In fact the Asia guy said that the head of energy trading in his office — who was formerly an engineer in the oil and gas industry — has told him this is all about oil and that we are completely screwed — the trader does not invest in anything but physical precious metals

    I can’t imagine he thinks that those are going to be a guaranteed hedge — but one thing I suppose he gets is that stocks bonds and cash are most definitely going to be completely worthless — makes sense to take a punt on gold/silver even though food may be the only asset that is of any use.

    Anyway the fact that he spent years in the oil and gas industry adds a big slice of credibility to his outlook here.

    If he knows — and the two people I spoke to suspect what the problem is — the guys at the top of these banks surely know.

    • Mansoor H. Khan says:


      So why won’t the elites spill the beans to people. So we can ramp-up emergency measures. Do elites have a suicide wish?

      Are they just too demoralized to even try to dent the impact of the collapse?

      Maybe all the plans to dent the impact of collapse they have seen are no good?

      I have heard that maybe they want to enjoy their power and luxuries to the last moment.

      Mansoor H. Khan

      • Paul says:

        I suspect you are correct in your assumptions — without a doubt they would have had think tanks looking at every angle to see if there were some way to soft land things — the fact that they are doing nothing to even attempt that makes me assume that there is nothing feasible that can be done.

        And yes it would appear that they have adopted the attitude of let’s party hard right to the bitter end

        I wish I knew what they knew — if I knew that my farming gig was almost certainly a waste of time — I’d sell out everything and start a grand backpacking tour of the world with my wife and get as much in before the SHTF.

        I’d also start eating a lot more pizza and ice cream 🙂

    • edpell says:

      What is the fascination about who does and does not understand the situation? OK, you and I and many bank executives and senior government folks “know”. They, like we, have no ability to do anything about it. They must continue with the day to day business. The best they can do it buy land in out of the way places and staff it with knowledgeable staff (farmers, security, estate managers).

      • Paul says:

        I have no fascination with who does and who doesn’t ‘get it’ re the oil issue – any more than I have a fascination with who does or doesn’t get the Crimea – or WMD – or terrorism – or Palestine — or the fact that the US is not a beacon of democracy ….

        But I do have an interest in testing the waters with people to see if they are thinking — if they are capable of dismissing the MSM for what it is — a tool of the elites used to control what people think.

        If I sense someone gets THAT — then I will probe to see if they are in our out of the matrix… do they follow a range of media or do they rely on say the BBC, CNN … and dismiss the rest as propagnda (RT – Al Jazeera)…. of course they are all propaganda but if you follow a range if you have a bit of intelligence you can get both sides and be more likely to get closer to the truth.

        Ultimately I determine if the person is interesting and on what level I interact with them — are they simply another sheep going about his/her life chewing grass and waiting to be sheared – or can we have a discussion of complex issues — and can I possibly LEARN from them — I seldom meet anyone who is anything more than a sheep…

        From oil the discussion did go to other topics including the Big Picture on Ukraine (one of the person’s wife is from Sebastopol)…. and we agreed that there is something going on that is likely related to a showdown over the reserve currency (they were clearly not sheep… and there was some disagreement and excellent points made on this issue)

        The reason I bring up the discussion at all is because many times on this blog people have speculated as to whether the decision makers understand what the nature of the problem we are facing is — many believe the Jamie Dimons of our world have not got a clue ….

        I firmly believe that they do know what is going on — the fact that a senior trader in a big bank knows — leads me to believe that without a doubt the people at the top in government and big business — absolutely know what is going on…

        And the fact that they are doing nothing (zero attempt to promote sustainable farming for instance) – beyond printing money and battling to maintain BAU — makes me wonder if their think tanks have concluded doing anything else is futile… that perhaps this is an extinction event (refer to the thousands of spent fuel ponds + nuclear reactors that will need to be cooled in a world without energy…)

        • Mansoor H. Khan says:


          Ok if they (the deep state elite) think this is it (extinction event!). Then why screw around in Ukraine and invite a major war possibly a nuclear exchange.

          Why not just eat, drink and be merry until SHTF and take a suicide pill or something?

          Mansoor H. Khan

          • Paul says:

            We are all facing extinction (as in we will all die) — yet we continue to go to work and live our lives…

            Dance while the music plays as the saying goes?

            • Mansoor H. Khan says:


              You did not answer my question.

              Why start a war in Ukraine If the deep state elite see NO alternative to extinction to occur very soon?

              What could be the point of war?

            • Paul says:

              I suspect this is about maintaining the USD as the reserve currency — that would be part of the ongoing dance…

              The concern here would be that the US and Russian elites would know that we are screwed in the near future anyway — so might they not be more willing than usual to risk thermonuclear war?

            • Mansoor H. Khan says:


              Why would they want to risk a thermonuclear war if they know the jig is up anyway?

              Why not just enjoy the time left before starvation sets it?

              Why would they want a showdown like “nuclear war” at this point? It is kind of like taking a suicide pill ? instigating a big war, No?

              Also, how could it be that all deep state elites in all powerful states of the world are so sure of futility of even trying to dent the impact of collapse or trying some kind of plan anyway even if very small probability of success exists?

              That is unlikely that they would all decide in unison to not say anything to their respective constituents and keep their mouths shut about the impending collapse. Does not sound realistic at all. There is more to his story. Definitely!

              Mansoor H. Khan

            • Paul says:

              Sometimes these things just happen — sort of like when you corner a rat — he prefers not to fight you — but he feels he has no choice… and since he is going to die anyway he might be quite happy to take you along with him.

        • edpell says:

          Paul, it does seem the US desires a war with Russia. What are they thinking? Give up the land on your border or we will nuke the whole world. Is the US ruled by people who desire the end of the world as we know it?

          • Paul says:

            Perhaps they feel that if Russia (and China?) insist on unseating the USD as the reserve currency that it is the end of the world for them anyway?

            This takes high stakes poker to another level!

        • InAlaska says:

          I think it IS fascinating who is “in the know” and who is not. In fact, I think many more people are in the know than actually let on. I think many, many, ordinary regular old citizens all around the world actually know what is going on. Nobody wants to be the crazy person in the room and so it is like we are all playing poker around a big table and everybody is bluffing. Nobody has a winning hand, but everyone is afraid to lay their losing hand on the table. Like Paul, I occasionally get into a conversation about WTSHTF, and we test each other just a little bit to see how deep the understanding goes. You learn pretty quick to tell who is really clueless and who is thinking about this stuff. Cognitive dissonance was mentioned earlier in a response to a recent post that I made. I think there are many of us out there living lives of cognitive dissonance about what is coming. Its like everybody has two lives. The exterior life where we all pretend everything is going to be okay, and the interior life where we storing gold, grain, gas and guns in the basement. I think its is fascinating.

          • Paul says:

            I suppose the same coping mechanisms are at work that allow us to plan for the future and go about our daily lives — after all we will all die at some point (possibly today…) — yet that thought does not dominate our every minute…

            This is no different — it’s just more interesting.

          • Siobhan says:

            No one I know is letting on that they know.

            “The World’s Resources Aren’t Running Out”

            • Stefeun says:

              Thanks for good laugh!
              Ridley in Wonderland, we’ll all live forever, just getting richer and happier, hahahaha.
              Looks like he found a good heap of magic mushroom; beware of the descent when he runs out!

            • Paul says:

              I agree – the vast majority believe there is no problem — because of MSM articles like you have posted.

              Even oil at such high prices does not trigger awareness. Surely that should ring the alarm bells.

              The MSM is a powerful machine — it is capable of convincing people that a circle is a square — that 1+1 = 3…

              In this instance, that is a good thing – we should be glad that most people don’t know — because if they did there is absolutely nothing they could do to change or fix things

          • xabier says:

            As someone said to me in a shop the other day, commenting on the latest announcement of ‘amazing growth’ by the British PM: ‘Do you actually know anyone who is doing better?’ There is great insecurity and unease. Many people, even if they can’t grasp the fundamental causes, know from direct experience that something is very wrong indeed with our economies.

            • Paul says:

              China is still supposedly growing — but of course they are printing trillions of dollars — the UK is growing plain and simply the same way the US is growing — by running up more debt and injecting stimulus into their economies…

              What must stop – will stop

            • Lizzy says:

              I wrote a reply to this earlier, then it was lost…What you write, Xabier, is exactly how we are seeing things. My brother in NZ sees the same there — being told how well the economy is; at the same time, finding it harder and harder to live the life he used to live.

            • Interguru says:

              This reminds me of a comment I heard in the 60s. “Brazil is doing well, but the people are hurting.” It applies to the US and the UK, now. Come to think of it, we are resembling Brazil more and more.

            • xabier says:


              So true: this is a universal experience as the global economy falters. The gap between economic reality and the ‘animal spirits- green shoots’ propaganda is the stuff of nightmares: what is worse, living through a growing disaster, or through a disaster accompanied by lies? And the point is that people who haven’t a clue about economics or resource limits can see through the lies, but no-one is talking to them honestly and openly about the real causes of growing poverty, and ‘jobs growth’ which is nothing but zero-hours contracts. I seem to have fallen asleep and awoken in the late Soviet Union, or Germany in February 1945…… People are on the whole observant, even if not well-informed, or mis-informed by the MSM, but our democratic ‘leaders’ just throw the same stale old propaganda at us as if we were retarded.

        • DaShui says:

          10 years ago I was tasked with picking up a senior Japanese diplomat from the airport. As I was driving him to his hotel he said he just got back from Russia where he discussed using their technology to buildi breeder reactors for japan. He said the reason why, is that oil won’t last forever.

          If u want to laugh at the delusional:



          • InAlaska says:

            I think this captures what people are feeling all over the world. A very recent post from the Archdruid’s Report:
            “I have been wondering for some time now how to talk about the weirdly autumnal note that sounds so often and so clearly in America these days. Through the babble and clatter, the seven or eight television screens yelling from the walls of every restaurant you pass and all the rest of it, there comes a tone and a mood that reminds me of wind among bare branches and dry leaves crackling underfoot: as though even the people who insist most loudly that it’s all onward and upward from here don’t believe it any more, and those for whom the old optimism stopped being more than a soothing shibboleth a long time ago are hunching their shoulders, shutting their eyes tight, and hoping that things can still hold together for just a little while longer.”

  47. sator says:

    People in Pakistan and India live in rural areas where it is possible to live on low energy. In cities this is not possible as most major cities have evolved to accommodate fossil fuel lifestyles. The population densities are too high and simple things like growing food is a problem. In a weird way, those who have the least now in third world countries will probably have the most in the future as they will be the first ones to prosper post collapse.

    • Mansoor H. Khan says:

      Agreed. Cities will have to de-populate by big percentage. Even city dwellers in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh have much, much, much lower oil use. LNG use in cars is very common. Public transportation use is more prevalent than it is in USA.

      Mansoor H. Khan

      • InAlaska says:

        Nope. Sorry. I disagree. There won’t be much prospering by anyone, particularly for those living in densely populated places such as Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Those starving millions of city-dwellers will come ravening out of the urban areas and descend like a plague of locuses and they will kill and eat everything and anything that looks like food. Probably including people when it gets desperate enough. Even if rural folks were set up pretty well to live a low energy existence, they will be blotted out by the rest of those who aren’t.

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